What Are Brownfields?
“A brownfield is a property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.”
(Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act,” PL 107-118 11 January 2002.)
Communities throughout the Coalition region have properties that are abandoned, blighted, or underused. Typically, but not always, these are industrial or commercial properties and they can be any size. The expansion or redevelopment of these properties, or Brownfields, is complicated by real or
perceived environmental contamination. Often, the mere fear of environmental contamination can result in a property being removed from consideration for redevelopment or reuse.
Examples of Brownfields:
- Gas station
- Dry cleaning facility
- Old school
- Old mine
- Manufacturing facilities
Why is Redevelopment of Brownfields Important?
- Increases local tax bases by returning abandoned or underused properties to tax roles
- Facilitates job growth and stimulates the local economy
- Utilizes existing infrastructure
- Takes development pressures off of undeveloped, open land
- Both improves and protects the environment and the community’s economic vitality
- Reduces possible health risks and safety issues
- Increases surrounding property values
- Improves the community’s appearance
- Promotes infill development
Brownfields are not just found in big cities. The RDSBC region has a rich history in mining and agriculture. Many of these communities have lost their industries and have suffered economically during the past several decades. As a result, many brownfields of various types and conditions are available for redevelopment opportunities. Many of these brownfields have excellent business locations, with access to transportation and existing infrastructure.
The Coalition’s brownfield program is an important tool to assist the economic development efforts in the region. It fits with other economic development assistance and resources to address liability protection, reuse incentives, revitalization efforts, and are an important part of a comprehensive economic development program.
Communities should encourage redevelopment of brownfields opportunities as part of their overall economic development strategies in order to reuse existing infrastructure, encourage adaptive reuse of existing buildings, remove blight, promote neighborhood revitalization, as well as enhance overall community health and welfare. This strategy will also increase tax bases and revenues, create jobs and improve the appearance of the entire community.
What is the Brownfields Process?
- Identify Potential Brownfields Properties
- Assess Environmental Conditions
Phase I assessment (Site Visit, Interviews, and Records Research to identify existing or past signs of potential contamination)
Phase II assessment (Sampling and testing, and risk assessment)
- Sustainable Redevelopment
Community outreach and involvement efforts should be coordinated with Phase I and Phase II assessments – and focus on the affected community. Property owners, neighborhood associations, developers, financial institutions and community organizations are involved in these and subsequent phases. Following the assessment phases the site enters the Clean-Up Phase which must be aligned to a reuse or redevelopment option. EPA’s Brownfields Program provides grants to fund environmental assessment, cleanup, and job training activities. Other resources may be available, along with private/public sector investment, to assist in the effort.