BARRE – Representatives from the Town of Barre, Albion school district and Orleans County are expected to soon sit down with Apex Clean Energy to discuss a payment in lieu of taxes plan for how much revenue the wind-energy company will give the three tax entities to have 33 turbines in Barre.
The Town Board on Wednesday voted to invite representatives from the school and county to join the town in negotiating a PILOT with Apex. The Orleans Economic Development Agency will also be part of the discussion and will administer a PILOT if a deal is reached.
Sean Pogue, Barre town supervisor, said the vote was just an invitation to start negotiations and doesn’t mean the town is supporting the project. Pogue and Town Councilman Richard Bennett both said Apex needs to “put more money on the table” for the community.
The company wants to build 33 turbines that would peak at 650 to 680 feet high. The company has said it would pay $8,000 per megawatt annually in a PILOT. At 4.8 megawatts each per turbine or 158.4 MWs total for 33, that would add up to $1.27 million.
In a typical PILOT in Orleans County, the money is divvied up based on the percentage of the tax rates in the taxing entities. In Barre, in the 2019 the town tax rate is $9.18 per $1,000 of assessed property, while the county is $9.96 and the school district, $15.10. That is $34.24 total.
Barre represents 26.8 Percent of the total tax rate, with the county at 29.0 percent and the school district at 44.1 percent. Divvying up $1.27 million based on those percentages would result in $340,360 for the town, $368,300 for the county and $560,070 for the school district.
However, town officials say they are looking for a PILOT where Barre gets a bigger percentage of the revenue, where it isn’t shared based on the tax rates.
Kerri Richardson, president of Clear Skies Above Barre, urged the town to tax the turbines at full value and not do a PILOT where Apex pays the local governments at a discount.
Richardson urged the Town Board to not let Apex drive the process. She urged the board to insist on the standards in the local laws that limit turbines to 500 feet.
She said insisting on health and safety protections for residents won’t chase the developer away. She pointed to the towns of Somerset and Yates, which have stronger laws than Barre for setbacks and anti-turbine candidates in office. That opposition hasn’t caused Apex to cancel the proposed Lighthouse Wind. The company announced it isn’t submitting an application this year for the project, but it isn’t abandoning its plans for Lighthouse. Right now the company is focused on Barre.
The Town Board on Wednesday voted to accept $50,000 from Apex so the town can hire an expert to help Barre consider concerns about the turbines and what would be reasonable for height, noise and setbacks. The town will hire an expert without input from Apex, said Lance Mark, the town attorney.
Residents questioned if the vote had enough support on the board because two members, Larry Gaylard and Tom McCabe, abstained. That left only three voting members. Richard Bennett voted against the reimbursement agreement while Pogue and Lynn Hill voted for it.
Some residents questioned if only two votes in favor was enough for the motion to carry. Mark said it was two out of three voting members and was enough for a majority.
Robin Nacca, a town resident, said she would seek a legal opinion about the vote. She said three votes should be needed to pass a resolution on a five-member board.
She also said she is concerned about conflicts of interest among board member who are involved in the process when they should be fully abstaining. She thinks there should be a moratorium on any discussions until there are officials in place who don’t stand to benefit directly or indirectly from Apex.