This involves Ice Cream.
The Economic Development Committee kicked it old-school on June 1st, marking up the whiteboard in the municipal building conference room. The subject: creating a plan for two commercial/industrial “brownfield” properties
A brownfield is an industrial or commercial site “where future use is affected by real or perceived environmental contamination.” Property owners have to think about these things before they buy, sell or develop land which may — or may not — be contaminated.
At stake is the difference between a property being developed — or not. Let’s say you want to build office space on a location where, once upon a time, someone buried an oil tank or dumped antifreeze all over the place. If you want to build, you might have to go through quite a few expensive hurdles. And if you wanted to sell the property, it may look less attractive for development to a potential buyer. They would have to go through the same expensive hurdles as you. The end result: development is delayed or doesn’t happen at all.
So how can an Economic Development Committee help a developer when a question of potential environmental issues arise?
With an EPA-funded grant of $43,000.
If we want to stimulate our local economy by attracting new businesses, we need to help property owners jump through regulatory hurdles in a positive, helpful way. Creating a plan to help assess and, if necessary, clean up the site is much more helpful than it sounds. If you’re not a developer, all this stuff may sound boring. If you are a developer, all this stuff sounds expensive. This is why the EPA provides Brownfields Area Wide Planning grants to communities. It’s essentially a revitalization instrument that catalyzes the reuse of property which might otherwise not be cleaned up or developed.
Are you still with me? Because there’s ice cream coming up!
Here’s the official explanation from the EPA’s brownfield grant funding page:
Brownfields area-wide planning (BF AWP) is a grant program which provides funding to conduct activities that will enable the recipient to develop an area-wide plan (including plan implementation strategies) for assessing, cleaning up and reusing catalyst/high priority brownfield sites. Funding is directed to a specific project area, such as a neighborhood, downtown district, local commercial corridor, old industrial corridor, community waterfront or city block, affected by a single large or multiple brownfield sites.
So what properties in Northfield are we talking about? On June 1st, the Economic Development Committee selected two site locations to receive planning support. Six potential sites were identified a few months ago.
- Former Bean Chevrolet
- Former Nantanna Mill
- Former Comfort Colors Property
- 108 N. Main Street (next to Dollar General)
- Mayo-NSB-East Street Block
- Freightyard properties (former Northfield Wood Products area)
Site selection was based on a list of weighted criteria with a baseline of environmental uncertainty. The results were pretty straightforward.
- What is the size of property?
- Does the potential use of the property align with the Town Plan and V-DAT report?
- Does the landowner want to participate, and is the landowner interested in developing the property?
- Will a development on the property encourage additional improvements in the community?
- What is the potential level of environmental assessment and cleanup?
After assessing these criteria, the Freightyard lot and Mayo-NSB-East Street Block were chosen. (The outlined areas in the map below are approximate.)
The next step is “community engagement.” This is where the ice cream comes in!
On July 19th the Northfield Community Development Network, in partnership with the Planning Commission and Economic Development Committee, will host a fun event including bountiful mounds of ice cream (and perhaps healthier alternatives).
Some good folks from Stone Environmental will be there seeking your input for the Area Wide Plan. They’ve already starting mapping things out. Literally. Here’s a link to a really cool “story map” they put together:
Go ahead, click the link and scroll down. You’ll see a bit of history along the way.
You’ll also notice that the story isn’t quite done. This is because you’re part of the story. Your thoughts and ideas are relevant to the planning process. Stone Environmental has been hired to talk with you, listen to your ideas and gather input as they create our Area Wide Plan. And it’s all happening this summer. The plan will be complete by September 31st. When it’s done, then perhaps we’ll see some new developments in town — on the Freightyard and along the Mayo-East Street Block.
So please put July 19th in your calendar. And remember: Ice Cream.