KENTWOOD — Although no property in Kentwood has actually been designated as a brownfield site in the two years since the city established a brownfield authority, the city is ready for the day when some sites do become eligible for that status.
Securing brownfield status is a way to finance clean-up of contaminated properties because it allows a municipality to develop and implement brownfield redevelopment financing plans to capture local and school property taxes from the contaminated property to cover the clean-up cost.
According to the Department of Environmental Quality, any municipality can establish a brownfield authority. The authority is responsible for developing a brownfield plan that identifies which properties will capture taxes for clean-up purposes.
The city knows there are some sites in Kentwood that are brownfields, said Lisa Golder, economic development planner. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has identified more than 50 properties that are contaminated, some of which have been cleaned up. But there could be others.
A lot of those properties are gas stations, Golder said, but most are being used, so the responsible party is still on site. The party responsible for the contamination is not eligible for clean-up assistance, but if someone buys a property that was contaminated by a previous owner, the city can assist the new owner in getting the benefits the brownfield act allows for clean-up, Golder explained.
Because no property owner has asked for such assistance to date, the city hasn’t established a brownfield plan, Golder said. However, the city has applied to the Environmental Protection Agency for a $200,000 community-wide brownfields assessment grant. The grant will provide needed funding to encourage the redevelopment of vacated brownfields, which in turn will help improve economic conditions, generate new tax revenue for the city and improve property values. According to the city, existing brownfield properties remain underutilized, yet the city is experiencing increased development pressure on its natural, undeveloped land.
“The grant will help us identify contaminated sites and maybe put out some information on what’s available so we can raise awareness for owners and future owners of contaminated property so that if they do redevelop, we’ll be ready,” she explained.
There has also been a recent change to the Brownfield Act that allows non-core communities like Kentwood to receive one of the benefits core communities enjoy: Under new Act 381 amendments, the owner of an obsolete property can get reimbursed for the cost of demolition, or the cost of lead and asbestos removal on a brownfield site in a non-core community.
“That, we think, we might be able to use at some point,” Golder said.