CANTON — Several municipalities in St. Lawrence County are facing legal challenges by dam-owning corporation Erie Boulevard Hydropower to dramatically reduce the assessed values of its properties.
On July 30, Erie Boulevard Hydropower Inc., filed several petitions in state Supreme Court in St. Lawrence County against the towns of Colton, Clifton, Pierrepont, Potsdam and Parishville alleging they overvalued the real property tax assessment values of its properties, mostly dams, by over a collective $100 million. That figure represents more that half of the final assessed value from the towns.
Property taxes are based on assessed value, meaning the lower number being asserted by Erie Boulevard Hydropower would mean a staggering reduction in tax revenue coming from those properties.
The matter was raised at the St. Lawrence County Board of Legislators meeting Monday, first by Colton resident Kevin Beary during the public comment period.
“I urge the St. Lawrence County legislators representing the towns of Clifton, Colton, Parishville, Pierrepont and Potsdam to look into this matter and do whatever they can to protect their constituents from the depredations of Brookfield Renewable Partners,” Mr. Beary said.
Erie Boulevard Hydropower is a division of Brookfield Renewable Partners, a publicly traded limited partnership with headquarters in Canada.
County Attorney Stephen D. Button said he was approached by some town attorneys to see if the county would be willing to provide assistance.
Mr. Button continued to say he would brief the board on the matter, presumably during executive session, though there was some clear support among some legislators.
“It doesn’t just affect the towns, it affects the county as well,” Rick Perkins, D-Potsdam, said. “Its assessed value, 50% in these four townships. That’s a considerable amount of money, and I think we need to put our efforts into this.”
This is not the first attempt by Brookfield to try and reduce the assessed value of its properties. It’s filed a dozen petitions in New York so far this year and has targeted St. Lawrence County municipalities several times over the last two decades.