Summary on the following reading about state and local


Summary on the following reading about state and local browndields:


There are more than half a million brownfield sites in the United States. This series will demonstrate the various financial, regulatory, and planning aspects of successful projects aimed at remediation, redevelopment, and the reuse of properties thought to be without value.

EPA's role has been critical in the brownfields program, starting with study groups and internal decisions almost 10 years ago that brownfields was a recognized area that they wanted to emphasize in terms of cleaning up contaminated sites. EPA went to Congress and found money because when we get down to the bottom line, communities need some sort of a subsidy, some sort of a support, to take these new ideas and to take them forward. EPA recognized that just creating the concept of brownfields was probably not enough. So they went to Congress and got appropriations, so that communities could engage in what is called pilot brownfield programs. EPA makes 200 $1,000 grants available to communities. And that money is used for inventorying of brownfield sites, educating the community what a brownfield is, and developing a long-term planning approach as to how a community would redevelop the sites.

Now, that was the first grant that EPA made available, the first resource that EPA made available to both communities and to developers. That started a long list of tools, and I like to call it a toolbox of solutions that are made available not only to communities, but to developers, to property owners, and to community groups to use in redeveloping brownfield sites.

What we want to do is encourage parties who were not party to the pollution, people who did not cause the contamination, to take possession of these properties and bring it back into reuse. And so what we try to do is provide incentives to people in such a way that reusing those properties means something to them economically, or it means something to the city from a green space perspective. There are all different aspects of this, but it's an incentive program. It's not a regulatory program, per se.

The federal response to this program has been an interesting one. Because when the issue, again first emerged, it was the environmental piece of it that was sort of the red flag. And because of that, it was very natural for EPA to become involved, and to go in and to help with site assessments. But again, as business people in the community level sorted through the issue more, it became very clear that it was not so much an environmental issue, but a real estate or development issue that happened to have an environmental twist to it. And as people moved in the direction of the real estate and the development piece, it became much more natural for them to turn to agencies like the Department of Housing and Urban Development, HUD, through its block grant program, and to the Economic Development Administration, or EDA, which historically has supported redevelopment of distressed areas.

EDA investments really run the gamut. They include brick and mortar public works, as well as planning and other technical assistance. Another EDA investment was the York, Pennsylvania, investment where EDA, again, provided infrastructure assistance to support the adaptive reuse of a former manufacturing facility.

About 1992, the York County Economic Development Corporation decided that this would be our premiere project for the city of York to show that we could really do something. Because there was a demand for something to be done.

So we, in effect, announced that we would do something with this site. We would adaptively reuse it. We weren't really sure how that would happen. We turned to the Economic Development Administration, EDA, and asked them to consider a grant for us. We got $1 million grant for the start of this site. And that was the keystone for the project, because what it said to the community was the federal government approves of this project. From there, it took us about a year to get together the 11 different funding streams we use.

Primary funding stream was we use the TIF to fund a county guaranteed bond issue. And so we began to renovate this site primarily by demolishing all but five of the major buildings on the site.

What was real interesting about this particular project here in Pensacola and the thought process that the Trust for Public Land went through to work on this project, is that it has sat in downtown Pensacola for many, many years, and really not being utilized for any public good whatsoever. And what made this real interesting is understanding that the city did not have the ability to take the risk that we were willing to take to move this project forward and put it into public ownership.

Well, what we do is we work with the cities. We partnered with EPA as requested by EPA to work with these cities and doing targeted site assessments. The cities have picked out sites which they are looking at redeveloping, and they range from golf courses to parks, light industrial, to residential type redevelopment.

As part of that assistance, that money comes directly to the Corps and it doesn't affect the cities. It's not part of the city's brownfield money. So it's an extra resource that we can provide to the cities through the Corps. By working with these cities, we can offer to the cities other Corps authorities that may be able to assist in their redevelopment of their sites.

There are a number of agencies that can help in revitalization. And the key for most communities are trying to get the people to the table there. That's what's so important because there's a real synergy that different agencies will bring to the table. And what you'll find is rather than progressing in a linear sense, you can essentially progress in an exponential sense by trying to get to the people at the table one time for you. So we'll work with the SBA, we'll work with the Army Corps of Engineers, of course, with EPA, Department of Commerce, the Economic Development Administration. Each of those bring something to the table in brownfield revitalization.

It's all a combination. There's a whole group of individuals that are involved. You have the actual property owners or the developers that are going to come in and try to redevelop the brownfield. They typically hire an engineering or consulting firm who comes in. And they're the ones that actually decide what they're going to look for and decide where they're going to sample. And then the laboratory gets involved at the tail land, where when they actually take those soil and water samples, we analyze them and give them the hard data for them to make their decisions.

One of the things that's happened with the advent of this brownfield issue is we have a whole host of consultants and players out there who really claim to be brownfield experts. They were engineers yesterday. They're brownfield experts today. And a city really needs to make sure that when they work with one of these consultants, when they work with a company, that it's really credible. That they really understand the job that needs to be done.

If I were a city, I would make sure that I went with a company that has been around a while, has a good track record. I'd talk to my friends in other cities who have done brownfield projects to get some sense as to what they've experienced with certain companies.

