Author Topic: Environmental Remediation on a Neighboring Property  (Read 539 times)

Ichabod

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Environmental Remediation on a Neighboring Property
« on: October 01, 2020, 11:53:31 AM »
A property close to me is a vacant, former metal heat treatment facility. It's been vacant for years and has environmental waste issues, which I suspect is the reason is hasn't been redeveloped. It's an eyesore, and if it was redeveloped as residential or retail would probably be a boon to my property values.

Is there anything an individual or community can do to help this process along? I'm imaging either some kind of environmental bounty program that I and my neighbors could contribute to that if the property gets properly remediated the property owner could claim; or pressuring local jurisdictions to get involved in either funding or performing some/all of the remediation.

The property is in an urban, mostly residential area, but industrial, commercial, and retail buildings are all nearby. The neighborhood is transitioning, although I don't know though I'd go so far as to say it's gentrifying. This is in Texas, and the property isn't zoned. It's not a Superfund site, but the TCEQ records show several problems.

I've tried googling, but I can't seem to find the right terms. Any suggestions on where to look for more information or other forums to ask would be appreciated. I suspect a pretty likely answer is no, that the system is setup so only property owners can influence this process.

Frugal Lizard

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Re: Environmental Remediation on a Neighboring Property
« Reply #1 on: October 01, 2020, 12:19:29 PM »
metal heat treating can generate nasty stuff - and typically there are historical uses that bring with them even more contamination.

Some areas in my town are so contaminated that residential uses are not possible.  One site was recently re-developed with retail with no basements. 
Another site I have worked on was so contaminated in one section we didn't put any benches in along the trail so that people would be just passing through and not invited to have a picnic and stay awhile.
Our municipality has a fund for developers to apply to for funds to remediate sites through reductions in future property tax forgiveness. 
I have never heard of a community or individual doing a remediation.  Do you know what is in the soil? the type of contamination and extent would really determine how hard it is to clean up.  Sometimes land owners specifically don't want to find out what is in the soil or they are forced into a mandatory remediation order. 


Ichabod

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Re: Environmental Remediation on a Neighboring Property
« Reply #2 on: October 01, 2020, 12:41:52 PM »
Do you know what is in the soil? the type of contamination and extent would really determine how hard it is to clean up.  Sometimes land owners specifically don't want to find out what is in the soil or they are forced into a mandatory remediation order.

No, not really. I've looked up the property on the TCEQ (Texas' state version of the EPA), and it lists industrial and hazardous waste, petroleum storage tank, and used oil. I might be able to an open records request to find out more, but I'd have to pay for that. I'll look into if there's a city program.

I also see a voluntary cleanup program on the site, which appears to be a TCEQ program that allows some form of remediation without incurring new liability. The program was issued in 2017, and I haven't seen apparent remediation work. Maybe I wouldn't? But I do see the property every day. The corporation currently holding the property was dissolved a year, but the TCEQ records and county records still show them as the property owner.

If the environmental issues weren't present, I'm confident it would be economically feasible to redevelop as residential. I'm skeptical that it's currently worthwhile redeveloping as retail even without the environmental issues, but I'm optimistic that will change in the next five years.

No basements in this area. Everything is built on slabs or crawlspaces.

affordablehousing

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Re: Environmental Remediation on a Neighboring Property
« Reply #3 on: October 01, 2020, 01:28:13 PM »
I would bet that site has a long history of industrial uses, and a host of goodies hiding in the dirt. Near us is a site poisoned with arsenic, and despite 1/10 acre empty lots selling for ~550K, there has been no movement toward putting structures there.

I would further bet remediation costs would be astronomical. For a Phase I and phase II you're looking at $25K, dirt removal at $250 a yard, or active venting, vapor barrier and concrete capping at ~$80K for a .1 acre site. Could you just pool together with the neighbors to chip in $25K for the consultant reports, and then lobby the City to let you make it a park? We have an officially unofficial dog park on part of the arsenic site with a fence with a "gate" that has a persistently broken lock. If you try for an official solution you're looking at big bucks. I'd suggest something local and informal.

Ichabod

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Re: Environmental Remediation on a Neighboring Property
« Reply #4 on: October 01, 2020, 07:21:35 PM »
I would further bet remediation costs would be astronomical. For a Phase I and phase II you're looking at $25K, dirt removal at $250 a yard, or active venting, vapor barrier and concrete capping at ~$80K for a .1 acre site. Could you just pool together with the neighbors to chip in $25K for the consultant reports, and then lobby the City to let you make it a park? We have an officially unofficial dog park on part of the arsenic site with a fence with a "gate" that has a persistently broken lock. If you try for an official solution you're looking at big bucks. I'd suggest something local and informal.
Eh, good to know. It's a three and half acre lot, so that sounds out of reach.

I'd be thrilled if it was any kind of green space, but it's privately-owned, fenced with a big empty warehouse in the middle of it. I'm gathering it's unlikely to ever be used for residential.

