Huron County has reached a pivoting point in its decision on whether or not to grant a Payment in Lieu of Taxes or PILOT to Apex Clean Energy for the operation of its Emerson Creek Wind Project.
On one side of the fence are the local school boards that are willing to take whatever money could come their way, local unions that are trying to get work for their membership, property owners (some of which are absentee) and farmers who signed their land up to either host turbines, get right-of-way payments for electric lines, or just simply get a small yearly payment in exchange for a setback waiver of property rights on behalf of the wind company and the abutting property owner.
On the other side of the fence are literally hundreds of small property owners, farmers whom either are choosing to get out of their leases or have no intention of ever signing one, local townships, etc.
What is at stake? Depends on whose view you choose to listen too. The PILOT will certainly provide less payments during the front end of the payment scale, however it could also provide less overall. Why? Because something Apex has neglected to say is that the current trend of re-powering the turbines can happen. This undoubtedly would lead to an increase in property tax payments. Also, what if the property gains taxable value? A PILOT would negate all of that.
Most of this is commonsense, and one needs to ask why is Apex so obsessed with promoting the PILOT to the point that it is beating a dead horse? If this is providing more money to the county than taxes then why would a business knowingly pay more than it has too? Believe me, Apex is not here to be generous. They are here to build wind turbines and then walk away — so if the PILOT was in place, then Apex would not be responsible for any more money than what the PILOT requires, it is a flat rate, and thus can be budgeted.
Furthermore, the PILOT is attractive to any other wind company that may buy this project, and believe me, wind project sales are also an industry trend. If property taxes were in place then that would hurt Apex’s ability to sell the project. The Willard School Board recently stated in an article that was printed in the Willard Times-Junction on March 14 that “First off, the project is going to go whether the PILOT happens or not” and “that project is going to go no matter what.”
First, that is a pretty big “pro” statement from a school board that decided to be “neutral” on the subject. Second, they are not the Ohio Power Siting Board, so it is not their decision. Finally, with what the board stated, then why on earth would you not take as much money as possible instead of relying on something as pathetic as the PILOT for income? Who does that? I’ll tell you, an organization that has not looked entirely at the good and the bad of what it is being offered but simply believes what a business that is “for profit” is telling them.
The one other thing at stake is Huron County. The commissioners, schools, unions, townships, etc. need to ask themselves, what will happen in five years, 10 or even 20? Also, the commissioners answer to the voters, not the Willard School Board, absentee landowners, or a union out of Cleveland or Toledo and not definitely not Apex. Several things are for sure, though, people who can leave, will. Home values will drop. Union members who live in these areas will be affected. Bats and birds will die. The skyline will be tainted for more than 10 miles. Land and roads will be destroyed. People’s lives, friendships and even family will be scarred. Is this worth $240,000 to Willard schools?
Stop buying the snake oil and think of the long-term effects, cause once you get it, it is never leaving.