TONY CORE, JOHN BAYLISS and DUSTIN WICKERSHAM
Commissioners reject PILOT request
The Logan County Commissioners voted unanimously late Tuesday to reject EverPower’s request for a payment in lieu of taxes to build 18 wind turbines in northern Logan County.
The decision, which came a week ahead of the June 21 deadline to rule on the request, lists several factors the elected officials took into consideration but says they ultimately decided to reject the petition because the company failed to demonstrate the project would be a benefit to the community.
“The Logan County Board of County Commissioners is not convinced that over the life of the project that granting the PILOT would benefit the community. Likewise with respect to job creation, the Logan County Board of County Commissioners is not convinced that the amount of taxes abated would be exceeded by the benefit of gaining relatively few permanent employees,” the resolution reads.
The decision would not have prevented EverPower, which filed the request under the name Hardin Wind LLC, from building the turbines in Logan County, but company officials said in a statement they will not be built as part of the Scioto Ridge Wind Farm, which include 87 turbines in southern Hardin County that are not affected by the decision.
“The rejection of the PILOT by the county commissioners means no turbines will be built in Logan County, but the project will proceed in Hardin County with 87 turbines, where the PILOT plan was approved. This will generate up to $37 million over the 25-year life of the project for Hardin county and the local school districts,” the statement reads.
EverPower officials said they were disappointed by the decision.
“We have worked for months with landowners, their neighbors, school and county officials, to put together a PILOT package that would maximize funding to the direct benefit of the county as a whole,” Chris Shears, Chief Development Officer for EverPower, said in the statement. “We are disappointed that the Logan County Commissioners decided to reject the PILOT, which could have had a positive impact on the area, but we respect the decision and thank the county for their consideration. We look forward to working with Hardin County on the larger part of the project.”
The decision came late Tuesday, only a matter of minutes after the Examiner filed a public records request to see the draft document the commissioners were preparing to vote on at an unspecified time.
Commissioner Dustin Wickersham made the motion, which was seconded by Tony Core. John Bayliss joined his fellow commissioners in voting yes on the motion.
The document is accompanied by resolutions from Richland and Rushcreek townships — both of which urged commissioners to deny the tax abatement — and letters from both the Benjamin Logan and Ohio Hi-Point Career Center boards of education — neither of which took a stance on the issue.
Ben Logan Superintendent David Harmon said, while the district stood to gain financially from the approval of the abatement, numerous voters and taxpayers did not support it.
“Our responsibility and sole focus remains educating students to the highest level. We will continue to put students first and we will leave the politics up to the elected officials,” the superintendent’s letter reads.
The career center’s letter, signed by Superintendent Rick Smith and board president Anne Reames, says the board defers to the home districts’ opinions.
In addition to failing to demonstrate a direct community impact, commissioners said the petition filed by the company did not meet certain requirements.
They also said that they do not believe the decision should come down to a request for a local tax break.
“If the only feasible way this project can go forward is through a tax exemption and payment in lieu of taxes, as the wind developer claims, then something is wrong with the State tax law,” the resolution reads.
“Tax abatements are to incentivize development in a specific location, not to create the business model for the project to be developed. It is curious that under the energy project law, the local governments are expected to take a loss of revenue while the State of Ohio’s tax revenue (commercial activity tax, kilowatt hour tax, etc.) is to remain entirely whole.”
The resolution also criticizes some of the opponents of the wind development who made personal attacks on commissioners, their family members and tried to invoke issues that had no bearing on the immediate decision.
“The actions of a very few involved against the project have been rude, distasteful, offensive, hostile, and at times completely repugnant,” the resolution reads. “Some have spread rumors that one or more of the Logan County Commissioners has signed contracts for turbines or received other financial benefits from the developer.
“Some have attempted to threaten or intimidate members of the immediate family of the County Commissioners in an effort to frighten or bully the commissioners into a position. The actions of these few have only harmed the credibility and character of those opponents of the project.”
Phil Morse, a local engineer who spoke out against the project at the May public hearing, said he appreciated the commissioners making a statement and hopes this will be a deterrent to other companies that may wish to locate wind turbines in Logan County.
“I’m glad to hear it,” he said. “I would like to express my appreciation for commissioners considering the best interest of their constituents.
“That would be the hope that tax incentives will no longer be part of the welcome mat for any wind developers. Now we have a precedent in place that, at the very least, kind of puts a rip in that welcome mat. It’s a tool — a deterrent is the word I’m looking for.”