Hearing on Passadumkeag Mountain wind farm tax district set for Tuesday

An aerial photo of Passadumkeag Mountain with Saponac Pond in the foreground and the mountains of MDI in the distance.
R.W. Estela
An aerial photo of Passadumkeag Mountain with Saponac Pond in the foreground and the mountains of MDI in the distance.
Posted Aug. 14, 2013, at 11:26 a.m.

BANGOR, Maine — A public hearing will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 20, at the historic Penobscot County Courthouse on Hammond Street on a proposed Tax Increment Financing District for a 14-turbine wind project to be built on Passadumkeag Mountain.

The project was approved Aug. 1 by the Maine Board of Environmental Protection.

Opponents of the project are expected to voice opposition to the TIF as they did last year at a public hearing.

The developers, Penobscot Forest and Passadumkeag Windpark, last year sought a TIF from the county through Eastern Maine Development Corp. In July 2012, Penobscot County commissioners put off a decision on creating a TIF until the project had been given the go-ahead from the BEP.

If approved, the agreement between commissioners and developers would put an estimated $9.145 million into the county’s coffers over a 30-year period. The majority of the money, about $5 million, would be paid during the final five years, according to County Administrator Bill Collins. Payments would begin the third year of operations with an initial installment of nearly $300,000.

The project would be visible from 97 percent of Saponac Lake and affect several other bodies of water nearby, according to a previously published report. The 42-megawatt project will mostly be in Grand Falls, which is just south-southeast of Burlington and Lowell, and also would be in Summit Township, according to the developer’s proposal.

A tax incentive program for economic development is available to all local governments in Maine, according to a previously published report. A TIF permits a municipality or county government to use some or all of the new property taxes that result from an investment project within a designated district to assist in that project’s expenses and also generate economic development funds for the local government.

A TIF with the county would provide the developer with tax breaks toward the project in exchange for a portion of tax revenues, which may be used for county initiatives totaling $7.8 million over 30 years. The money would be used for economic development projects.

To encourage further project development within the Unorganized Territory the commission represents, the developer would receive about $5 million over 30 years for potential reinvestment as part of the TIF, the county’s attorney Erik Stumpfel said last year. The commission retains all of the tax dollars the project would generate during the last eight years of the 30-year period.

If the commissioners didn’t opt for a TIF, more than half of the approximately $13 million in taxes it is expected to generate would go to the state, presumably for distribution statewide, instead of staying within the Unorganized Territory for reinvestment there by the commission or the developer, according to a previously published report.

The agreement would provide tuition payments and other benefits to county residents.

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