The Washington County Board of Supervisors, Tuesday, unanimously agreed to postpone a vote on the first reading of a new wind energy ordinance.
The decision came when it became apparent that a vote would result in a 2-2 split. Newly elected District 3 Supervisor Marcus Fedler will not be sworn in until next week.
The ordinance being considered pertained to the valuation of the land and equipment on wind farms built in the county.
The proposed taxation schedule, which is in line with an agreement the wind energy industry made with the state many years ago, calls for no taxable valuation for the first year of operation.
The following year, the county can tax only 5 percent of its taxable valuation. Every year, it goes up 5 percent until a maximum of 30 percent is reached.
Supervisor Bob Yoder took issue with the tax break.
“I’m still struggling with this proposed tax situation,” Yoder said. “Most business people would just love that.
“I have a hard time supporting such a sweetheart deal.”
Supervisor Stan Stoops said he was not concerned with the deal.
“Sweetheart deals happen all the time,” Stoops said. “I’m concerned about what this means for Washington County.”
Yoder said he is not sure a wind project would benefit the county, saying it would have a negative impact on roads and property values and could cause conflict between neighbors.
“I’m not convinced that this is as environmentally friendly as some people think,” he added.
Supervisor Jack Seward Jr. expressed his skepticism toward allowing a wind farm in the county.
“I’m more concerned for Washington County and not promoting national policy,” Seward said. “The only real positive I see is tax money coming into the county.”
He added that about 95 percent of the calls he received from constituents were against the ordinance.
Board Chair Richard Young said that communications he received were overwhelmingly in favor of the ordinance.
“Farmers contacted me and said, ‘What right do you have to tell me what I can do with my property?’” Young said.
Seward countered that he would have no problem with any individual property owner independently constructing a windmill on their property.
However, he said he felt that an industrial utility project that would stretch over several miles should require county approval.
Young noted that it looked like the board was headed toward a split vote on the ordinance.
“Originally, I thought we were going to have five members (at the meeting), but that didn’t happen,” he said.
Fedler was in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting but gave no indication as to which way he was leaning on the issue.
Stoops suggested that they table the vote until next week’s meeting when Felder will have been sworn in and seated.
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