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Despite strong opposition, Bynum ISD votes in favor of tax abatement for solar plant project

Posted at 7:07 AM, Dec 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-19 23:12:39-05

BYRUM, Texas — The Bynum ISD School Board voted 6-1 in support of a tax abatement for the OCI Solar Project. The vote came after nearly 45 minutes of local residents voicing their concerns and urging them to vote against it.

One opposer who spoke out was John Blaha. He told 25 News a solar plant was added next to his farm in Abbott and he "knows firsthand what these things do to farmland."

"They have grated all of the terraces and waterways down which just allows the water to flow over highly erodible land and they have it in collection pools," he said. "That land will soon, over the years, erode away."

Blaha attended the meeting Thursday night to urge the board to vote against the tax abatement and protect the land in Bynum from a similar fate.

Other opposers, including Janet Walters, raised concerns about losing their family land to the solar panels.

"I own 500 acres, it's been in the family since 1886 and I have an emotional tie to the land," she said. "And it just doesn't make any sense to put solar panels on prime farmland."

Her son, Aaron Walters, shared the same concern. In a recent 25 News interview, he broke down how much food would be missing from store shelves if this farmland was taken away.

"If any of these crops were planted on this 2,600-acre farm I'm talking about, it equals 7,000 tons of corn, 6,000 tons of milo, 4,000 tons of wheat," he said. "So you have now, just that one farm, taken that off the store shelves."

Before the vote took place, Bynum ISD Superintendent Larry Mynarcik spoke to the crowd, saying there was a lot of misconceptions about what they were actually voting on.

"We can't say if a solar farm is allowed in the district or disallowed in the district," Mynarcik said. "I think coming into it a lot of people thought that's what we were voting on, and it just wasn't."

The vote was on a tax abatement for the OCI Group, which would save them roughly $4.5 million over ten years on the $225 million project.

"We are sympathetic with a lot of things that were said here, we like our community the way it is but at the end of the day we voted on something that was peace to the tax code," Mynarcik said.

Mynarcik said he believed even if the Board voted against the tax break, the project would have still been built.

"In light of our location to the substation, the likely hood of this project and if not this project another project was going to happen," he said. "Our focus when we were sorting through this was students at Bynum ISD both now and in the future."