Brown County court sets May 10 for public hearing on solar tax abatement

Steve Nash
Brownwood Bulletin
Brown County Courthouse

Brown County Commissioners Court members voted 4-1 Monday to hold a public hearing on May 10 and consider taking action on a tax abatement for the proposed Radian solar farm near Brookesmith.

Brown County Judge Paul Lilly, who has said he is opposed to an abatement for the project, cast the opposition vote.

County Attorney Shane Britton suggested the court hold a public forum on an evening before May 10 to give people more time to state their views, for or against. Britton noted that speakers at earlier commissioners court meetings have sometimes been hampered by time restraints.

"That's a very good suggestion," commissioner Gary Worley said.

On May 10, commissioners court members will first vote on creating a reinvestment zone for the project. It will be necessary to create a reinvestment zone before a tax abatement can be voted on, Worley said.

"We have received an application from IP Radian for a tax abatement and a reinvestment zone, and the only way we can answer them is to have a public hearing and put it on the agenda," Worley said.

Worley made a motion that commissioners set May 10 as the date to take "possible action regarding a tax abatement on a capital investment" of about $297.9 million.

Earlier in Monday's meeting, two men spoke briefly in the citizens comment portion of the agenda.

Kenneth Adams, who spoke previously in favor of the solar farm project, said opponents have hired a group to solicit signatures for a petition in the Walmart parking lot. Adams asked how signatures will be verified as those of Brown County landowners.

The second speaker, John Daigle, referred to an earlier concern about commissioner Wayne Shaw having a possible conflict of interest related to the project. Daigle said Shaw should be excluded from voting on any solar project matters unless the concern is resolved ahead of time.

California-based Intersect Power is developing the Radian Solar Energy Project and wants to build a solar farm on 2,000 to 3,000 acres of land located within the Brookesmith school district.

Intersect said earlier its project would bring $23 million in property tax payments over the 35-year life of the project to Brown County and the Brookesmith school district — $7 million to Brown County and $16 million to the school district.

Under a 10-year agreement, the project would begin paying taxes in the first year; by the final year of the agreement, Intersect would pay nearly $6.5 million in taxes, with $1.4 million going to Brown County and $5.1 million to the Brookesmith school district, Intersect has said.

In other matters Monday, commissioners:

• Voted 4-1 to lift the burn ban.

• Approved Angela Agan as a member of the Brown County Child Welfare Board.