One of the worst things that can happen in any community is to really work with a, quote unquote, "expert" who really isn't. There's no issue in the development arena where the old cliche once burned twice shy applies more than in the brownfields arena. If a developer, a site owner really has had a bad experience working on a brownfield site, they're not likely to come back to that approach again. And that has really been very harmful in a lot of cities. It's really important for a city to do its homework and really make sure that they're getting what they're paying for in terms of brownfield expertise.

To overcome local departments' lack of knowledge about brownfields, the city of Austin, Texas, worked with their solid waste division to produce and distribute educational materials for employees, customers, and citizens. A measure which proved to be efficient and cost effective.

Well, Region V is really in the forefront of the brownfields movement because of our location. Being in the Midwest, the old industrial belt, our industrial history dates back to really the late 1800s. So we had an abundance of properties that were abandoned, that were underutilized, and that really gave us the impetus working with the states in Region V to develop a program that provided some flexibility for developers that exists outside of the traditional legal structure, the sort of superfund structure that was overly restrictive. So that's how we got started. The program's really been in place for almost five, six years now. And it has shown tremendous results.

The states that are at the forefront of brownfields are the states that you would imagine to be, those states that really have a long legacy of industrial activity. And oftentimes, in industries that have really faded away. These are the New Jersey's and Pennsylvania's and Illinois' and Michigan's of this country. Each of those states has put into place very innovative programs to deal with their own brownfield challenges.

Michigan has a very interesting program. They authorized the establishment of brownfield redevelopment authorities in cities and counties. This has been a very effective way of marshaling resources and marshaling technical capacities to specific sites in cities. Illinois has put together a very interesting set of financing incentives-- loans, grants, tax incentives-- to really help get resources to sites, to help developers assess in cleanup, to help new buyers take them on.

As a county supervisor, we have the authority to abate taxes, ie waive taxes. Although, we very rarely do it because if we start, we set a precedent that just can't be stopped. And in this situation, what we did is we went to the state legislature and asked if we could float a bill, got a sponsor for it, that would give us the authority through state statute if there is a brownfield or contaminated area, we could abate taxes. It worked. We got it passed. And now we're putting together a policy that will follow with the county.

It will help tremendously, particularly in areas that are old areas in cities. And I think it's the price you pay for urban renewal. You have to come up with incentives, like tax abatement, in order to get people interested in developing.

Coordinating two states is very difficult. And we've learned very carefully what state programs have to offer in each state and the market differences in each side of the state line. And they differ, and it's all case by case. But in Missouri, we have a wonderful brownfield incentive program. We leverage that to great success. In Kansas, they suffer from smaller government, smaller capacity. We lend capacity to them and provide more of a helping hand there in project management, in brownfield consulting, hoping that we can stimulate some capacity permanently there.

The land recycling program originated in 1995. What we had found previously was there were an awful lot of abandoned sites throughout Pennsylvania that weren't being cleaned up. It was really problematic for every one because we didn't have any cleanup standards. And I happened to be an attorney in the financial arena, and banks weren't making any kinds of loans.

Our communities all banded together, our business leaders, our environmentalists, our business community, and we all started to talk about what it was that we needed to have for a good program. As a result of this consensus effort over a three year period, the Pennsylvania Land Recycling Program was created in 1995. What it brought to Pennsylvania is a very sound program with good cleanup standards that were devised by a scientific advisory board.

We also made sure that the lending community didn't have to worry anymore, and we have some of the strongest laws to protect banks so they can freely make loans in our state.

Since 1995, we have had more than 1,000 sites in Pennsylvania redeveloped. And there are, at any one time, a couple sites in the process.

We have projects that range from not only the building site that we have for our Harrisburg Regional Office, but sites like the Millennium Site in Philadelphia, riverfront development sites that involve all sorts of different uses, from residential to trail sites. We've had major steel sites in Pittsburgh redevelop as high-tech properties. We've also had smaller sites developed. It doesn't need to be a big steel site with mammoth buildings redeveloped. So it's sort of from big to small, we've had almost everything that you can imagine in terms of brownfields redeveloped.

New Jersey and Pennsylvania really where the pioneers in terms of sorting through liability issues and really defining a process that developers could understand and use to get final sign-off, to get covenants not to sue, to get various forms of liability relief with their sites. So there's been a lot of very interesting approaches in the older states.

Some of the newer states that you might not normally think of as brownfield beds of activity have also been very creative as well. Florida has in place a very proactive set of incentives dealing with job creation, dealing with loan guarantees, all the different kind of issues that really make brownfield projects work.

Texas also has a very good voluntary cleanup program in place. The Texas program is really characterized by a very common sense approach to linking site owners, users, to the regulators, and really making everyone come out of that process with a benefit and a result that everyone can accept. So there's been a lot of very interesting approaches out there at the state level.

Communicating about local brownfields issues with the public is crucial. Some creative mechanisms have been employed across the country, including biweekly meetings with the public and developers in Philadelphia, and conference calls between stakeholders and community leaders in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

The town of Cowpens, South Carolina, created a chat room on its internet home page, and Escambia County, Florida, produces a television program on brownfields.

