Breckenridge Texan

Letter to the Editor: Zola George voices opposition to proposed Stephens County wind farm

November 21
10:13 2022

Letter to the Editor of the Breckenridge Texan from Zola George, a concerned La Casa and Stephens County resident, “dead center of and dead set against” the proposed Nextera La Casa Wind Farm:

CAMPAIGNING FROM THE BASEMENT

These last six months or so, since I was first contacted by Nextera asking me to sign a 99 year lease agreement that would allow them to put up wind turbines on my place reminds me of some recent election campaigns that have been run.The similarity is some past candidates for public office have proposed and supported their platforms and positions by managing to run for office headquartered and based “hiding in their own basements.” All the while the media runs interference for them. This is exactly the type of “campaign” that Nextera is running. I can’t help but see some bias in both articles that have now been published about the Nextera La Casa Wind Farm.  The Breckenridge American ran a front page article back in May where, when covering the May 4th School Board meeting, there was not one mention of attendees that spoke out against the La Casa Wind Farm.

Now we have the Breckenridge Texan November 14th article that starts and ends with a citizen in favor of the project even though that opinion and position is in the minority. And, now with the newspaper knowing full well that the School Board vote on the Chapter 313 could come any day now, there was zero coverage or mention of the impact that the wind turbines will have on property values, on our military training and testing, and on the potential for turbines to hinder or eliminate future “luxury and prime” real estate developments and improvements that will surely come to southeast Stephens County if the area doesn’t have wind turbines. AND zero mention of the fact that Nextera didn’t have a single solitary representative or employee present at the November 9th Public Forum that the BISD School Board called, where representatives and citizens on both sides were encouraged and invited to speak.

The La Casa Landowner Coalition and Nextera, were both notified about the November 9th meeting on November 4th.  We were told that Nextera notified the School Board the day before the meeting that they could not attend because of the hurricane hitting Florida. Couldn’t get a flight out the day before? Stay one day after it made landfall? They have wind farm operations in Limestone and Young Counties in Texas, and I know of at least one lead ROW rep that lives in Texas. They are only asking for some $85 million dollars in value limitation, that will give them a huge tax subsidy, that they claim is a “determining factor” to locate in Texas, yet they just couldn’t manage to have anyone present at the meeting? I think that speaks volumes about just how much they truly care about and respect the BISD School Board Trustees and the citizens of Stephens County.

I have been polling and documenting neighbor opinions about the wind farm since April. The newspaper saw fit to quote the Nextera plus others “in favor of” numbers, at 51 that were combined and added up over several years and represent leases taken from “local property owners.” My guess is the total lease count advertised is from all of Stephens County. Still that doesn’t add up to the 60 signed contracts that Nextera reported to the school board back in May. We have called and visited personally with 153 landowners to date,counting separately those just within the proposed footprint. Those numbers indicate an overwhelming majority of land owners, 116, that are opposed to the wind farm or four out of five of those contacted. We have spoken with many other neighbors that are “against” that live or own property outside of the footprint. We did manage to find 29 “in favor of” or who have signed leases. The “against” vs “for” acreage total within the footprint is split 2 out of 3 acres “against” and 71% of the acres signed up for the turbines is controlled by 2 large landowners and neither of them have homes or live within the footprint.

I believe in and support landowner property rights. It is an important right that in my opinion should almost always be upheld. But, a landowner supporting and enabling a company to erect gigantic 656’ tall permanent towers changes everything. The potential to devalue their neighbors’ property by an observed ½ price per acre, negatively affect hundreds of thousands of visitors to the soon-to-open Palo Pinto Mountains State Park, as well as impact and hinder military training routes currently being used over the skies of La Casa is real and disturbing. I think you have to ask if this is really something that those few landowners who want the turbines should be able to force on their neighbors and affected agencies and entities. And is this something our elected officials should be enabling by granting tax subsidies?

The newspaper used public comments I made way back on May 4th about noise, traffic and impact on wildlife. All of that is still true, but since then, I have learned a lot more as I have researched wind turbines and this development. Now my main concern, voiced multiple times publicly but not mentioned in the November 14tharticle, is realizing the significant property value reduction or negative “hit” which will affect land owners unfortunately for many miles around the wind farm. This is an observed 46% reduction or decline in property value in nearby in Callahan County, Ranchland Wind Farm Area near Cross Plains and more than 50% in nearby Eastland County near Desdemona.

That is the best economic argument for landowners who should be against this development. Turbines may pay cash bonuses and royalty, if you have a turbine on your place, but owners may lose half or more of their properties’ worth if the wind farm is built. No amount of bonus or royalty will make up for that loss which could be as much as a $1 million loss in value on just a half section of land. As for the folks that have signed, most owning tracts of less than 300 acres in size are likely to not even get royalty from a turbine. The two large landowners mentioned previously will get most of the turbines.

Lastly, I take exception to my neighbors and myself being labeled “protestors.” We are just concerned La Casa land owners that love our country (military) and our property, that have done our homework, and that believe in a better longer term approach to secure a better financial future for the school children of BISD, county taxing authorities, and the community as a whole. Industrial developments depreciate, like these so-called “green” energy turbines, while prime real estate developments and land improvements appreciate. I would much rather welcome more tax paying neighbors in a prime luxury housing development that will increase my property value, versus welcome Nextera.  And I for sure would rather watch an almost daily F-16 and F-35 air show, than watch the whipping wind turbine blades by day and flashing red lights on the tops of the towers at night. Go to “Stephens County Against Wind Farms” Facebook page to learn more.

In closing, Nextera should come out of the “basement” and answer questions and show the citizens of Stephens County the respect we deserve or better yet just move on. Hopefully we can rely on our elected officials to vote “No” to tax subsidies that would give them an incentive to stay.

Zola George

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