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Growing Interest in Brownfield Redevelopment in Windsor

As reported in the Windsor Star, it has taken almost seven years for a municipal brownfields development incentive program to take hold in the City of Windsor, immediately across the Detroit River from the City of Detroit.

In the last several months, applications to the Brownfield Redevelopment Community Improvement (CIP) Plan have been steadily streaming in — seeking grants to help fund feasibility and soil studies, and then even more money to help pay for the pricey cleanup.

If they become realities, these developments could add up to hundreds of new residences on: the former GM Trim site on Lauzon Road; a collection of former industrial properties between Walkerville and Ford City; and most recently a large property near Tecumseh Road and Howard Avenue that for 50 years was the home of Auto Specialties, a manufacturer of malleable castings and automotive jacks for the auto industry.

Greg Atkinson, a senior planner with the city who co-ordinates the Brownfields CIP program, said it’s “awesome news” that investors are finally taking advantage of this “great incentive package.”  The reason they’re jumping aboard now, he said, is that Windsor’s land prices have risen and residential vacancy rates have declined to the point where developing these cheaper brownfield properties now make financial sense.

“But without the incentives I don’t think they would be redeveloped,” Atkinson said. “With them, they’re pushed into that realm of viability, and that’s what we’re starting to see.”

Almost 140 sites across the city have been identified as brownfield properties, covering 559 acres.

“Historically, there has been little interest in redeveloping brownfield sites due to the uncertainty surrounding the extent of contamination and the potential cost of cleanup,” says a city report that goes to the city’s planning, heritage and economic development standing committee Monday. It says one redeveloped brownfield acre saves 4.5 acres of farmland on a city’s outskirts from being developed, and that for every dollar invested in brownfield redevelopment, $3.80 is invested in the community.

An illustration cut out from an unknown trade publication/manual, circa 1940, shows the Auto Specialties Manufacturing Company (Canada) located near the northeast corner of Tecumseh Road and Howard Avenue. The plant made malleable castings for the automotive industry and also automotive jacks. Photo courtesy of the University of Windsor, Leddy Library. UNIVERSITY OF WINDSOR / WINDSOR STAR

“It’s great to see owners and developers coming forward and saying ‘We’d like to tap into this fund because we’re interested in redeveloping this site,” Mayor Drew Dilkens said of the recent flow of applications. “The more of these 140 properties we can activate, the better it will be for all of us in the City of Windsor because it provides more taxes and lowers everyone’s share.”

The most recent application is from THMC Windsor, for a $7,000 grant to pay half the cost of a feasibility study on the viability of redeveloping part of the massive parking lot behind the medical buildings at Howard and Tecumseh into a residential project. Auto Specialties operated on the 12.5-acre site from the 1920s to the 1970s.

The next grant THMC could apply for provides up to $15,000 to cover half the cost of soil and groundwater testing for possible contamination. Then if the owner decides to go ahead with cleanup, the Brownfield Rehabilitation Program compensates for the cleanup costs by effectively freezing taxes where they are (versus what they would rise to when the site’s redeveloped) for the first 10 years. There’s even a big break on development fees.

“It really does cover a lot of costs,” Atkinson said of the program.

Of the 15 applications to the program since 2010, 13 have come in the last 22 months. Grants have totalled $1.9 million, leveraging $16.9 million in private sector investment, according to the city.

The earliest and most prominent success happened at a former gas station property at Dougall Avenue and West Grand Boulevard, which was turned into a small commercial development with the help of $67,000 in city grants. The former Wickes bumper plant — now run as a big UHaul operation, also was rejuvenated thanks to $1.5 million worth of grants. A former gas station at Riverside Drive and Marentette Avenue has been cleaned up and readied for redevelopment. And earlier this year, the Sood family received study grants to redevelop the former Seagrave fire truck plant property on Walker Road into about 12 townhouses and turn 17 acres of largely vacant industrial land south of Edna Street, west of St. Luke Road and north of Richmond Street into between 200 and 250 residential units.

On Monday night, council approved grants totalling $32,000 to help pay for three feasibility and environmental studies costing $97,000 for the 60-acre former GM Trim site. The current owner Farhi Holdings has plans to redevelop the site into a commercial-residential project with about 240 residential units. 

Dilkens said there’s clearly a demand for residential development in the east side of the city where Farhi’s land is located, and replacing the derelict site with a new housing project would benefit the entire area.

But Atkinson cautioned that not all these projects end up being developed. “Sometimes, they’ll determine it’s not feasible, there’s no demand for what they’re thinking of, or they might do the sampling and find out it costs too much to clean up.”

