Council approves bill calling for wind farms to be subject to property taxes

WAILUKU – The Maui County Council on Friday unanimously passed a bill that would officially subject properties used for converting wind to usable energy to real property taxes.

Currently, properties that have wind chargers, windmills, wind turbines and other wind-to-energy-conversion structures and devices are not included in the Maui County Code’s definition of real property.

Council members passed on second and final reading a bill that would amend the County Code to include in the definition of “real property” all wind energy conversion property.

Council Member Mike Victorino said he was “reluctantly” supporting the measure, saying that some wind energy companies had secured power-purchase agreements with Maui Electric Co. without advance notice that their properties could be included in tax assessments.

He wanted to see if some companies already in business could be exempt from the law, noting that any company that moves in after the law is set would face the tax assessments and would know about the tax upfront.

Corporation Counsel Pat Wong said he could not comment directly on Victorino’s question about grandfathering in a company or companies from the assessment, because that could involve current litigation.

Victorino said he would prefer that the issue be brought up for more discussion in council committees.

Although he and other council members support and want alternative energy companies to set up shop on the island, Council Member Mike White said he believes the companies should pay their fair share.

In the hotel business, White, who is general manager of Ka’anapali Beach Hotel, said investors have to wait decades to see a profit. Hotels are subject to real property taxes as well.

But in the wind energy business with all of the alternative energy state and federal tax credits, profits may be had in the first decade of business, White said.