Tax agreement sought for NNY solar project

Solar panels take up multiple acres of land on Blanchard Road in Clayton. The developer of a proposed solar farm in St. Lawrence County is seeking a 15-year payment in lieu of taxes, or PILOT, agreement with the St. Lawrence County Industrial Development Agency. Kara Dry/Watertown Daily Times

MASSENA — The developer of a proposed solar farm in the towns of Brasher, Norfolk and Massena will be seeking a 15-year payment in lieu of taxes, or PILOT, agreement with the St. Lawrence County Industrial Development Agency.

NextEra Energy Resources, through its subsidiary, North Star Energy Center, is proposing to develop, build, own and operate a facility that will produce 180 megawatts of power starting in 2023.

Patrick J. Kelly, executive director of the county IDA, told the Massena Central School District Board of Education that the agency has about 20 active PILOT agreements in the county, with five of those in the school district, exclusively in the Massena Industrial Park.

“We are the county’s principal economic development organization, so our activities are designed around job retention, job creation, investment in the tax base,” Mr. Kelly said. “We have a number of different programs that we utilize to try to induce investment activity and fulfill our mission.”

Among those are PILOT agreements, a real estate tax abatement process.

A standard PILOT agreement with a private company is for 10 years, Mr. Kelly said. For the first five years, the county provides a 100% abatement on new assessments created by the project. For the second five years, a 50% abatement is provided.

“So over the course of a 10-year period, it’s a 75% abatement.” Mr. Kelly said.

State municipal law, Mr. Kelly said, requires the IDA to have a uniform tax exemption policy. That requires them to have a listing of standard projects and what their standard PILOT is, and what they would do in the case of a deviation.

Mr. Kelly said standard projects are manufacturing, industrial, warehousing and research and development.

“A deviation would be a hotel project or a housing project, or a PILOT that requests a different schedule than the 10-year, 100%-50% schedule,” he said. “In the case of a project that deviates from that standard, our policy is to request and receive the affirmative consent of the impacting local taxing jurisdictions. So that’s what brings me here this evening.”

He said if they had projects such as a hotel, housing or solar project requesting a 15-year PILOT schedule, they go to the towns and school districts and provide them with a consent resolution and ask the board to vote on it and provide it to the IDA. That, he said, “accepts and consents to the broad provisions of the PILOT, which is typically the payment schedule and the amount of time of the PILOT.”

Mr. Kelly said they are in the pre-application process with the developers of the solar project.

“It’s a large project, a lot of discussion, a lot of activity going on, but once we have the formal application, we will then prepare a consent resolution that we’ll provide to the school district and then we’ll be able to answer additional questions or come back,” he said. “We’ll work back and forth with you. But the first step is to get you an introduction to the project itself.”

Kris Scornavacca, representing NextEra Energy Resources LLC, provided board members with an overview of the project.

“NextEra Energy Resources would develop, own, build, operate the North Side Energy Center as a direct subsidiary,” Mr. Scornavacca said. “We expect this project to create approximately 200 jobs throughout the construction phase of the project, as well as additional jobs throughout the development phase of the project, and then two to three, to four jobs as we move on to the operational phase of the project post-construction. The project is proposed to be located entirely in the Massena Central School District and would be located in the three towns of Massena, Brasher and the town of Norfolk.”

About 70% of the project would be situated in Brasher, while 20% would be in Massena and 10% would be in Norfolk.

The project area is all of the land that they have available from contracts with local partners for the project — about 2,200 acres, Mr. Scornavacca said.

“But it is not the amount of land we would use for the project to be constructed on and operated on,” he said. “The final project, once built, would comprise 960 acres.”

He said a project of this size would create a significant amount of new jobs and new revenues for all of the communities where it’s located and surrounding communities. Mr. Scornavacca said they would hire as many people as available from the local community and also ensure local unions were properly represented.

“We expect to create approximately 200-plus jobs during the construction phase of this project,” he said.

The company is currently going through the Article 10 process with the state. NextEra submitted an application in February and expects to receive a decision 14 to 16 months after the date of submission.

Mr. Scornavacca said they anticipated a decision around the middle of 2022, with construction beginning in late 2022 and finishing in 2023. The facility would be operational by the end of 2023.

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(1) comment

HotelMike

I bet he is. Another scam at taxpayers expense.

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