The Walker Power Building in Windsor, Ont., summer 2015

U.S. Federal Brownfield Legislation: U.S. House of Representatives Passes Amendments

By Walter Wright, Mitchell, Williams, Selig, Gates & Woodyard, P.L.L.C.

The U.S. House of Representatives (“House”) on November 30th passed amendments that would address the federal Brownfield program.

H.R. 3017 is titled the “Brownfields Enhancement, Economic Redevelopment, and Reauthorization Act of 2017” (“H.R. 3017”).

H.R. 3017 amends the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act and reauthorizes the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (“EPA”)Brownfield Program.  The legislation appears to have bipartisan support.

Residential, commercial, agricultural and industrial properties are sometimes difficult to sell, redevelop, and/or finance because of perceived or real environmental contamination issues. Properties or facilities subject to such impediments are typically called “Brownfields.”

The EPA has defined a “Brownfield” as “abandoned, idled, or under-used industrial or commercial facilities where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by real or perceived environmental contamination.” Besides EPA, many states have Brownfield programs whose purpose is to eliminate unnecessary barriers of the redevelopment of commercial or industrial properties which may have environmental concerns. Arkansas has had such a program for several years.

H.R. 3017 makes several changes to the federal Brownfield related statutory provisions, which include:

  • Clarifies the liability of states and local units of government that take title to property involuntarily by virtue of their function as a sovereign
  • Clarifies when sites contaminated by petroleum may be considered a Brownfield site and when a leaseholder may qualify for certain liability protections
  • Expands eligibility for nonprofit organizations and for eligible entities that took title to a Brownfield site prior to January 11, 2001
  • Increases the limit for remediation grants under the Brownfields Program, establishes multipurpose grants and allows recovery of a limited administrative cost
  • Adds to the list of criteria for the grant program, whether a grant would facilitate the production of renewable energy
  • Allows EPA to provide additional funds for small, rural, and disadvantaged communities and Indian tribes
  • Reauthorizes funding for Section 104(k) of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act and Section 128(a) of the same statute

A bill addressing federal Brownfield issues has also been introduced in the Senate (“S. 822”). This bill is denominated the “Brownfields Utilization, Investment, and Local Development Act of 2017.”

Issues addressed in S.822 include:

  • Funding for technical assistance grants to small communities and rural areas
  • Expansion of the scope of eligible grant recipients to include nonprofit community groups
  • Authorization of funding from multipurpose grants to address more complex sites
  • Allow certain entities that do not qualify as bona fide perspective purchasers to be eligible to receive grants (as long as government entities did not cause or contribute to a release or threaten the release of a hazardous substance at the property)
  • Direct EPA in providing grants to give consideration to Brownfield sites located adjacent to federally designated floodplains

A copy of H.R. 3017 can be downloaded here and copy of Senate Bill 822 here.

This article was first published on the Mitchell, Williams, Selig, Gates & Woodyard, P.L.L.C. website.

_____________________

About the Author

Walter G. Wright, Jr. is a member of the Business Practice Group.  His practice has focused for almost thirty years on environmental, energy (petroleum marketing), and water law.  Mr. Wright’s expertise includes counseling clients on issues involving environmental permits, compliance strategies, enforcement defense, property redevelopment issues, environmental impact statements, and procurement/management of water rights.

Mr. Wright routinely advises developers, lenders, petroleum marketers, and others about effective strategies for structuring real estate and corporate transactions to address environmental financial risks.  He also serves as General Counsel and provides legislative representation to the Arkansas Oil Marketers Association, Arkansas Recyclers Association (scrap facilities) and Arkansas Manufactured Housing Association.  A unique part of his practice has been drafting and negotiation of a variety of specialized agreements involving the sale or consignment of motor fuels along with the ancillary agreements associated with the upstream segment of the petroleum industry.

Events

Canada: RPIC Federal Contaminated Sites National Workshop – June 2018

June 13-15, 2018

Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Toronto, ON

The RPIC Federal Contaminated Sites National Workshop is the leading professional development workshop for federal and industry environmental professionals involved in the management and remediation of federal contaminated sites.

Registration Fees: 

Professional Development Training Day – June 13, 2018 

Fees include session on June 13, materials, refreshment breaks and lunch. Those wishing to attend the Welcome Reception and the Awards and Recognition Dinner must purchase a ticket.

Early Bird Rate  (before March 31, 2018) – $400 + HST
Regular Rate (on or after March 31, 2018) – $450 + HST

Two-day Workshop – June 14 and 15, 2018 

          Early Bird Rate  (before March 31, 2018) – $800 + HST
Regular Rate (on or after March 31, 2018) – $925 + Tax

Concurrent registration includes sessions on June 14 and 15, the Welcome Reception and the Awards and Recognition Dinner as well as breakfasts and refreshment breaks.

