A settlement has been reached between Lempster Wind LLC and the Town of Lempster over the assessment on the wind farm's 12 wind turbines and other equipment on Lempster Mountain.
Attorneys for the two sides negotiated an out-of-court settlement that reduced the tax assessment on the wind farm for 2009, 2010 and 2011 from $48 million to $44 million. The two sides agreed that the assessment for 2012 through 2014 would be $40 million.
"This puts it to bed," said Mary Grenier, chairman of the Lempster Board of Selectmen.
"Based on input from our lawyer and our own thinking, this is a fair and equitable settlement," Grenier stated.
During the course of this agreement, the Town of Lempster can increase the assessment if Lempster Wind's value changes due to additional construction on the property.
The appeal was scheduled to be heard by a trial judge in Sullivan County Superior Court in Newport on Nov. 18, 2011. With the settlement, there will not be a trial.
The town of Lempster mailed a refund check for $130,000 to Lempster Wind LLC yesterday to cover the reduced tax assessment for 2009 and 2010.
"The $130,000 was already figured into this year's tax rate," according to Grenier. "Every year you put in a dollar amount you think the town will have to pay in rebates," she continued.
Lempster Wind paid the tax bill in full for 2009 and then filed paperwork to have the assessment reduced.
In its original appeal, Lempster Wind claimed its assessed valuation of taxable property was based on flawed determinations of the fair market and assessed values of Lempster Wind's taxable property.
Lempster Wind claimed the town's fair market and assessed value assessments were about $15 million too high.
According to court records, the town of Lempster imposed a total property tax of $623,160 on the project for the 2009 tax year, based on a total assessment of $48 million.
"Lempster Wind was forced to pay an illegal, excessive, disproportionate and unjust share of the Town's taxes for the taxes assessed as of April 1, 2011″ Lempster Wind claimed in its abatement appeal.
The New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration, the agency that sets the tax rate each year, set the Lempster Wind's assessment at $52,502,458. However, that figure also included the state education tax assessment, according to Ingrid Locher, the town's administrative assistant.
Avitar Associates of Chichester, the firm that handled Lempster's assessment, placed a value of $48 million on the Wind Farm property.
Lempster Wind is the owner and operator of the 24 megawatt Lempster Wind Power Project located on Bean Mountain Road, off Mountain Road in Lempster.
The Project consists of 12 wind turbines together with associated collectors, circuits, local distribution lines, controls and other ancillary facilities. The 12 turbines - connected by a network of 5.3 miles of access' roads were constructed on mountaintop property leased from three local landowners.
The Concord law firm of Orr and Reno represented Lempster Wind. The firm of Upton and Hatfield of North Conway represented the Town of Lempster.