Turbine battle heating up

Commissioner Carlos Salazar Jr., on far left, and receives from Commissioner Dennis DeWitt a new abatement map presented by Orsted representative Eric Barnett. The court Feb. 24, heard pleas from residents in north Bee County to reconsider denying an abatement to a wind farm. On the far right is County judge Trace Morrill.

BEEVILLE – As one side fights to have the county offer a tax abatement to a proposed wind farm in north Bee County, another said that these towers will only benefit the few who have them built on their property.

During Monday’s court meeting, March 9, more residents showed to plead their case to commissioners.

Austin Brown, landowner in northwest Bee County, reminded that the wind farms proposed by Orsted affect more than the property where each is built.

“Do you want to live in a county that has these 400- to 600-foot towers flickering day and night and causing noise?” he asked. 

Brown, a certified ranch real estate appraiser, said property values decrease 25 to 40 percent where the wind farms are located.

“Those wind towers will not be on my property, but they may be on the property adjoining my property,” he said. “Do you want to have the basis of the underlying tax value of this county depleted in that manner?”

As a certified ranch manager, he is also worried about the aesthetics of the towers.

“You are to be commended for the stand you have taken on this project,” he said referring back to the court’s recent decision not to create the reinvestment zone that would make an abatement possible. “This is one of the prettiest counties in Texas.

“This county needs to decide if it wants to be turned into an industrial wasteland.”

Mark Uhr, property owner in Bee County and real estate broker in Rockport, said that he has seen the affect these turbines have on the value of property.

“And now my people that live in the backside of Copano, they can see 400 blinking lights all night long, and it has depreciated the value of that waterfront property.”

Eric Barnett, with Lincoln Clean Energy and Orsted, said during a previous meeting that the towers proposed have sensors that only flash when aircraft are near.

Both Charlie Westmoreland and Garrett Tindol, with Tindol Construction, countered saying that the wind farm companies leave the county in better shape than before they arrive.

“... the revenue and the just goodwill that was brought to these communities with the wind farm coming in was just astronomical,” Westmoreland said, referring to his west Texas experiences. “Not only did it benefit the sheriff’s office, the police departments and the local EMS, it also benefited the road and bridge department.

“When these projects come into town, they’re bringing in 80-foot wind turbines, and the infrastructure has to be upgraded to accommodate this.”

When the county departments cannot keep up with the work, Westmoreland said, the wind farm company pays to have a contractor repair the roads.

“And when the project is completed and the wind turbines are in operation, basically the wind farm turns over these roads to the county in excellent condition,” he said. “And there’s also normally a maintenance agreement of about a year where the contractor goes in and just maintains these roads to make sure everything’s good to go.”

Tindol, co-owner of Tindol Construction which has contracted for construction of wind farms in other parts of the state, said, “We have had success adding new businesses and jobs in the area with all the activity at Chase Field. 

“But do we really feel that is enough? 

“With (Texas Department of Criminal Justice), one of the largest employers in the county, and now with one of those prisons closing, we need the Helena wind project to help us pick up the slack more than ever.”

The court has not had the abatement back on their agenda since it was denied last month.

Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 361-343-5221, or at editor@mySouTex.com.

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