A resident opposed to construction of a wind farm in southern Henry County has had attorneys write a document objecting to giving it a tax abatement.
April 27, the county council granted a tax abatement to Flat Rock Wind Farm LLC. The company is a subsidiary of Apex Clean Energy of Charlottesville, Virginia.
Henry County resident Gary Roberts is objecting to the designation of about 21 square miles of property as an Economic Revitalization Area, a step in the tax abatement process. The abatement would allow Flat Rock to phase in payment of new property taxes on the development for 10 years.
The legal document lists three primary objections. It has been prepared by the law firm of Snyder-Morgan of Syracuse, Indiana, but has not been filed in court.
The first objection states that the real estate does not qualify as an ERA as defined by Indiana Code.
“(Roberts) objects to any designation of the subject 21 square miles of real estate as described in the (county’s) preliminary resolution as an Economic Development Area. ... If the real estate fails to properly qualify by statute as an Economic Development Area, Flat Rock is not entitled to any tax abatement,” the document states.
By law, an economic development area is supposed to be undesirable or impossible to develop for economic growth. The objection states that the area in question is “some of the most valuable and productive farmland in Henry County ....”
The second objection is that Flat Rock lacks standing to seek ERA status for real estate because it does not own the land. It also states that real estate owned by people who are not participating in the project should not be included in the ERA designation.
The third objection is that Flat Rock fails to qualify for a property tax deduction.
“Flat Rock’s statement of benefits dated Feb. 23, 2016 should be rejected as it expressly reflects that no employees are expected to be retained or added as a result of the proposed project,” the complaint states.
It also states the county council should have considered the anticipated adverse impacts to property values of non-participating property owners resulting from large-scale commercial wind energy conversion systems.
The complaint includes a copy of a study done in 2011 by Martin D. Heintzelman and Carrie M. Tuttle of the Economics and Financial Studies School of Business at Clarkson University.
This nine-year study of more than 11,000 property transactions concluded: “The results of this study appear to indicate that proximity to wind turbines does have a negative and significant impact on property values. ... The existence of turbines between up to 1 and 3 miles away negatively impacts property values by between 15.6 and 31 percent, while having at least one turbine on the parcel reduces prices by 65 percent.”
Roberts is requesting that the Henry County Council rescind Preliminary Resolution No. 2016-2 and reject Flat Rock’s request for tax abatement.
Joel Harvey, the attorney who represents the county council, said Monday he has not seen the objection.
“I haven’t seen it, haven’t heard anything about it,” Harvey said. “I’d be hard pressed to comment on a piece of paper I haven’t seen.”
Nate LaMar, county council president, said, “I did receive a copy of it but I have yet to read it. It’s something like 50 pages.”
An email seeking comment by Brenna Gunderson, the Apex representative overseeing the Flat Rock Wind project, was not returned in time to include her reactions to the objections in this article.
In a related matter, the Henry County Commissioners are scheduled to hold a public meeting on a road use agreement for Flat Rock Wind at 6 p.m. May 11 in the Old Circuit Courtroom at the Henry County Courthouse, 101 S. Main Street. The commissioners will take comments from the public.
The road use agreement ensures public roads used during construction of the wind farm are restored to equal or better condition after the project is completed. It is the third and final agreement needed for Flat Rock Wind to move forward in Henry County.