Not 24 hours after the Louise ISD board of trustees voted not to enter into a Chapter 313 agreement with a proposed solar farm, Seventus, LLC withdrew its 313 application with El Campo ISD for a wind farm.
With a show of hands for or against, a motion to amend the local policy failed when Louise trustees voted 3-3 not to offer property tax value limitation agreements to incoming industry or corporations including one with Hecate Energy, LLC at its Monday meeting.
Trustees Amanda Cox, Marco Munos and Chris Faas were for the amendment, while trustees Marc Bain, Linda Alderson and Jay Heard were against it. Trustee Alfred Ochoa was not present.
“I came on this board with a promise to be open-minded, wanting to hear both sides before I made a decision,” Cox said.
“I have people who own viable businesses within my district who haven’t asked for a tax abatement. It is my opinion not to give a tax abatement to people who need to be government funded,” Heard said. “I feel everybody should pay their taxes.”
Hecate representatives were on the agenda to give a presentation about the solar farm and submit a tax limitation application. Moak, Casey & Associates representatives present to talk about 313 agreements, but neither party had a chance to come before the board.
Seats inside the board room were filled with Louise citizens with some voicing their opinion during the public comments portion about the solar farm to be located on 4,300 acres southeast of Louise.
Karen Middlebrook spoke against it.
“Whenever you take land out of ag production and replace it with something that is unproven and questionable about its effectiveness and efficiency and how long it will be with us, it’s really a concern to us,” Middlebrook said.
“You’re looking at maybe an initial economic impact for the school board and the landowners, but when you take the land out of production you impact all of the agribusiness that goes with it. The land provides income for the farmer and their families, for the farm and ranch hands, aerial applicators and chemical and equipment companies. It has a ripple effect,” she said.
Middlebrook also raised concerns about drainage for surrounding farmland and what she said is a lack of state regulation of renewable energy.
Cricia Ryan, who has publicly voiced opposition to a wind farm in Wharton County, questioned what is the purpose of a tax abatement for renewable energy companies, and the tax credit to “corporate welfare.”
“It’s hard for me to look at these 313s and imagine that any renewable energy company is eligible for them. They should be intended for groups that are here to improve not just one landowner’s property or the schools for two to three years, but it should be someone who benefits our entire community, and you will not find renewable energy benefiting anyone besides themselves,” Ryan said.
Late Monday evening ECISD Superintendent Kelly Waters received an email from Sam Gregson, senior consultant with Cummings Westlake LLC, an industrial property tax solutions company, in Cypress, handling Seventus’ application. Gregson’s email stated that Wharton Wind, LLC notified the State Comptroller’s office to withdraw Application No. 1311 made to El Campo ISD, Waters said.
“Since the application is being withdrawn no further action is necessary by the El Campo ISD school board or administration,” she added.
Elysa Nelson, vice president for Pierpont Communications, Inc., released this statement from Seventus, LLC Tuesday, “On Jan. 22, we withdrew our Chapter 313 application from the El Campo ISD school board as part of the Wharton County Wind project. We will continue to work with the community and landowners to bring the project to fruition.
“The Chapter 313 program is a common agreement that communities across the state use to help local school funding. For Wharton County a Chapter 313 would bring the El Campo ISD school’s increased property tax revenue of $7.3 million. We appreciate that this application, as the first of its kind with the El Campo ISD, requires further meaningful dialogue with the community.
“At this time, we are evaluating the input we have received and are determining the best way to position the project as a good neighbor in the community going forward. To those who have expressed support for this project – including parents, teachers, and landowners – we wish to thank you for your continued trust and confidence.”
Hecate representatives were not available for comment at presstime.
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