July 1, 2022
Brownfield redevelopment is not only good for the environment, but also spurs business development, private investment, and job creation, while increasing our tax base and efficiently using existing infrastructure. The Greenbrier Valley EDC is compiling a list of brownfield properties that are suited for redevelopment with the hope for new opportunities for businesses and residents.
When talking about “brownfields”, most envision large abandoned industrial sites. People have often commented that the Greenbrier Valley, because of our large agrarian land use, does not have these sites. While those large sites certainly are in the brownfield category, that class is much broader, and we know that there are properties within our region.
What is a brownfield?
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency defines a brownfield as “real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.” (Note the use of “potential” presence – which means perception of contamination of a property site matters.)
Although brownfields are typically concentrated in urban, industrial areas, they can be found everywhere. Ranging in size from a small corner gas station to a multi-acre mining or industrial site, some examples of brownfields include:
- vacant warehouses and factories (even schools)
- abandoned buildings
- former service stations
- parking lots
- formerly mined lands
These properties are challenged by environmental liability concerns and financial barriers because of the risk associated with contamination or perceived contamination. Fortunately, there are options for communities to put these unused properties back to work.
Why an Inventory?
As Greenbrier Valley EDC looks at opportunities for business and community development, identifying Brownfields and reuse opportunities is high on our priority list. Particularly since the resources in WV for brownfield redevelopment are tremendous – including the Southern and Northern WV Brownfields Assistance Center, the WV DEP, some great local environmental consultants, and our regional planning and development councils. While the ultimate goal is to assess and clean up contamination with reuse plans that support additional economic development – through business development and job creation, increasing recreational assets, addressing community development needs – the starting point is an inventory.
Knowing where these contaminated, or potentially contaminated sites are, and performing preliminary investigations of the property including the potential for redevelopment that aligns with community needs, is the goal of our inventory. We emphasize “community needs”, as successful projects only happen with solid community support.
We will use our inventory for assessment grant opportunities with our partners. Phase I and Phase II Brownfields Assessments are the terms used for property investigation reports – to determine the presence and the extent of contaminants. Assessments may be required before transfer of properties (if not required, it’s ALWAYS a good idea), for financing, or to clear the way for other development. Property owners do have to grant right of entry for those assessments. After assessments, with community support, and a number of other compliance requirements, clean-up grants are possible.
Local examples of properties that have received assessments that assisted redevelopment include the former Rupert Elementary School in Rupert, the former Lewisburg Wholesale Building in Ronceverte, the former Howes Tannery site in Durbin, and the former Rainelle landfill.
While the challenges seem big in dealing with brownfield properties, the opportunities can be also.
Contact us – firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-497-4300 – to talk more or to put a property on our list. An address is required. Submitting an address does not guarantee funding or mean that further action will be taken, but it helps the redevelopment community know where the potential assets are – which is the first step.