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Brownfields and Brownfield Redevelopment

What Can Local Governments Do to Address Brownfield Redevelopment?

A brownfield is an abandoned, idled, or underused property where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by the presence or potential presence of contamination. They are difficult to redevelop because of the need for environmental assessment and the potential liability issues involved. A property owner may find it more advantageous to leave the property abandoned because development or sale may require a costly clean-up or spur a lawsuit.

But this is changing. State and federal environmental laws and policies over the past few years have addressed some of these issues and are now focusing on how to turn brownfields into opportunities for investment. Redeveloped brownfield sites attract new business, create jobs, improve the neighborhood, and increase the local tax base.

Brownfield Redevelopment Legislation

In 2013, the Washington State Legislature made significant changes in the Model Toxic Contol Act (MTCA) to facilitate clean up and redevelopment of brownfields. Changes of interest to local government include providing for model remedies to facilitate development of low risk sites, and granting authority for local governments to establish redevelopment opportunity zones where additional tools and resources, such as a revolving loan fund, will be available.

What Can Local Governments Do?

Local governments can take a pro-active role in redeveloping brownfield properties. Local governments can coordinate funding, assume some financial responsibility for site remediation costs, offer incentives, facilitate permit processes and communication between private developers and state/federal environmental regulatory agencies. Local government property acquisition is one of the key tools needed to facilitate brownfields redevelopment. Some local governments have acquired brownfield properties and handled the redevelopment on their own (such as Tacoma and their Thea Foss Waterway development project).

Growth management laws, rising transportation costs, and escalating real estate prices are making close-in brownfield properties a more attractive option. Redevelopment offers improvements to communities in the form of rejuvenated neighborhoods, businesses and public ways. For more complete information on Brownfield Redevelopment we recommend a visit to the Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE) Brownfields Revitalization Program, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Brownfields and Land Revitalization.

Brownfields Related Laws and Rules

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Guidebooks, Publications, Reports, and Best Practices

Featured Guidebooks

Reports, Case Studies, Best Practices

Tools and Models

Reports on Specific Brownfield Topics

Brownfields Insurance and Liability

Funding Sources

Additional References


Last Modified: October 03, 2016