Appeal sought in suit: Plaintiffs hope to reverse ruling involving county, wind farm

  • By MEGAN GRAY-HATFIELD Staff Writer mhatfield@gainesvilleregister.com
  • Feb 25, 2020
Appeal sought in suit: Plaintiffs hope to reverse ruling involving county, wind farm
A wind turbine spins in the wind Monday, Feb. 24, in Muenster.Patrick Hayslip/GDR

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An appeal is being sought after a visiting judge in the 235th District Court ruled mainly in favor of Cooke County and Wildcat Creek Wind Farm LLC in a lawsuit filed against the two entities.

“We are seeking to reverse those rulings,” Dallas-based attorney Rick Addison, who serves as the attorney for the plaintiffs, said Tuesday, Feb. 25.

Addison also said the county’s cross-appeal was filed Tuesday.

He estimated the appeal process could take six to eight months.

Addison represents plaintiffs G.C. and Mary Ellis, David and Karen Sampson, Christopher Bancroft, Belle Fourche Resources LLC and Compadre Cattle Company LLC.

A judgment filed Jan. 13 with the Cooke County District Clerk’s Office denied the plaintiffs’ request to set aside a vote by members of the Cooke County Commissioners’ Court to create a reinvestment zone for the proposed wind farm in southeastern Cooke County.

Part of a lawsuit filed Aug. 15, 2019, claimed the April 8, 2019, vote by Cooke County commissioners to create a tax abatement reinvestment zone under Chapter 312 of the Texas Tax Code was illegal and in “violation of Chapter 176 of the Local Government Code, inter alia, because Wildcat had not at the time, and has not to date, satisfied the disclosure requirements for vendors and other persons required by Chapter 176.”

The suit was filed against the county, the wind farm, Cooke County Commissioners’ Court and Precinct 3 Commissioner John Klement.

“In the same manner, as to the April 8, 2019, meeting, Klement had not then filed the appropriate ‘Local Government Officer Conflicts Disclosure Statement’ as required by Chapter 176,” court documents show. “Although, Klement’s participation in the April 8, 2019, meeting was illegal and contrary to both Chapter 171 and 176 of the Local Government Code, he attempted to justify his conflicted participation and voting based on an inaccurate statement of the law and his responsibilities,” the suit filed in August stated.

Klement took part in the vote to create a tax abatement reinvestment zone and the measure passed unanimously. He submitted a conflict of interest statement at a later date.

According to the judgment, the plantiffs’ request for declaratory relief was partially granted because the judgment declared Klement violated Chapter 171 of the Texas Local Government Code.

Klement said he had to follow the county’s policy of not discussing pending litigation.

Cooke County Judge Jason Brinkley said the same.

“Since the judge’s ruling is being appealed, I cannot comment on the ongoing litigation,” Brinkley said. “We look forward to having this matter heard on appeal, and would be happy to engage in a more public dialog when this litigation is resolved.”

Houston-based EDP Renewables is the company behind the proposed wind farm. EDP Renewables is a global renewable energy company that entered the U.S. market in 2007, according to the company’s website.

EDP Renewables Director of Development Rorik Peterson said Tuesday that the company will refrain from commenting about the case out of respect for the legal process since the plaintiffs have elected to appeal the judge’s ruling.

“The Wildcat Creek Wind Farm project enjoys broad support within the community, and we greatly appreciate the landowners participating in the project,” Peterson said. “We continue to work to bring the wind farm to fruition and hope to do so in the near future.”

The company’s proposal is to have 52 wind turbines across 15,000 acres and have them set back 1,500 feet from residences to “promote health and safety,” according to a previous report in the Register.

Judge Rayburn M. Nall Jr. issued the January rulings, court documents show.

Attorneys for the county and the wind farm did not return a request for comment as of press time.

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