Library filed under Taxes & Subsidies from Illinois
Tazewell County State's Attorney Stewart Umholtz is threatening legal action against the county itself if it ignores his advice and expands an enterprise zone to include a proposed wind farm. Umholtz sent a letter Tuesday to County Board members, saying he opposes expanding the zone to include the Rail Splitter Wind Farm near the Tazewell and Logan county line, saying it would violate state statute. "Let me make myself perfectly clear," Umholtz said in the letter. "The proposed expansion of the enterprise zone does not meet the statutory requirements and should not be approved by the County Board."
A proposed wind farm for Tazewell County is in jeopardy because the county and Horizon Wind Energy LLC can't reach an agreement, threatening to stop the project from moving forward. The Tazewell County Land Use Committee met Tuesday, and problems that have apparently been brewing under the surface for months came to light. Assistant Tazewell County State's Attorney Mike Holly said he is concerned with several parts of a decommissioning plan, which addresses what will happen to 38 wind towers if Horizon ever goes bankrupt, sells the wind farm or abandons it.
The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity recently approved an expansion of the Freeport/Stephenson County Enterprise Zone to support the 100-megawatt EcoGrove Wind LLC wind farm proposed for northwest of Lena. In March, the Stephenson County Board approved the enterprise-zone extension, but the state's final approval of the initiative marks a milestone for the EcoGrove project, said Shawn Gaffney, president of EcoEnergy LLC, the company that will build the EcoGrove farm. Freeport-based EcoEnergy is a division of The Morse Group. "It was critical to the project," Gaffney said of the state's approval of the e-zone extension. "That's really the last big hurdle we had to move forward on the project."
An Invenergy representative made a pitch Wednesday to get Streator enterprise zone benefits for the second phase of the wind energy company's La Salle County project. Michael Arndt, senior development manager for Chicago-based Invenergy, addressed the Streator City Council in a committee of the whole meeting, outlining the rural Grand Ridge project's second phase and explaining why the company wants that part of the project included in the Streator enterprise zone. The first phase of the Grand Ridge wind farm, which is being constructed, includes 66 wind turbines that are included in Ottawa's enterprise zone.
Tazewell County State's Attorney Stu Umholtz says the Tazewell County Board can't give tax breaks to a proposed wind farm. ...The Tazewell County Board executive board voted to grant "enterprise zone" status to the project. But Stewart Umholtz says while the county board' members intentions are good, their actions would be illegal.
A proposed wind farm cleared one more hurdle Wednesday night after a committee recommended it become part of a Tazewell County enterprise zone. Tazewell County’s executive committee voted 9-2 to recommend to the full county board that the Rail Splitter Wind Farm, proposed by Houston-based Horizon Wind Energy LLC, be included in the zone. But the committee’s decision went against the legal opinion of Tazewell County State’s Attorney Stewart Umholtz’s office.
The City Council agreed Monday to include the Logan County portion of the Rail Splitter Wind Farm in the Lincoln-Logan County Enterprise Zone - for a $5,000 annual fee, payable to City Hall. ...Horizon Wind Energy of Houston, parent company of the proposed wind farm, gave the city a written commitment saying it, its subsidiaries and any possible future owners of the wind farm would never seek property tax relief, routinely offered to enterprise zone projects, for the leased property where wind turbines will be constructed. Horizon has said it is interested only in taking advantage of one zone incentive - a waiver on paying sales tax on materials it purchases to construct the turbines.
The city of Lincoln stands to gain $150,000 in revenue from the Rail Splitter Wind Farm, which is proposed for construction on land miles away from the city limits. But, at a $5,000 annual payment by the wind farm, it will take 30 years to earn that much revenue. At the moment, the city only has a guarantee to receive the annual payments through 2017, when the Lincoln-Logan County Enterprise Zone is due to expire. ...Bottom line, the amount of money Lincoln City Hall will receive pales in comparison to the $250,000 payment the wind farm will make to the city of Pekin.
The Lincoln City Council has joined Logan County in approving an enterprise zone expansion to extend sale tax benefits to a proposed wind farm. The council voted Monday in favor of adding a 3-foot-wide strip of land from the current zone in Lincoln to the turbine locations near Hartsburg and Emden. The three-foot strip is needed to keep the enterprise zone contiguous. Texas-based Horizon Wind Energy is planning to construct 29 wind turbine towers in Eminence Township in northern Logan County. If the area is in an enterprise zone, the developers will would not have to pay sales tax on millions of dollars worth of materials related to the project.
A Wind farm developer has asked Logan County officials to extend the Lincoln-Logan County Enterprise Zone to their site in an effort to help save taxes on the project. Texas-based Horizon Wind Energy is planning to construct 29 wind turbine towers in Eminence Township in northern Logan County. If the area is in an enterprise zone, the developers will save money on sales taxes charges for materials related to the project. The extension is expected to be approved at Tuesday's County Board meeting. The Lincoln City Council does not need to vote on it because the change is outside city limits. ..."They just want to take advantage of the sales tax break," he said. "They are not trying to take advantage of our county."
