A mere five-hour drive to the northeast of Cooke County will put you in rural southeast Kansas near the town of Iola. Just as here in Cooke County, Allen County, Kansas is comprised of several small farming communities in a mostly rural setting. The similarities in the small town atmosphere of North Texas and South Kansas are remarkable yet predictable. Farm and ranch land is the dominant feature of both locales and EDP Renewables covets both areas for wind farms.
Just as rural Kansas and Cooke County are very much alike, they’re also polar opposites. Over time, Allen County, Kansas in all likelihood will generally remain sparsely populated with slower land appreciation values, while retaining it’s small town farming image. Rural Cooke County, on the other hand, glaringly stands out due to its strategic geographic location. Cooke County sits 65 miles from metropolitan Dallas-Fort Worth, sporting a population of 6.5 million people. With multiple businesses relocating to Texas (along with desirable jobs), the Metroplex is spilling over from south to north, making North Texas a destiny for unprecedented growth. Selling prices for property in a clean Interstate 35 corridor will continue to escalate to “who knows what.”
Just last week, Charles Schwab Corp. announced it’s moving its headquarters from California to Westlake (Denton and Tarrant counties) where it intends to build a 70-acre campus to house 7,000 employees. On top of that Schwab just purchased the brokerage firm Ameritrade Holding Corp. (for $26 billion) which will only add to its presence in North Texas. This is the kind of desirable growth and favorable jobs that people dream about and it’s moving our way. In my opinion, this growth and land appreciation could only be stifled by wind farm blight that could literally dominate the skyline for decades if turbines are set in place.
EDP Renewables, a foreign-owned firm with ties to China, recently developed the Prairie Queen project near Iola, Kansas. They’re now working frantically to close the Wildcat Creek project here in Cooke County, near Muenster and Era.
Like waking from a bad dream, a few days ago, on Nov. 27, the decent folk of the farming community near Iola, Kansas, were shaken by news of legal action filed in Allen County, Kansas District Court. A mechanics lien to the tune of nearly $1.8 million had been placed on the properties that were leased to EDP’s Prairie Queen wind project. This essentially $1.8 million mortgage instrument prevents the landowners from selling their property without first satisfying the $1.8 million debt. These farmers now do not have a clean title to their land!
What happened? It seems earlier this year, a business out of Iola, Kansas was contracted to supply materials, equipment and labor for infrastructure and road building for the project. Unable to collect for services rendered ($1,788,763.16), the contractor sought relief legally via mechanics liens. The sad reality is these farmers had zilch to do with hiring or paying a contractor! They did however, put their signature on a binding document, thereby holding themselves accountable for the actions of others.
This is not an accident, as these wind contracts were designed for this very event to occur! I’m no lawyer, but having seen a copy of a EDPR lease, rife with stipulations and legalese, I would say it’s definitely not structured or written for the landowners’ protection. To the contrary, it was designed by EDPR, for EDPR. So what happened in the district court is terrible, but predictable, and from EDPR’s perspective, it seems to be “let the chips fall where they may.”
Don Vogel, Saint Jo