Municipal officials pitched a compromise Friday to resurrect a tax incentive deal for an eastern Broome County wind farm with the goal of getting the project back on track following a thumbs down two weeks ago by the Industrial Development Agency.
Rather than a 30-year tax abatement agreement, Broome County, Town of Windsor and Town of Sanford officials said they are willing to trim 10 years off the term in an attempt to reverse the agency’s earlier rejection of the deal.
“Our opportunity for economic development is with our natural resources,” said Carolyn Price, Town of Windsor supervisor said during a special agency meeting called to consider the appeal from municipal officials. “We have to capitalize on what we have.”
Yearly benefits to the Town of Windsor are estimated at more than $1.8 million in payment-in-lieu of taxes and host community payments, Price said. Dewey Decker, the Sanford supervisor, pegged the town’s annual benefit at more than $800,000. Both said they intend to use the revenues for badly needed capital projects and to fund heavy equipment replacement.
Project sponsors are asking for a $21 million property tax discount over 30 years and another $9 million in sales tax and mortgage tax exemptions.
Northland Power is promising two permanent jobs and 70 temporary construction jobs over a two-year construction phase in return for the benefits.
New York’s Public Service Commission approved a 27-turbine, 124-megawatt wind installation – enough to power 20,000 homes, sponsors said – for the two towns, four in Windsor and 23 in Sanford, many installed on the hill tops along a heavily forested stretch of Route 17.
Garnar: Revenues needed
“This is a project that is going to bring in tens of millions of dollars to towns that absolutely need it,” said Jason Garnar, Broome County executive. “You’re giving a PILOT to create a revenue stream that’s sorely needed.”
Overtures from supporters failed to quell a cry from a well-organized opposition movement that claims the drawbacks including impact on the community’s aesthetics and impact in wildlife far outweigh the benefits. Opponents also object to the turbine’s 670-foot profile from base to blade tip, saying shadows from the towers will be a nuisance and a blight on the landscape.
Nevertheless, a lawyer representing 40 landowners said annual lease payments from sponsors will create a ripple economic impact throughout the community.
“It is really is going to be a huge boost to the businesses and landowners,” said Scott Kirkoski, a lawyer with Leven Goudin & Thompson.
Other supporters said lease payments will be critical in assisting families in retaining their family farms while environmental advocates noted the project’s larger impact in reducing carbon emissions.
It’s unclear if the industrial development board of directors will reconsider the PILOT rejection. No vote or discussion was scheduled after the two-hour Friday meeting in which about two dozen speakers attempted to sway the nine-member board during a virtual session.
Under terms of the deal, Bluestone Wind would pay $231,000 in property taxes in the first year – to be split between the Windsor and Deposit school districts, the towns of Windsor and Sanford, respective fire districts and Broome County – on the estimated $213 million investment, according to documents submitted to Broome County.
By the end of the 30-year agreement, the annual payment-in-lieu-of-taxes would rise to $411,000.
Sponsors said the tax break would be offset by an additional $936,000 annually through a previously negotiated Host Community Agreement, bringing total annual payments to eastern Broome taxing authorities in the first years of the agreement to $1.1 million.
Though Calpine Inc. has long been the public face of the project and was the company responsible for obtaining the necessary permits, the Houston-based energy company sold its interest in the project and a nearby wind installation in Guilford, Chenango County, to Northland Power in May.
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