Created on Wednesday, 12 February 2014 Written by REUBEN MEES
Logan County could stand to lose as much as it would gain in tax revenue from a proposed wind development if rough information presented Tuesday by residents opposed to the project is accurate.
Real estate agent Deb Grant, left, presents information regarding potential impact on property values in the Scioto Ridge Wind Farm project area during a Tuesday meeting in the Logan County Commissioners’ office where residents concerned about the proposal turned out in numbers to express their opinions. (EXAMINER PHOTO | REUBEN MEES)
Everpower Wind Holdings has proposed building a 300 megawatt wind energy development in northern Logan and southern Hardin counties.
But residents opposed to the project, who overflowed the Logan County Commissioners’ office for the Tuesday session, have been ramping up their efforts in recent months to halt the development.
While the Ohio Power Siting Board has complete authority to grant or deny Everpower’s plan, commissioners would have authority to grant or deny the company’s request for a tax break, known as a payment in lieu of taxes.
Everpower has proposed a payment of up to $2.7 million per year to be split among the two counties, five townships and school districts in the project area. With only about a third of the total number of proposed turbines to be located in Logan County, according to Everpower’s proposed project map, the payment to Logan County entities could be about $900,000 per year.
During the Tuesday meeting, real estate agent Deb Grant presented a market study comparing home sales in Van Wert and Paulding counties since the wind development company Iberdrola opened its Blue Creek Wind Farm to home sales in nearby Defiance and Hancock counties during the same period.
The average price of home sales was 32 percent less, or $48 per square foot in the Van Wert wind farm area compared to $71 per square foot outside the wind farm.
Property values at nearby Indian Lake would also be adversely affected, several property owners argued.
The future of the ongoing Longview Cove development project — which is a 52-home development with homes ranging from $450,000 to $1 million each — could be hurt by a proposed wind development, along with the estimated $300,000 per year in new property taxes it would generate, resident Kelly Campbell said.
“(Longview Cove developer) Bill Sims has done a lot more good than the paltry sum a PILOT would do for Logan County,” Ms. Campbell said. “I just can’t imagine that driving to the area and seeing wind turbines everywhere would not be a deterrent to anyone looking for lakefront property.”
And in other economic impact, Michael Shepherd, who owns a home in Taylor Creek Township in Hardin County but owns the Bellefontaine restaurant 600 Downtown, said it would force him and other small business owners to move.
“It’s been a difficult decision for us, but if a wind farm is built, my family is going to move; we are not going to stay around Hardin County and Logan County,” Mr. Shepherd said. “I will close my business in Logan County and I will move it.”
He said the restaurant does $1.2 million in sales annually, pays $10,000 in sales taxes and employs 30 to 40 people with a payroll of about $600,000 a year.
“I sure hope PILOT payments are worth the loss of entrepreneurs the county will experience. If the county wants to write us off, so be it,” Mr. Shepherd said. “If you feel that appeasing a British-owned company and a few select, elite people in the community is more important than us, then so be it.”
Everpower Wind Holdings is a Pittsburgh-based subsidiary of the British capital firm Terra Firma.
Commissioners said they have not formed an official opinion on the matter as some residents, property owners and taxpayers — although less vocal — are in favor of the wind development. But they assured those in attendance they would seriously weigh a request for a tax abatement in a process that would involve community input.
“We feel that our role is that once it is brought before us to hear from everybody,” Commissioner Tony Core said. “In spite of what you have implied, we are not in favor of or against the project. If it is approved by the Ohio Power Siting Board, we are going to have a say, and there will be a public hearing on it.”
He noted that the public hearing would be advertised well in advance and conducted in a considerably larger venue so as “no one will have to sit on the floor.” Commissioners only expected resident Betsy Reames and a few others to attend the Tuesday meeting. The actual crowd was in excess of 50 people.
Everpower project manager Jason Dagger attended, but did not speak on the record.
“It was definitely a listening session,” he said after the meeting. “It’s good to hear from the citizens. It is part of the process we are continuing to do. We do like to be part of the discussion.”
Even if the proposal clears the siting board this spring, construction will not begin anytime in the immediate future, Mr. Dagger said.
“We are still a long way off at this point,” he said.
CLARIFICATION: Kelly Campbell, who spoke on the impact of a wind development on the Indian Lake area at a Tuesday meeting of the Logan County Commissioners, clarified her remarks. There are no plans to put the Longview Cove development on hold, but the presence of wind turbines near Indian Lake could deter potential buyers from making investments in homes there, she said.
Also, a $10,000 tax paid by business owner Michael Shepherd should have been reported as a sales tax number.
Wind project addressed at Belle Center
Jason Dagger, the representative for Everpower Wind Holdings, reached out to Belle Center Village Council a month after the public body approved a resolution declaring its opposition to the Scioto Ridge Wind Farm.
Everpower has proposed a 300-megawatt wind development with between 89 and 176 wind turbines for northern Logan and southern Hardin counties.
Among the points he addressed were local property values, which were a major focus of discussion of a meeting of the Logan County Commissioners earlier in the day Tuesday.
“Certainly when you look at property values, the challenge is looking at those and understanding what they say,” Mr. Dagger said, presenting a study that contradicts residents’ claim at the commissioners’ meeting that property values in and around wind developments tend to decrease.
“We want to be a business partner here in the community,” Mr. Dagger said. “We want to stay engaged with this town and town council. I think if you talk to other communities like Belle Center you’ll find we’ve been good neighbors.”
Mr. Dagger addressed several questions about specific wind issues before project area resident Katie Elsasser, who is opposed to the project, spoke.
During her brief remarks, she provided council with a letter from a resident in Pennsylvania who was not pleased with wind development there.
Editor's Note: The preceding story contains a clarification of Kelly Campbell's statements regarding the Longview Cove development.