It will possibly be a valuable retail site within the next ten years, but it sounds like it'll be vacant or used industrially in the meantime.

affordablehousing

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Re: Environmental Remediation on a Neighboring Property
« Reply #5 on: October 02, 2020, 12:54:34 PM »
Costs do lessen psf the larger the site, and costs may be different in your market, but the best approach might be to see if the seller would also sees the site as having negative value due to the obsolete structure and the cost of remediation for new development. Maybe the owner would lease the site provided no structures were built for a dollar a year for 5 years? Maybe the city would give him some incentive. Maybe lobby the councilperson whose district it is in and see if the City could provide insurance and let it become a community park, composting site, neighborhood swapmeet, farmer's market, playground, etc.

Telecaster

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Re: Environmental Remediation on a Neighboring Property
« Reply #6 on: October 02, 2020, 03:07:29 PM »
Is there anything an individual or community can do to help this process along? I'm imaging either some kind of environmental bounty program that I and my neighbors could contribute to that if the property gets properly remediated the property owner could claim; or pressuring local jurisdictions to get involved in either funding or performing some/all of the remediation.

I'm an environmental consultant.  The short answer is almost certainly not, but maybe.    The long answer is this site is what is commonly called a brownfield.   Typically, a brownfield is when the company that caused the problem and the landowner who is also responsible for the problem are gone.  Dead, bankrupt, dissolved, whatever.  So it just sits there vacant because nobody wants the financial liability.  There are bazillions of these things across the country.

The faint ray of hope is that there are grants on the federal and state levels to help redevelop these things into something other than ugly eyesores.  In order to get the grants you typically need to show up with a boatload of your own money, and they give you a little sweetener. 

Good end uses for brownfields can be things like city parks or other community spaces.  So, if the city was going to build a park anyway....who knows?  Might be a fit there. 

https://www.tceq.texas.gov/remediation/bsa/bsa.html

One example of brownfield redevelopment is Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle.  It is a big green space right in downtown.   But it took a lot of moving parts to get it come together.  First, there was a huge amount of private raised, and then the City of Seattle and Seattle Art Museum also partnered with the private groups.    A lot of people had to agree with the same goal, to put it another way. 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olympic_Sculpture_Park

So can be done, but there are a lot of moving parts that have to align.   One of those parts is starting with a nice big stack of money. 

Edit:  To be clear, you can also get brownfield grants for private redevelopment.  The OP sounded like he wanted a community-based solution so that's why I mentioned a park.  But the end result could be say, an office park too.
« Last Edit: October 02, 2020, 03:12:07 PM by Telecaster »

Ichabod

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Re: Environmental Remediation on a Neighboring Property
« Reply #7 on: October 04, 2020, 07:47:47 PM »
Is there anything an individual or community can do to help this process along? I'm imaging either some kind of environmental bounty program that I and my neighbors could contribute to that if the property gets properly remediated the property owner could claim; or pressuring local jurisdictions to get involved in either funding or performing some/all of the remediation.

I'm an environmental consultant.  The short answer is almost certainly not, but maybe.    The long answer is this site is what is commonly called a brownfield.   Typically, a brownfield is when the company that caused the problem and the landowner who is also responsible for the problem are gone.  Dead, bankrupt, dissolved, whatever.  So it just sits there vacant because nobody wants the financial liability.  There are bazillions of these things across the country.

The faint ray of hope is that there are grants on the federal and state levels to help redevelop these things into something other than ugly eyesores.  In order to get the grants you typically need to show up with a boatload of your own money, and they give you a little sweetener. 

Good end uses for brownfields can be things like city parks or other community spaces.  So, if the city was going to build a park anyway....who knows?  Might be a fit there. 

https://www.tceq.texas.gov/remediation/bsa/bsa.html

One example of brownfield redevelopment is Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle.  It is a big green space right in downtown.   But it took a lot of moving parts to get it come together.  First, there was a huge amount of private raised, and then the City of Seattle and Seattle Art Museum also partnered with the private groups.    A lot of people had to agree with the same goal, to put it another way. 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olympic_Sculpture_Park

So can be done, but there are a lot of moving parts that have to align.   One of those parts is starting with a nice big stack of money. 

Edit:  To be clear, you can also get brownfield grants for private redevelopment.  The OP sounded like he wanted a community-based solution so that's why I mentioned a park.  But the end result could be say, an office park too.

Thanks for the answers. I feel like I know a lot more about the situation now. My hope was that neighbors could somehow contribute to this process without actually doing the property development part, and that hope looks misplaced.

I mainly don't want the property to be a vacant industrial site. Obviously, green space or residential would be ideal, but even office space would be an upgrade. On the site, there's a small office building and looking at property listings, it looks like the owner would be willing to lease that space separately, but it's also been vacant. While there's plenty of retail nearby, there's little office space in the neighborhood.

The land is privately held with several structures on it, and land values are steadily appreciating nearby. 1950s housing stock being replaced by new construction town homes. Hopefully, values appreciate enough in the future that it will become worth remediating.

norajean

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Re: Environmental Remediation on a Neighboring Property
« Reply #8 on: October 05, 2020, 02:58:05 AM »
Have you tested your home for vapor contamination?