Prosper Q&A: Brownfields with Brad Hansen

Brad Hansen is an Environmental Program Coordinator for Oakland County’s Waste Resource Management Unit. He has been the coordinator for the Oakland Brownfield Initiative (OBI) upon his hire. Among his responsibilities under the OBI are the administrations of the Oakland County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority (OCBRA) as well as six separate United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) grants totaling over $3 million.

Prosper went looking for Brad to talk a bit about Brownfields and what they mean to and for Oakland County.

Question: What is a Brownfield and what does the Oakland County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority do?

Answer: A Brownfield is a piece of property that is abandoned or underused where real or perceived contamination is a barrier to full use, especially one considered as a potential site for redevelopment. The Oakland County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority helps developers obtain financial incentives by accessing Tax Increment Financing (TIF) to reimburse the developer the cost of cleanup over a period of time. Along with TIF another financial tool is the ability to apply for a Michigan Business Tax (MBT) credit through the State of Michigan.

Q: How long has Oakland County been involved in Brownfield redevelopment?

A: The Oakland County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority was established in 2001.

Q: How are the Brownfield grants utilized?

A: The USEPA grants are grants awarded to developers or local municipalities to help pay for environmental investigations, such as Phase I, Phase II, BEA’s and Brownfield plans.

Q: What is the process of applying for a grant? What is the process of working with the EPA?

A: The first step in applying for grant money is to call or e-mail me to inform me about the project; at that point I will either set up a meeting with the potential client or request more information. Once a project is selected to receive grant money the developer will have to select one of five pre-approved environmental consultants to perform the work and once the work is completed the consultants bill Oakland County for the work.

Q: What are the incentives for developing on a Brownfield? What could it mean for small businesses? What does it mean for the communities?

A: Incentives for developers include TIF and MBT credits (see above).The TIF component will pay the developer back for the cleanup that has occurred on the redevelopment while the MBT credit will give the developer a tax break. Local municipalities stand to benefit from Brownfield redevelopment because contamination will be removed from their community, redevelopment will occur in a place that was under utilized or not utilized for many year while creating a higher tax base and creating jobs.

Q: What have been some successful redevelopments in Oakland County? How many Brownfield’s are there in Oakland County? What could the potential uses of these be?

A: Some successful Brownfield stories include the 140 acre former Sanicem landfill in the City of Auburn Hills and Orion Township. The former Sanicem landfill (dump) was in horrid conditions before the project started, there was open gully’s of rubbish and leachate creeks running through out the site and now a lot of the rubbish has been removed a leachate and methane collection systems are up and running and redevelopment includes Atlas Copco, hotel, bank and three restaurants. The Downtown Wixom site located on Pontiac trail was a rail line dating back to the 1880’s as well as a gas station in the mid to late 1900’s gas station. There was $500,000 worth of cleanup on site and now the site is a retail center located in the downtown Wixom.

There are thousands of Brownfield’s in O.C., many of which haven’t been identified yet. In the definition of a Brownfield you will notice that it states “where real or perceived contamination is a barrier to full use.” So a Brownfield can be a site that is known to be contaminated or it can be a site that somebody believes may be contaminated, that is why it is hard to count the amount of Brownfield’s in O.C. There are all kinds of end uses for Brownfield sites: Commercial, business, research, green space, parking lots, residential, etc.

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