**The cost of the Welcome Reception and Awards and Recognition Evening ticket is included in each Two-day Workshop registration, but a ticket is not automatically provided. As space is limited, the box must be checked off on the registration form to receive a ticket if you wish to attend.

 

Submit Your Abstract Here

The 2018 RPIC Federal Contaminated Sites National Workshop will provide a forum for the contaminated sites community to learn about technical, scientific and organizational innovations, and best practices for the management of contaminated sites. The Workshop will offer a unique opportunity for the public, private, and academic sectors to meet and exchange new ideas and information with colleagues and industry representatives from across the country and abroad.

The Real Property Institute of Canada (RPIC) and the Contaminated Sites Management Working Group invite you to submit presentations on technologies and issues related to the assessment, remediation and management of federal contaminated sites. Abstracts are encouraged in, but not limited to the following topics:

  • Future of FCSAP
  • Climate Change Adaptation
  • Intergovernmental Collaboration
  • Contaminants of Concern
  • Socio-economic and Indigenous Engagement
  • Legal Considerations and Requirements
  • Brownfields
  • Risk Management/Remediation
  • Innovative, Sustainable Green
  • Northern/Remote Site Challenges
  • Information and Technology Management

GUIDELINES FOR SUBMITTING ABSTRACTS
All abstract submissions will be done through RPIC’s online submission system by January 8, 2018, https://2018rpicfcsnw.exordo.com/loginPlease note that no submissions sent via email will be considered. All presenters are required to register for the Workshop. Authors will be notified of acceptance by February 12, 2018. All authors accepted for presentation at the Workshop will receive comments on their abstract after the Technical Review Committee has reviewed it. The revised abstract, based on these comments, is due by February 19, 2018. If the submission deadline is missed for the revised abstract, the translation is due by February 26, 2018.
*Presentation proposal submissions should be no more than 500 words and must include a presentation objective and biographies for all presenters.

To submit your abstract, please visit https://2018rpicfcsnw.exordo.com/login. You will be prompted to set up an account. Once logged in you will have the option to “Submit a Paper” where you will enter your abstract. The workflow will then walk you through all of the steps to complete your submission.

POWERPOINT PRESENTATIONS
All PowerPoint presentation submissions will be done using RPIC’s online submission system with a file size is limit of 10MB. All abstracts accepted for presentation at the Workshop will be required to submit a draft PDF and a final PowerPoint presentation prior to the Workshop. Draft presentations will be due by April 3, 2018 and all presenters will receive comments on their draft presentation after the Technical Review Committee has reviewed. The revised PowerPoint presentation, based on these comments, is due by May 7, 2018. If the submission deadline is missed for the final PowerPoint, the translation is due by May 14, 2018.

DEADLINES

ABSTRACT SUBMISSION DEADLINE
AUTHOR NOTIFICATION
REVISED ABSTRACT DUE
DRAFT PPT PRESENTATION DUE
FINAL PPT PRESENTATION DUE
January 8, 2018
February 12, 2018
February 19, 2018
April 3, 2018
May 7, 2018

OFFICIAL LANGUAGES
RPIC will be taking on the responsibility and cost of translating all final abstracts and final PowerPoint presentations. If the submission deadline is missed for either, the author is automatically responsible for providing the translation at their own expense and no extensions will be granted. This applies to both the public and private sectors. All translations must be done by the same translation company, which will be selected by RPIC. If any changes are made to either the final abstract file or the final PPT after the submission deadline, the author will be responsible for updating both versions of the file (English and French) using the translation company selected by RPIC.

TRANSLATED ABSTRACT DUE – February 26, 2018
TRANSLATED PPT DUE –  May 14, 2018

PRESENTER REGISTRATION
All presenters are required to register for the Workshop by April 3, 2018.One discounted delegate registration ($675 + HST) for the June 14-15 Workshop will be made available for each accepted presentation. Additional presenters will be required to register at the full rate. The discounted registration can only be claimed by filling out the PDF registration form and returning it to fcsnw@rpic-ibic.ca. Be sure to mention which presentation it is being claimed for by the same title as the submitted abstract. Presentations will be selected for inclusion in the preliminary program on the basis of a peer review by the Technical Committee. Authors will be notified of acceptance by February 12, 2018.

For more information please visit the 2018 RPIC Federal Contaminated Sites National Workshop website:
http://rpic-ibic.ca/en/events/federal-contaminated-sites-fcs-national-workshop/2018-fcs-national-workshop.