In a split vote, Johnston County Commissioners have agreed to refund $74,263.43 to a solar farm operator who mistakenly failed to file tax exemption paperwork on time with the Johnston County Tax Office.
Raleigh attorney Charles B. Neely Jr. appeared on behalf of Bizzell Solar 1, LLC asking the County to accept a late application as allowed under NC law.
Solar energy electric systems are appraised at 80 percent of their tax value once it receives exempt status. Neely, who specializes in state and local tax litigation, said the company that operates Bizzell Solar 1 correctly processed 40 of 41 applications this year. Somehow the application for the Johnston County site was overlooked and not processed on time.
The oversight allowed the County to collect the $74,263.43 because the paperwork was not processed on time. County staff had recommended the refund request be denied.
Newly elected Commissioner Keith Branch said it was a gray area and any gray area should be decided in favor of the person or business and not the county. Chairman Jeff Carver disagreed saying it could set a precedent for future appeals. Branch disagreed saying it wasn’t right for the county to keep the money due to an oversight by the company, an error Neely admitted up front during his presentation.
In a 4-to-3 vote, the Board voted to refund the money to the solar firm.