The new brownfield legislation gives the state's new opportunities. It also gives them new responsibilities. What states are going to have to do now to be able to claim a share of the funding that the new law sets aside for state programs are going to have to show that their programs adequately address brownfield concerns. They're going to have to show that they are able to oversee and monitor these sites. That they're able to keep track of what are known as institutional and engineering controls. These are controls that really allow contamination to be kept or contained onsite other than removed.

States are going to have to show that they can monitor these kinds of programs and run them efficiently and effectively to protect health. States are also going to have to keep track of the sites that go through their programs as part of a public participation process. States are also going to have to deal with citizens who may request a site assessment or information on a site. So basically, the states will be given final say for most brownfield situations, but they will have to, as part of that new authority and new opportunity, they're also have to make sure that the citizens and the communities within those states have access to good information and an understanding of the process that's going on at each of these sites.

Since 1995, we've had 916 cleanups in Pennsylvania, and we've had a number of private lending transactions for all sorts of projects. The state has rallied behind it, too, as part of its legislation. And we provide public funding in grants and low-interest loans in order to have this brownfield development occur.

To date, we have provided $45 million in public monies in order to redevelop these site all across the state. Just last year, there were $20 million that was given for projects all throughout the state.

We took it very seriously and what we wanted to do is we wanted to streamline the process. We wanted to have timely reviews where regulators could respond with decisions in 60 to 90 days. And we also wanted to streamline our grants and loan process. So we turned it into a single application for Brownfield monies, as well as infrastructure monies, and any other monies that the Department of Community and Economic Development might provide.

We've had a very strong community support for our program, and our business community has really rallied and come forth. Other dimensions of our program happen to be the big program, the brownfield inventory grants. And what we do is we encourage our communities to identify their brownfield sites and offer them up for sale and redevelopment.

One of the things about New Jersey-- and I know this is true for a lot of states, but is the excellent relationship that the state has with the federal government. The federal government plays more of a support role to the States. When a state has a strong program, they have the lead on brownfields redevelopment, and the federal government is in a support role. But between Region II EPA office and the state of New Jersey, there's a very close relationship and they're able to build on each other strengths to the advantage of the municipalities in the brownfield sites that are being redeveloped.

Having a good, active state program, of course, is critical. And one nice thing about the Virginia DEQ is that they're moving from a regulatory role into more of a facilitative role, which is so helpful. We're able to go to them early one in a project and talk with them about the upside value of what we plan to do with the property. And with DEQ's support and their attitude, we're able to get some good advice. And usually, they're looking at how they can become a partner to help make it happen as opposed to policing whether or not it's done up to their standards. DEQ's attitude and other-- the state regulatory official's attitude is critical to the overall success of land recycling brownfield projects-- critical.

Well, brownfields is about compromise, and much of life is about compromise. And, in general, what I've observed is that the state agencies and the federal agencies in many of the states have worked well together. Until now, at least, the state agencies have really been the prime movers, the lead forces if you will, and the municipalities have been, just as here in Trenton, New Jersey, and in the state of New Jersey. And the federal agencies have not had as significant a role.

Here, the US EPA and the Region II people in New York have been very supportive. They've provided funding. They've provided manpower. They've come in and done removal actions where there have been sites that had hazardous wastes and other materials that had to be gotten rid of. They've come in and done some investigation. So they've been very strong in a support role. So my experience in brownfields has been that it works best when the federal agency with all of its resources can be a strong supporter of the state and local efforts, which is really where the action is. The type of redevelopment that takes place on brownfield sites really fits into the local economy. They're not on a national scale that you would expect federal agencies to come in and be the redeveloper, or play a strong development role. But they can play a very positive support role to the city and to the state agencies. And that's certainly what we've observed here in New Jersey.

One of the things that I've found very intriguing about the state is they're open and reception-- they're receptive to really working with cities. They want to see success stories talked about. They want to be able to come in and say, here's our strategy, here's how we can help. Tell us what you're trying to achieve. And without any question, they've been very good at doing that.

The state and local effort in this, in a way, goes back to sort of the original history when the court cases really caused this issue to really-- just really kind of emerge really quickly. EPA wasn't able to act within its existing statutory authority, although they pushed the envelope as much as they could within the existing superfund law. Congress took a long time to address this issue. And so communities that really had projects and were trying to stimulate revitalization activities, were really forced to turn to their states.

And the states, again, with EPA's-- really, their administrative concurrence, a number of states developed very innovative, creative programs within the existing confines of federal law to address some of these sites, to try to help site owners and communities sort out liability issues. To help clarify the process and bring some certainty to the process. And it was really that clarity and certainty which were two of the major incentives, if you will, that really encouraged private sector players to get more involved. They were able to basically figure out what they were getting into and sort of come up with some good sense of the risk, and really cost it out. But that happened because of these state initiatives.

Brownfields represent underutilized opportunities in our communities. The reuse of such properties creates new jobs and expands the tax base. Increasingly, brownfields are seen as a sustainable alternative to green space depletion and essential to a smart growth strategy in our urban environment.



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