Coleman and Brown Counties have continued to see proposed solar projects grow in number. To date, there are two projects proposed in Coleman County and four in Brown county. Combined these projects cover more than 18,000 acres of our pristine hill country land. One project, Radian Solar in Brown County, is already underway despite Brown County denying the requested property tax abatement. All others are in the planning stages and at various stages of property tax abatement applications and approvals. With recent taxpayer funds allocated in the Inflation Reduction Act passed by the current administration in Washington, we can expect additional solar companies to target our counties.
Brown County: There are four known potential solar projects in Brown County at this time. Two in southwest Brown, Radian Solar and Mustang Mountaineer Solar. These two South Brown County solar projects each are planned to cover
approximately 6,000 acres or 8 to 10 square
miles. Approximately 1 million solar panels will be installed on each.
Two additional projects are also proposed in Brown County in the Blanket and Zephyr ISD's. One project has already seen the ISD Boards submit an application for a property tax abatement. That project is approximately 1,500 acres in the Zephyr ISD and 1,000 acres in the Blanket ISD. The remaining reported proposed project is earlier in the process and as of yet, has not submitted and application for tax abatement but would be located in the Blanket ISD.
There are two proposed projects in Coleman County currently. One is located between Valera and Voss in the Panther Creek ISD. The second is in SE Coleman County near Whon in the Santa Anna ISD. Panther Creek has fully approved the tax abatement agreement in its ISD while Santa Anna has submitted the application to the Texas Comptroller's office. The Panther Creek ISD project has approximately 3,000 acres leased for the project and ultimately will include 1.2M solar panels. The Santa Anna project has approximately 5,000 acres leased for the project.
This is our home. It is a beautiful piece of the Texas Hill Country. Coleman and Brown Counties are places where we can raise our families and build a life for ourselves. It is our responsibility to protect our county's environment and quality of life from those that would change it forever. Solar tax abatements provide subsidies to large corporations that do not bring jobs and economic growth to its taxpayers. These projects should pay their property taxes like every other business owner in our counties.
The honest answer is that they don't need it but they will sure take it if they can. Although the solar companies will claim they cannot proceed with a project without a property tax abatement, that is not what they have done. Brown County denied Radian Solar a tax abatement but still proceeded to build the project. Further, with the sheer amount of federal subsidies available, the solar companies can produce financially viable projects and still pay property taxes just like every other business owner in the county.
A Property Tax Abatement is an investment our County makes with our Property Taxes, i.e. our money. The objective of a tax abatement is to encourage economic, and most importantly, job growth in a specific town or county. Using an abatement to entice a manufacturing company or a retail business to open in Brown County would result in jobs and those workers would buy houses, cars, groceries, clothes, etc. all in our area; thus spurring economic growth.
Solar property tax abatements do not deliver on the economic benefits for our counties. The current proposed projects, on average, will deliver 2 full-time jobs per project and will not provide any measurable long-term economic growth. Conversely it will make Coleman and Brown Counties less appealing for investment from the outside and will inhibit our economic growth. Our taxes should not be used to fund solar projects that provide so little benefit to our residents and landowners.
There will be Innocent landowners hurt when and if these projects are built. Through no choice of their own, they will see their marketability and values decline. They will lose the enjoyment of their property by being forced to live next to a sea of 1 million mirrors, each with a motor rotating the panels several times a day. Coleman and Brown County property values have steadily increased. Brown County and Brownwood have benefited from new residents and new investment. We're seeing economic revitalization downtown and new businesses opening. All of this would be put at risk if Brown County allows wind and solar to proliferate here.
These projects' benefits will be short lived and only for a few but will hurt our neighbors for a long time. We must protect our Counties and towns by saying no to solar that would derail our economic and job growth. Only a few landowners and ISD's will benefit while a much larger number of nearby landowners and residents will suffer.
Coleman and Brown Counties are being watched by the solar and wind industry.
Saying yes to a tax abatement will send a message to the wind and solar
companies that our counties are open to this practice. Already the Brookesmith ISD and Panther Creek ISD have approved tax abatement agreements. Blanket and Zephyr ISD's have approved applications for tax abatement. There is no indication that this will stop with just these projects. This is not about one project, it is about starting something that we can't stop that will forever change where we live.
If Coleman and Brown County ISD's and Commissioners say Yes to tax abatements, the solar and wind industry will see that our counties are willing to provide tax abatements. Our counties will become a target for more projects.
Construction of a solar installation requires clear cutting and minimization of all vegetation on all of the land where panels will be placed. All native trees and plants will be removed during the building process. As a result, much wildlife in this area will be displaced. There is also concern in the community about damaged solar panels leaching chemicals into the ground. This concern was heightened when the 2022 spring hail storm destroyed a large number of the solar panels at the Radian Solar project. This, along with potentially modifying our creeks and ponds to accommodate solar panel installation, could change our ground water and potentially impact our wells. We also are concerned with how miles of contiguous solar panels will affect migratory birds, Monarch Butterfly migration and other species.
With the currently proposed projects, we are faced with the potential for vast square miles of continuous land in Coleman and Brown Counties being clear cut and managed to minimize vegetation growth for at least the next 35 to 50 years. This can be seen in person at the Radian Solar project in SW Brown County. This project is located along CR 586 between CR 1176 and CR 221. The long-term impact to native trees and grasses, ground water, erosion, wildlife displacement and flyways for birds are all concerns we cannot ignore nor risks we can take with our greatest resource, our land.
Under Texas Chapter 312 and 313 of the property tax code, County Commissioners and ISD Board Members can evaluate tax abatements and need public input. However, Chapters 312 and 313 only require a very short time period of public notice to gain public input. These are our elected officials who should represent the wishes of their constituents. Our Commissioners and ISD Board Members are asking for public input. It is vitally important that every resident contact their commissioner and board member to let them know how they feel about giving our tax base away to multi-billion dollar corporations.
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