By Lori Garkovich, Professor, Department of Community and Leadership Development
Jim Kirby, environmental scientist in the Division of Waste Management (Superfund Branch) and Amanda LeFevre, Assistant Director of the Division of Compliance Assistance are both in the Department for Environmental Protection (KDEP). They have an important message for Kentucky communities seeking to revitalize their local economies by renovating existing properties for new uses.
The Kentucky Brownfields Redevelopment Program can provide services to assist communities redevelop properties that are contaminated or suspected of being contaminated. The program can help with assessment services, grant applications for EPA brownfields grants, cleanup loans and grants from the Cleaner Commonwealth Fund and assistance with managing risk associated with a site. The program deals with everything from old dry cleaning establishments to former factories to abandoned theatres on main street.
As communities begin to dream about building their economic future, they often face a dilemma. While they have a lack of funds to invest in development, they have an excess of properties that cannot be used today because of contaminants (e.g., asbestos, lead paint, mold) from prior uses. These properties have the potential to bring new life to downtowns as mixed use buildings (i.e., residential units on upper floors and retail businesses on first floors), arts venues, new goods or services businesses, or even a safe place for local youth to gather.
Yet even with “good bones,” these properties may languish — empty and unsellable — with little interest precisely because of the potential for contamination. These are called a brownfield. This is a property where its “expansion, redevelopment, or reuse may be complicated by the presence or the potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant” (EPA definition).
This is where Kirby and LeFevre can help. The program can provide a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment of a property to determine if it is a brownfield. You DON’T have to own the property to do a Phase I assessment. If there is an end use in mind for the property the assessment can be done prior to purchase. Additionally, the assessment can be done at no cost IF the property is owned by a county, city, quasi-government organization, or a nonprofit. Program staff can then help the community apply for a clean-up grant. But to be eligible for a clean up grant, the property owner must have a completed Phase I analysis prior to closing on the property.
In addition KDEP’s Brownfield Redevelopment and Land Reuse Program allows a new property owner to get written assurance that they are not responsible for any characterization or remediation of contamination located on a parcel of land at the time of purchase. This program requires an application, a copy of the current deed, a $2,500 fee, a property management plan signed by a P.E. or P.G. licensed in Kentucky as well as a current Phase I ESA. This can occur either before or after the purchase of the property.
There is much more information and technical assistance Kirby and LeFevre can provide to support communities in cleaning up and reinvesting in these properties as part of an overall economic development plan. When communities bring new life to existing properties, this increases the local tax base, facilitates job growth, utilizes existing infrastructure, takes development pressures off of undeveloped, open land, as well as improving and protecting the environment (EPA 2017).
If your community has vacant properties that could re-energize the local economy or, enhance the quality of life then it is important to tap into all the expertise available to help you figure out how to achieve the future you desire. Jim Kirby and Amanda LeFevre can assist your community in assessing your options and expanding the resources available. This is the way to build your future with a little help from some new friends.
Kentucky success stories:
Doodles Eatery, Lexington
Sharpsburg Community Center, Bath County
Residential Superfund Cleanup, Louisville
Crab Orchard municipal park, Lincoln County
West Sixth Brewing, Lexington
Contact info for the
KY Department for Environmental Protection:
Jim Kirby, Environmental Scientist, Division of Waste Management
Amanda LeFevre, Environmental Education Specialist, Division of Compliance Assistance
Herb Petitjean, EAB, Brownfield Program