Bill Whitlock from Horizon Wind Energy asked for the Logan County board's blessing Thursday to include some of its proposed wind farm operations in an enterprise zone in Logan County. Although the designation routinely includes a 10-year abatement on property taxes, Whitlock said the county wouldn't have to worry about taking any losses. "Even though an enterprise zone affords us property tax abatements, we will not take advantage of that," said Whitlock. According to board chairman Dick Logan, Horizon mainly wants the enterprise zone designation so it won't have to pay sales tax on construction materials. ...No members of Union Ridge Wind, a group opposed to Horizon's plan, attended the meeting. Members of the group recently attended a Tazewell County board meeting to air their concerns with the development. The enterprise zone extension will come before the board for a vote during Tuesday's full-board meeting.
Invenergy informally approached Streator about extending the city's enterprise zone to encompass a proposed addition to the company's wind farm project, City Manager Paul Nicholson said Thursday. Invenergy currently is constructing a 66-turbine wind farm covering nearly 6,000 acres in Brookfield, Allen and Grand Rapids townships. The firm wants to eventually add another 167 turbines, which it hopes would be eligible for enterprise zone benefits. Being part of the enterprise zone would result in sales tax abatement for the company. Invenergy wants the benefit only during the construction phase of the proposed project addition and would relinquish it once the turbines are operational, Nicholson said.
The Stephenson County Board on Wednesday unanimously approved extending the local enterprise zone for a wind-farm project, and also moved forward on a major initiative to repair the sally port floor at the local courthouse. County officials say the extension of the Freeport/Stephenson County Enterprise Zone is an important step to make way for the EcoGrove Wind LLC project proposed for northwest of Lena. All four taxing bodies that govern the enterprise zone have to approve the extension. So far, Jo Daviess County, the Village of Hanover, and Stephenson County have approved it. The City of Freeport - the last taxing body - will likely vote on the matter at the March 17 City Council meeting.
If wind farm developers looked only at the bottom line, Illinois likely would be one of the last places they'd try to erect hundreds of wind harnessing turbines. Property tax rates are among the highest in the region. The permitting process varies from county to county, and roughly half of the petitions put forth so far have resulted in litigation with opposition groups. The strength and steadiness of the breeze is good but better elsewhere. ..."There's a tremendous wind resource, a tremendous renewable energy standard. . . . It's kind of a perfect storm right now," Link said. "(Illinois) truly is going to be a leading state when it comes to wind energy capacity."
The Ottawa City Council and Invenergy, developer of the Grand Ridge wind farm, have split the difference concerning the fee the city will receive as administrator of the enterprise zone being expanded for Invenergy's estimated $5.2 million benefit. ...The benefit to Invenergy would be an estimated $7.5 million exemption to state sales tax on project construction materials. The new deal gives the city an estimated minimum of $375,000 more than proposed in an agreement placed on file last Wednesday. Originally, Ottawa stood to benefit from a fee equivalent of up to 20 percent of the sales tax savings. But that was with the understanding the Ottawa Fire Department was to be the "first responder" to calls at wind farm construction sites -- which would mean ones in other fire agency jurisdictions. Under the revised agreement, Ottawa's share was to drop to 10 percent with the other 10 percent to be divided up among fire protection agencies in the expanded enterprise zone area.
The ordinance approving expansion of the Enterprise Zone to include the wind farm south of the city is a go as far as the city is concerned. During the regular bi-monthly meeting Wednesday evening, the Marseilles City Council adopted the ordinance amendment to include the multi-million dollar Grand Rapids Wind Farm in the La Salle-Grundy County 12.5-acre Enterprise Zone. "We're on board with that. We've made some financial arrangement with them," Mayor Jim Trager said of GRWF developer Invenergy Wind LLC of Chicago. Trager however, will not make the terms of the arrangement public until the next city council meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 5. "Invenergy is still out there bargaining with other municipalities, and so I'm not going to disclose what we received from them at this time," he said.
Wind farm development has a green light in Woodford County after the state passed legislation governing how taxes on the turbines are assessed, which could bring local taxing bodies $5 million in revenue. Gov. Rod Blagojevich's partial veto of House Bill 664 - including provisions on wind farm taxation - was overridden last week. The legislation, which took effect immediately, will require wind turbine owners to pay $9,000 per megawatt generated. "It is perfect," Woodford County Administrator Greg Jackson said. "It is ideal; $9,000 per megawatt is exactly what we wanted." Towers planned for Woodford County would generate 2 megawatts each, bringing in $18,000 each. That amount will decrease slightly annually based on depreciation.
The Illinois Senate approved a plan Friday that could boost the development of more wind farms in downstate Illinois. The proposal was paired with a controversial measure aimed at softening the blow of rising taxes for Cook County homeowners. The Senate voted 55-1 Friday to override Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s veto. The House already voted to override, so the bill has become law. The wind farm provision will standardize how the giant windmills are taxed for the next five years.
Court precedent set on cases involving cellular and radio towers defined the concrete and tower part of the turbines as real property, while the nacelle and blades are personal property, since they are easily removed, Kahman said. "The nacelles themselves are highly marketable," he noted. "We ran a lot of scenarios, let's say in the middle of the night they go bankrupt. Nobody's going to just leave the towers there because they can be sold for profit."
Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Thursday rewrote portions of a proposed law that deals mainly with Cook County property assessments but also would set up a statewide method of assessing wind farms for property tax purposes. ...Even though the governor did not alter the provisions concerning wind farms, the fate of those provisions is entwined with the rest of the overall bill. Lawmakers will have to decide next month whether to accept Blagojevich's revisions to House Bill 664, which would require a majority vote in the House and the Senate.