Published on Wednesday, 16 May 2012 19:46
by Lars Lone
Because of the common good did you know underutilized structures can be condemned or rebuilt for a new purpose?
Brownfields, Public Law 107-118 , are real property expansions or a redevelopment of property that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Association for Local Governmental Professionals (NALGEP) have expounded to include abandoned, unused, underutilized or suspected contaminated property. This includes structures older than 1980 such as motels/hotels, old schools, gas stations, houses, ranches, train depots, etc which really broadens the scope for what can be considered a Brownfield and is therefore open for government funded projects. The EPA estimates that there are over 500,000 Brownfield sites in America today.
Brownfield projects do not occur on private property so private property rights must first be yielded to local government in order for projects to commence. Then zoning laws must be in place establishing strict building requirements, the zoning laws are utilized for continued advancement of Brownfield projects and further remove private property rights. Ultimately these projects are designed to reduce the carbon footprint of humans in a region, encourage the use of renewable (but inefficient) energy, convert property into “green space” and establish “sustainable development” in local communities.
Brownfield projects gain a foothold utilizing the following timeline/structure:
1. Determine which property would best suit a “gateway project.” Gateway project is a term used to identify a piece of property already owned by the local government that will provide high visibility to the community and visitors that are passing through. These properties are usually on major highways or heavily used areas. In this way the government attempts to establish “validity” to its actions. It also keeps the pubic unaware of true intent as funds primarily come from other locations and the immediate population is not affected financially.
2. Determine if old structure requires demolition or can be reused. Typically local governments elect reuse as it helps the community “maintain identity” and helps with community buy in/involvement. Typical buildings are re-used as museums, conference centers, offices; libraries etc. to further validate need for change.
3. Application for funding. Funding for a project can take time, as most funds come as grants that require approval from agencies providing funds. It can take anywhere from 2-5 years for this process. The first phase of funding comes to survey the extent of contamination and necessary cleanup.
4. Clean up. Once extent of cleanup is established/begun, and end use is determined, zoning laws begin to change to support new structure. This can take several years as the public typically votes on these laws.
5. New structure is built. This can take several years based upon funding, extent of structure rebuild etc.
6. Restart the cycle on a new Brownfield. The total process takes about 5-10 years depending on scope but reduces dramatically with follow-on projects.
Brownfield projects are a cancer to a community. Once the first project is laid, local governments argue that others need to be completed because the new zoning laws condemned many older structures. This is speculated to lead to increased taxes, fines to private property owners for not meeting zoning requirements, confiscation of property etc. Brownfileds utilize laws from the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act as well as the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) a superfund established in the 1980’s. All of these laws are designed to prey on American Exceptionalism and constitutional rights.
Houston, TX has no zoning laws and consequently no Brownfields, while Wyoming’s communities are seeing a rise in zoning laws and Brownfield projects all being overseen by the Department of Environmental Quality. (For a list of over 90 Brownfield Project Sites, click here) With Wyoming’s rich history and natural resources being underground, it is only a matter of time before your favorite historical site is considered a Brownfield. Paving paradise to put up a parking lot is no longer just a lyric.