St. Lawrence County Legislature puts PILOT decision on hold
Tuesday, July 11, 2017 - 9:12 am

By MATT LINDSEY

CANTON – St. Lawrence County legislators have tabled plans that would have called for large-scale wind developers who make payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTS) to be required to pay the full-assessed property tax value.

A resolution that said any PILOT agreement with wind facilities capable of producing 25 megawatts of wind power or more “require annual payments to the county in an amount equal to that which the county would have received in real property taxes” was proposed at finance committee meeting last month and agreed to by legislators.

The policy still needed approval from the full Board of Legislators before it could officially take effect. That did not happen Monday night.

“Some don’t feel we have enough info or that getting additional info might help them make a decision,” St. Lawrence County Legislator Joseph Lightfoot said.

The North Ridge Wind Farm calls for about 40 wind towers, about 500 feet high, to be built in Hopkinton and Parishville by Avangrid Renewables.

St. Lawrence County would be the first county in the state that would not have a PILOT agreement with a wind developer if the towers are built.

Parishville Town Supervisor Rodney Votra has previously stated that the town is not interested in payments in lieu of taxes. The Town of Hopkinton is still discussing PILOT agreements.

“I have enough info – I could have made my mind up last night,” Lightfoot said.

The reason to table the resolution was also made as some legislators felt more research needed to be done, including how the properties would be assessed and concerns were raised about passing a policy that impacts all renewable energy, including solar.

Lightfoot said a case could be made for an inclusive and exclusive policy.

“Some think handling it all the same is the way to go – I think leaving solar in the policy would have created no issues, everyone gets treated alike,” he said.

Some members of the Concerned Citizens of Rural Preservation were in attendance voicing their displeasure to the board about lawmakers not voting on the resolution.

“There were about 8-10 people there…that are against the wind development,” Lightfoot said.

In a recent survey, backers and those opposed to wind towers in Parishville and Hopkinton said they do not want a PILOT agreement from a wind company.

“This effects those two towns to the greatest degree,” Lightfoot said.

Lightfoot said the county would have to work with an entity or individual in determining an accurate assessment of land being used for wind towers.

“I don't know how it would be assessed,” Lightfoot said. “Would it include the cost of the equipment or how much power is generated or a hybrid (of factors)?”

The shelving of the resolution was left open ended with no set date to continue discussions.