ENID, Okla. – Garfield County Assessor Carolyn Sanford, County Clerk Lorie Legere and the county Board of Equalization were recently named as defendants in a civil relief case filed by Thunder Ranch Wind Project, LLC.
A petition for writ of mandamus and alternative ad valorem tax appeal was filed by Thunder Ranch in Garfield County District Court on Monday.
Thunder Ranch, owned by Enel Green Power North America, is a 298 megawatt wind farm that began operations in January and is located in Garfield, Noble and Kay counties, covers about 64 square miles and includes 120 wind turbines.
Of the 120 turbines, 111 are 2.5 MW turbines and the other nine are 2.3 MW. The farm stretches about 22 miles east to west and 8 miles north to south.
For the 2018 tax year, Sanford determined the fair cash value of Thunder Ranch to be $28,477,375, according to court documents filed in the case. Thunder Ranch filed an informal appeal with the assessor and an informal protest hearing was held May 14.
On May 15, the assessor signed the notice of informal hearing decision, adjusting the fair cash value to $3,641,474, according to court documents. That is a 782 percent reduction of the original value, according to the filed petition.
Thunder Ranch staff believed the informal decision value of $3.6 million was an error, and on May 25, mailed a formal appeal of the value to Sanford. However, through “inadvertence,” a duplicate copy of the appeal wasn’t sent to the County Clerk Legere, according to court documents.
Then, on June 1, Thunder Ranch representative David Black spoke on the phone with Legere to coordinate formal appeal hearings for the wind farm and another project, Chisholm View Wind Project, LLC., according to the filed petition. During the conversation, Legere reportedly “raised no issue” about the Thunder Ranch appeal.
In a letter dated June 6, Legere notified Thunder Ranch that it wasn’t granted a formal appeal hearing because the wind farm failed to send a copy of the appeal to the Board of Equalization, according to court documents.
“The Board is still in session and hearing 2018 protests as of the filing of this Petition,” the petition states. “Notwithstanding, by letter dated June 6, 2018, the Board has refused Thunder Ranch a hearing on its Formal Protest.”
In the first cause of action for mandamus, Thunder Ranch claims it timely mailed its formal protest to the assessor and that “simply through inadvertence and oversight,” failed to place a duplicate copy in the mail to Legere, according to court documents.
Since the Board of Equalization still was in session and hearing appeals, Thunder Ranch also claims the board’s refusal constitutes a “denial of due process of law,” according to the petition.
If the court enters a writ of mandamus, the board would be “commanded” to grant Thunder Ranch a formal appeal hearing and also would suspend Sanford’s valuation until the hearing.
In addition, the valuation of the wind farm as of Jan. 1, is in excess of the actual fair cash value of Thunder Ranch, according to the petition. The actual fair cash value of the wind project is “$16,064,745 or less,” and Thunder Ranch is also requesting the court conduct a “trial de novo” and lower the fair cash values to that amount.
“Alternatively, Thunder Ranch requests that the court conduct a trial de novo on the issues relating to the 2018 fair cash value of the subject property, to correct the assessment made by the assessor and sustained by the board, and lower same to reflect actual fair cash value; and to render such other and further relief to which Thunder Ranch may be entitled,” according to court documents.
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