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
- Brownfields Resource Guide: Assistance for Redevelopment in Washington State, Department of Ecology/Department of Commerce, 9/2009 - Information about brownfields redevelopment process, funding opportunities, and technical assistance resources available in Washington
- Brownfields Federal Programs Guide, 2015 Edition, U.S Environmental Protection Agency - Comprehensive guide to brownfields programs, incentives and tax credits offered by a variety of federal agencies
- A Guide to Federal Tax Incentives for Brownfields Redevelopment, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 04/2011 - Overview of the key federal tax incentives and credits that can be leveraged for brownfields cleanup, redevelopment and reuse
- Road Map to Understanding Options for Brownfields Investigation and Cleanup, Fifth Ed., EPA-542-R-12-001, Brownfields and Land Revitalization Technology Support Center, 2012 - Outlines the steps in the investigation and cleanup of brownfields sites and provides introduction to the range of available technologies and resources
- Getting Started with Brownfields -- Key Issues and Opportunities: What Communities Need to Know, Charles Bartsch, Northeast Midwest Institute, 04/2006 - Very helpful overview
- Redevelopment Best Practices & Guides, Northeast, Midwest Institute - Offers guides and best practices on a number of specific brownfields topics
- Best Management Practices for Site Assessment, Remediation, and Greener Cleanups, - Participant Manual, U.S Environmental Protection Agency, 05/2012 - Technical manual outlining methodology and project management for site assessment, remediation, and greener cleanups
Reports, Case Studies, Best Practices
- Brownfields, U.S. Conference of Mayors - Includes survey-based periodic national reports on brownfields redevelopment, and several volumes of compendiums spotlighting best practices, including Recycling America's Land: A Compendium of Best Practices, Vol. 4, 2010
- State Brownfields and Voluntary Response Programs, Publication Number: EPA-42-F-14-215, U.S Environmental Protection Agency, 12/2014 - Examples from regions around the country
- Environmental and Economic Impacts of Brownfields Redevelopment, Evans Paull, Northeast Midwest Institute, 07/2008 - A working draft for distribution, Full Report, and powerpoint presentation
- Restoring Prosperity: The State Role in Revitalizing America's Older Industrial Cities, Jennifer S Vey, The Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program, 05/2007 - Offers a five-part agenda and organizing plan for restoring prosperity in older industrial cities
- U.S. EPA Brownfields Publications Index
- The Brownfields and Land Revitalization Technology Support Center Publications List
- Cercla and Brownfields Research Center Publications, Association of State and Territorial Solid Waste Management Officials
Tools and Models
Reports on Specific Brownfield Topics
- Employment Effects of Brownfield Redevelopment: What Do We Know from the Literature?, Marie Howland, Journal of Planning Literature 22.2: 91-10 (2007) - Posted on the National Center for Environmental Economics, U.S. EPA Website
- The Politics of Redeveloping Brownfields, National Association of Counties, 04/2008
- Cultivating Green Energy on Brownfields: A Nuts and Bolts Primer for Local Governments, National Association of Local Government Environmental Professionals (NALGEP) 01/03/2012 - The primer offers local governments a starting point for considering whether (and what) renewable energy facilities may be appropriate for local brownfield sites
- Brownfields and Urban Agriculture: Interim Guidelines for Safe Gardening Practices, U.S. EPA, Summer 2011 - Condensation of the input of 60 experts from academia, state and local government, and the nonprofit sector on best practices for growing food safely on former brownfield sites
- Building Vibrant Communities: Community Benefits of Land Revitalization, U.S. EPA, 10/2009 - Highlights community benefits and potential redevelopment opportunities to create more vibrant, healthy, safe, and sustainable communities. Specifically, the report highlights the potential use of brownfields for agriculture and food systems, arts and culture, housing and mixed uses, and other community and civic uses such as green spaces, schools, and health care facilities
- Stimulating Infill and Brownfield Development in the Land-of-Sky Region, prepared by Linda Giltz for Land-of-Sky Regional Council, Asheville, NC, 08/2007 - Overcoming barriers to infill development
Brownfields Insurance and Liability
- Washington Department of Environmental Quality (DOE)
- U.S Environmental Protection Agency
- Brownfields and Land Revitalization - Includes info on tools and technical information , grants and incentive programs, and many publications on topics such as insurance and risk management, “all appropriate inquiries,” health and many others
- Brownfields Cleanup and Redevelopment - News and information on grants, technical assistance, conferences, targeted brownfield assessments andother resources available in Region 10
- International City Manager's Association
- Brownfields: Recycling of America's Land, U.S. Conference of Mayors - Includes links to best practices, success stories, brownfields survey and articles
- Brownfields, Northeast-Midwest Institute - Good collection of reports and lessons from the field, although not much added in the last several years
- The Brownfields Center, Carnagie-Mellon Institute - Collection of case studies, state-level regulations, and research papers, mainly in Pennsylvania
- Turning Brownfields into Parks, Trust for Public Lands Brownfields to Parks - Information on restoring brownfields to community parks and open space
- The National Association of Local Government Environmental Professionals (NALGEP) - Brownfields Revitalization