CCJDA pursues Brownfields Program for development of county

The Cavalier County Job Development Authority (CCJDA) is researching and pursuing a program to help develop and return city, township, and county owned properties to private owners 

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Posted on 6/13/15

By Melissa Anderson

The Brownfields Program is an effort supported by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to clean up county or city owned properties within the county to help the communities deal with the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of the property.

The EPA developed this program to assist in the clean-up process of properties as it can be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. Cleaning up and reinvesting in these properties protects the environment, reduces blight, and takes development pressures off green spaces and working lands.

“This program was put together in response to the housing study that recommended we develop lots for in-fill housing development. However, depending on zoning the lots will not only be used for housing development but for a variety of things,” Shannon Duerr, the Executive Director for CCJDA, stated.

The first step in the application process is for the CCJDA to develop an inventory of all the properties in the county that would fit into the criteria for this program. The main criteria for a property to qualify is it must be owned by a city, county or other political subdivision. The property must also have the potential for environmental issues.

“So if a property is old enough that one can assume that it could contain substances such as lead paint or asbestos, it would qualify,” Duerr explained.

CCJDA is working on building a database of the potential properties that could qualify within Cavalier County and its subsidiaries. They currently have 35 qualifying properties in the database and hope to increase this number. Once that process is complete, CCJDA will contact Technical Assistance to Brownfields to help in the development of a plan.

The next step would be applying for grants to conduct environmental assessments on the properties making it possible for CCJDA or the individual government entity to create a priority list. The completed environmental assessments for the proposed lots are necessary as the assessments is a condition of applying for the grant funding.

Finally, the CCJDA will apply for grant funds on behalf of the government entities to clean=up the properties, and then the city or county can offer the cleaned up lots for sale to interested individuals.

“So it is a lengthy process due to all the steps that the EPA requires, but we feel it would be a benefit to the county and several communities,” Duerr stated.

“If any cities have properties that they currently own and would like to clean-up, I would encourage them to contact me so I get their property entered into the database,” Duerr continued.

The applications go through EPA and currently only government entities/political subdivisions, such as a cities,  townships, or a county, can apply to the program. CCJDA would like to see the county and other interested entities such as cities or townships apply for this program jointly, as many grant programs often look more favorably on applications that involved multiple entities working together.

One thing that Duerr made clear was that this program would not force individuals to clean-up their private lots. This program is only for city, township, or county owned properties.

“I know there has been some concern from individuals that someone was going to force them to clean-up a lot they owned, and this program is not going to do that. It is just a tool for cites and counties to clean up abandoned lots and return them to a useful purpose,” Duerr stated.

The Brownfields Program will benefit the local communities in many ways. The cleaned up lots will be more marketable to developers as there will be no necessary investment of time or money prior to the preferred project of the developer. The selected sites for clean-up could increase residential property values near the site anywhere from 5 to almost 13 percent once clean-up is completed. The endeavour to improve lots  also promotes area-wide planning.

The Brownfield Program will improve the overall appearance of the cities, townships, and the county by helping to eliminate some dilapidated structures and making the lots development ready.

“We hope that it will give individuals looking for empty lots some more options,” Duerr stated.

The Brownfield Program is an excellent opportunity for city, township, and county officials to help clean-up the properties owned by the government entity. The EPA offers grants for both assessment and clean-ups, making the cleaning up of the properties more feasible since there is no cost to the entity.

Applications to the federal program are usually due around the October/November time frame, with the official announcement for applications taking place in August or September of this year. Grant announcements can be expected in May 2016 and the funds distributed in June of 2016.

“So work would not begin until next summer,” Duerr said.

The EPA is not the only place the CCJDA can look to for assistance with clean-up as the state also has a Brownfields Clean-up Program. Last year the ND State Department of Health conducted assessments at 47 sites and cleaned up 38.

“Depending on how large our database turns out to be, this program may be a quicker option for us,” Duerr stated.

The typical turnaround time for the EPA Brownfields Program is two to three months for assessments and then another four to six months for clean-ups.

“It is a lengthy process, but I think its great to do a story now so we can make more people aware of this program so we can include as many properties as possible in the project plan,” Duerr stated.

The CCJDA will help those entities interested in the Brownfields Program through the process of application and assessment. The entity can then use their own parameters to determine which lots will be addressed first.

The entity can only apply for funding the clean-up of two properties within an application period. The CCJDA is hoping to have every entity that puts properties on the list have two properties cleaned every application period until all the properties associated with that entity in the final database are addressed.

“If any city or township is interested in this program they can contact me and I will be happy to provide them with more information and/or put them in contact with the right person at the North Dakota Department of Health,” Duerr said.

For questions or more information concerning the Brownfields Program please contact Shannon Duerr at the CCJDA, 701-256-3475.

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