Passadumkeag wind developer withdraws tax-break request, expects to move forward with project

Passadumkeag Mountain, Saponac Pond in the foreground.
R.W. Estela
Passadumkeag Mountain, Saponac Pond in the foreground.
Posted Oct. 01, 2013, at 11 a.m.

BANGOR, Maine — The developer planning to build a 14-turbine wind farm on Passadumkeag Mountain has withdrawn its request for a Tax Increment Financing deal with Penobscot County.

During a Tuesday morning meeting, county commissioners asked an attorney to explore how to divvy up the tax benefits between the county and state, leaving breaks for the developer out of the equation.

The developers have said the $79 million project will move forward, regardless of whether they receive tax incentives or not, according to Erik Stumpfel, an attorney who has helped the commission negotiate potential TIF deals.

Negotiations over a potential TIF agreement between the county and developer, Quantum Utility Generation, an alternative energy company based in Houston, Texas, date back more than a year. Quantum plans to build a 42-megawatt wind farm, mostly located in Grand Falls, which is just south-southeast of Burlington and Lowell.

The original TIF proposal would have given Quantum tax breaks in exchange for a portion of resulting revenues that would benefit the county and Unorganized Territories.

Under previous proposals, the developer would have received about $5 million over 30 years to encourage further project development within the unorganized territory the commission represents. Without the TIF money, Quantum also has withdrawn its proposal for a community benefits agreement.

During hearings in 2012 and again this year, members of the public were critical of any TIF agreement benefiting the developer, arguing that Quantum was financially solvent enough that it didn’t need tax incentives to make the project viable. They also argued that even with future project development, the jobs would be temporary construction work and few permanent opportunities, according to Bill Collins, Penobscot County administrator.

That public input played a role in the county’s decision to revise the deal recently, according to Commissioner Peter Baldacci.

During a meeting last week, Commissioner Tom Davis made a motion to pursue a plan in which the county would receive 90 percent of the TIF funds and the state would receive 10 percent, which would go toward funding projects and enhancements in unorganized territories. The split in the previously proposed deal would have given the developer a 55 percent cut of the TIF money and the county 45 percent.

The wind project received approval from the Board of Environmental Protection in August. The 5-0 vote followed an earlier decision to reject the Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s March recommendation that the project not move forward.

Aho turned down the project application in November 2012 based on the negative visual impact the project would have on the area, particularly Saponac Pond, which is southeast of the town of Lincoln in Penobscot County. The board ruled that the visibility of the project was “not a solely sufficient basis” for the project’s denial.

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