MARYVILLE, Mo. – About 30 people, including landowners, county officeholders and school officials, gathered in the Nodaway County Administration Center ground-floor meeting room on Thursday, Oct. 11, for a public hearing on a proposed wind farm in southwestern Nodaway County.
The 238-megawatt project is being developed by Tradewind Energy of Lenexa, Kansas, with the start of construction set for spring 2019.
When completed, the installation – known as the White Cloud Wind Project – will embrace around 100 turbines spread out over approximately 40,000 acres of land.
Thursday’s hearing was divided into two parts, the first, presided over by Nodaway County Economic Development Executive Director Josh McKim, had to do with approval of a county resolution required under state law before the project can move forward.
The resolution, which the County Commission approved unanimously, completes the process of awarding tax abatements to Tradewind through the county’s Enhanced Enterprise Zone, or EEZ, an entity created a half-dozen years ago specifically to encourage development of wind energy resources.
McKim sits on the EEZ board as its non-voting chairman, and said the panel was recommending the White Cloud project to the commission for approval. He also provided a summary of the wind farm’s expected economic development impact, which embraces both jobs and increased tax revenues, especially for public schools.
Once operational, McKim said White Cloud would create eight or 10 permanent full-time positions paying about $70,000 each. During the 12- to 15-month construction period, the project would also support more than 250 temporary construction jobs.
While property taxes assessed to White Cloud will be reduced by about 50 percent compared to existing levies, McKim said the installation is expected to create $1.4 million in new annual tax revenues, $900,000 of which will flow to local school districts, especially South Nodaway R-IV and Nodaway-Holt R-VII.
Maryville R-II schools will also receive some wind farm tax money, said McKim, adding that the impact on Maryville city government is essentially nil.
After the 17-year term of EEZ tax abatements expires, Tradewind will pay taxes at the normal rate, which McKim said would increase the yearly revenue stream from the project to $2.8 million a year for a total of $113 million over the expected 25-year life of the project.
Each of the turbines are to be taxed at an annual rate of $5,900 per megawatt, which means that a 2-megawatt turbine would produce nearly $12,000 of new tax revenue each year.
The second half of the hearing, following the commission’s approval of the resolution, took the form of a question-and-answer session between landowners and Tradewind Vice President of Development (Southeast Region) Rod Northway.
A small number of landowners who live south of Maryville on the west side of Highway 71, expressed concerns about White Cloud’s impact on property values, noise levels, quality of life, avian wildlife and scenic views.
South-county property owners Jeff and Karen From and Graham resident Stan Sportsman questioned the economic viability of wind energy without tax credits and other incentives, arguing that the cost of such developments falls largely on taxpayers despite an increased flow of public revenue.
Northway responded that the cost of wind energy, after production tax credits are applied, is below the combined average cost of other energy sources, including fossil fuels. Even without such credits, he said, wind remains a competitive source of energy, which is why, he believes, utility companies view it as a good investment.
Sportsman said he was also concerned about damage to gravel roads and paved highways caused by the massive trailers and trucks required to haul large wind turbines to their leased installation sites.
Presiding Commissioner Bill Walker responded that the county is negotiating a road-maintenance agreement with Tradewind and was satisfied that the company had adequately repaired roads following projects such as the Rock Creek wind farm in neighboring Atchison County.
Jeff From cited reports from other states claiming that wind farms can reduce property values by more than 50 percent. His wife, Karen From, told Northway she judged Tradewind setbacks from existing structures and property lines to be insufficient with regard to preserving scenic and aesthetic qualities she treasures as part of a rural lifestyle.
“We can’t stop this – I know that,” Karen From said. “But I would like something to protect us.”
Northway responded that he and his staff would be willing to hold private discussions to ease landowner worries while trying to find “things we can do to address your concerns and make your life a little better.”
Maryville business owner Jennifer Gillespie said she was worried about noise, marred scenery and bird deaths within sight of her 40-acre spread southwest of Maryville.
Tradewind staff said the company works with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect avian wildlife and would sponsor third-party post-construction avian studies in an attempt to mitigate unforeseen problems through “adaptive management” practices.
Only a handful of those attending the hearing posed objections to the White Cloud installation, and most said nothing at all. County resident Cheryl Chesnut, however, voiced support for the development.
“To me it’s progress,” she said, “and it’s green power. I just think it’s a worthy project.”
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