Commissioners spent close to two hours in executive session with Brown County Attorney Shane Britton discussing the reinvestment zone created Dec. 10, 2007, and the possibility of future tax abatements.
But when the court reconvened in open session again at 12:20 p.m. on Monday, the only action taken was to vote — unanimously — to adjourn.
Britton had said Friday it was doubtful any action would be taken on the agenda item. The discussion was prompted, he said, by the state attorney general’s recent opinion statement that the tax code in Texas only allows tax abatements on “real” property or land. According to the opinion, wind turbines qualify as land improvements, or leased property, and are not considered “real.”
Prior to the meeting, Dr. John Dale Dunn gave each commissioner and County Judge Ray West a copy of a letter he had written, citing an investigation request Dunn had made to District Attorney Micheal Murray in March.
According to Dunn’s letter, dated May 11, the commissioners approval of the reinvestment zone involves conflicts of interest.
“I would suggest the Commissioners’ Court rescind the reinvestment zone decision, and require recusal of any commissioner who has, or in the future might have, a financial interest in a turbine lease, for any official consideration of favors for turbines,” Dunn wrote.
As many as 10 citizens, Dunn included, attended Monday’s meeting, and waited in the courthouse hall for about 45 minutes after the courtroom was cleared for the expected executive session. Then, West announced Britton had been delayed because of a case he was prosecuting with Child Protective Services.
About 20 minutes later, it was announced the public meeting was going to reconvene. Britton was still not present, and the discussion was not about the reinvestment zone, but about the probability the federal land maps that will publish in October will have raised the flood level by almost 8 feet, effectively putting most of Brown County in a flood plain.
“An awful lot of area is going to be in the flood plain,” County Surveyor Don King reported to the court.
With the elevated flood plain, King explained, almost every property owner and business in the county will be required to carry flood insurance. King said he’d been told by FEMA representatives the county did not have “enough time, money or politics” to stop or change the “model” data on the maps.
“This will affect development along the area where commercial development is flourishing,” West said. “And it will bring to a standstill all residential development in the county.”
Britton signaled to West he was out of CPS court and available for consultation and the courtroom was cleared a second time for executive session. After more than an hour, the court convened a final time, but only to adjourn.
West did advise he would post a notice of an emergency meeting for 4 p.m. today at the at the water district office, 501 E. Baker, so that he and any or all of the four commissioners could attend the public meeting.