If the Oregon Department of Energy approves Horizon Wind Energy's plan
to build a 300-megawatt wind farm near Union, the city of Union may be
in for some extra compensation.
Monday, the Union City Council approved a resolution that supports a
revised Strategic Investment Program agreement between Union County and
Horizon, one that includes mitigation for the city.
Of a projected $42 million in taxes and fees over 15 years, Union would receive about $2 million, according to terms of the revised agreement.
"While the process has been difficult, we were ultimately able to reach an agreement during this window of opportunity that we feel is fair and in the best interest of city of Union residents, one that ensures city residents receive maximum benefits should the project go forward," Mayor Bill Lindsley said in a joint press release from the city and Union County.
The Oregon Strategic Investment Program is a tax-equity program the Legislature established in 1993 to encourage investment in capital-intensive, above-average wage industries.
Under the program, traded-sector companies that invest heavily in new real and personal property may qualify to pay lower taxes.
The state says it's an incentive that fosters economic growth and improves employment opportunities.
Though Horizon's application to build the Antelope Ridge Farm on private lands near the city is still under review, the county and Horizon worked out a tentative SIP agreement last October.
The Union County Board of Commissioners opened a public hearing on the proposed pact Nov. 10. Some people testifying condemned the wind farm and the SIP. Others said they support wind farm construction and a SIP agreement.
Union City Administrator Sandra Patterson asked the board to delay a decision on the SIP and give Union more time to study the agreement. The board continued the hearing until Dec. 15.
Before the hearing could resume, the county announced that talks on the SIP had opened between the county, the city and Horizon. The re-opening of the hearing was postponed indefinitely.
During a meeting last Monday, the Union City Council approved by a 4-2 vote a resolution that supports a revised agreement. The press release issued after the meeting said the revised version mitigates the city's principal concerns with Antelope Ridge.
In the past, Patterson has said the city does not oppose wind power or green energy, but is concerned about negative impacts the wind farm might have on property values, scenery, tourism, health and more.
The revised agreement, which the board of commissioners will consider for approval after completion of the public hearing, contains changes in distribution of the "additional fee" Horizon has agreed to pay Union County.
Under the first agreement, the city of Union was to get 25 percent of the first-year additional fee, with the remainder spread out among other entities in Union and North Powder, including Buffalo Peak Golf Course.
In the new agreement, the city of Union would get 50 percent of the first-year additional fee. Funding for the golf course is eliminated.
Also under the new agreement, Union would receive 4.21 percent of each year's additional fee throughout the SIP's exemption period.
According to the press release, talks have begun with the city of North Powder, the city second-closest to the proposed project, to resolve concerns there.
The revised SIP will be released for public review and the hearing continued after those discussions.
Valerie Franklin, Horizon's Antelope Ridge project manager, said she thinks the revised agreement illustrates Horizon's commitment to working with the local community to resolve tough issues.
"We appreciate the city's good-faith efforts and Union County's leadership," she said.
Franklin said her company and the two government entities worked hard and in good faith to arrive at an agreement that is fair and equitable.
"It allows the greatest amount of tax revenue from Antelope Ridge to stay locally, benefiting the closest community, the City of Union, as well as the entire county," she said.
Union County Commissioner Mark Davidson spoke again in support of a SIP agreement, saying SIP funds would provide the means to create a strong economic engine for Union County.
He said he is "pleased to have reached an agreement with the city of Union on how we can all benefit from the project."
The proposal to build Antelope Ridge has been controversial from the beginning. Opponents say the wind farm would have negative impacts on scenery, property values, wildlife, the tourism industry and more.
Other people favor the project because it would create jobs and economic development and produce green energy. They say possible adverse impacts will be adequately addressed in the Oregon Department of Energy's siting process.
Horizon's application for a site certificate was deemed complete Dec. 31.
The department's Energy Facility Siting Council will hold a public meeting in Union Jan. 25 to take testimony on the project.
EFSC must decide whether the project meets standards spelled out under Oregon Administrative Rules.