Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Wind farm PILOT plan suspended

'ISSUES OF CONCERN': County, at IDA request, takes resolutions off agenda; request again up for debate

It's back to the drawing board with the proposed payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement for Galloo Island Wind Farm.

The Jefferson County Board of Legislators did not vote on the agreement Tuesday night as planned. Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency surprised the legislators by asking that the resolutions dealing with the PILOT be deleted from the agenda.

"Obviously, recently there has been issues that surfaced of concern to the board and we'll work to see if we can't resolve those issues," JCIDA Chief Executive Officer Donald C. Alexander said.

Legislature Chairman Kenneth D. Blankenbush said he received the written request a half-hour before the meeting began. He told the board he wants to return to a uniform tax-exempt policy for all wind power development in the county.

"Two years ago, we directed the IDA to develop what we were calling a uniform PILOT agreement," Mr. Blankenbush, R-Black River, said after he was re-elected chairman as part of the first meeting of the year. "That way, every development proposed in the county would not have to come to the board and work through the board for PILOT approval."

JCIDA brought the Galloo Island PILOT forward separately after the developer, Upstate NY Power Corp, requested all local approvals be done by the end of 2009 to qualify for a 30 percent rebate through federal stimulus money.

"I'm not saying let's throw out the whole PILOT," Mr. Blankenbush said after the meeting. "Every project is a little different, so we will need some flexibility."

All parts of the PILOT are back up for discussion, he said, including the length and payments. The proposed PILOT would have been a 20-year agreement, which, because of the term of financing, departs from the 15-year PILOT generally used.

On Monday night, Upstate NY Power Corp offered to move to an 18-year PILOT instead. By moving to full taxation after 18 years, the taxing jurisdictions would net roughly an additional $5.3 million over the proposed PILOT payments, based on 2010 tax rates.

Mr. Blankenbush said legislators also worry about the transmission line route for the Galloo Island project and the possibility that eminent domain would be used.

Representatives of the developer continued to stress the need for speed on approving a PILOT.

"Each passing day reduces the probability of success," said Robert W. Burgdorf, attorney with Nixon Peabody, Rochester, who represents Upstate NY Power. "There's no definitive deadline, but it becomes very difficult as time goes on to get everything done."

Despite the PILOT's removal from the board's agenda, about 20 members of the public voiced their support or displeasure for the proposal. About 100 people attended the meeting.

Robert E. Aliasso Jr., co-chairman of the Coalition for the Preservation of the Golden Crescent, encouraged the legislators to include job guarantees, an account with 125 percent of the expected decommissioning cost and a fund for helping businesses hurt by the wind facility through reduced tourism and property values.

"We certainly see several deficiencies with the PILOT," he said.

Supporters of the project from Hounsfield and unions asked the county to consider the additional money and jobs that would come from the wind farm.

"The members of my local union have been involved directly in the construction of over 500 wind turbines in Northern New York," said Dennis C. Affinati, business manager for IBEW Local 910. "Over 100 of my members and hundreds more from other trades participated in the project, which brought millions in wages and benefits."

During the meeting, Mr. Blankenbush also proposed coordinating with Oswego County to press regional concerns about an offshore wind farm possibility. New York Power Authority has released a request for proposals for developers to put up to 500 megawatts of wind power development in lakes Ontario and Erie.

"That concerns me more than any of the projects we are talking about now because how much control are we going to have?" he said.

After the meeting, he said the board would sit down and work through concerns about the PILOT agreement with JCIDA.

"It's important tonight to step back and take a better look at the proposals," Mr. Blankenbush said. "If we take our time doing that, it will be better for all the areas that are going to be affected."

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