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Repurposing Through Partnership

LaBella was recently part of an innovative municipal brownfield approach that enabled the redevelopment of an abandoned dry cleaner.

Vacant, abandoned brownfield properties—a sight all too familiar for many communities. When commercial or industrial properties are neglected, they often have dangerous environmental contaminants that impair the value of the property and complicate development. These sites are called brownfields. Although municipalities struggle with limited available resources to take ownership and control of them, it’s important to find solutions in order to prevent environmental detriment and protect public health.

LaBella recently partnered with the City of Rochester in an innovative approach to transfer a tax-delinquent brownfield property into productive new ownership. Through a unique effort between the City, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), and an adjoining property owner, the brownfield site has been tested and demolished, is already being reused, and is slated for state-funded cleanup.

The adjacent owner, Pike Construction, needed to expand as a result of a growing business. As part of the partnership, they paid for asbestos abatement and building demolition while the NYSDEC will fund and perform soil and groundwater cleanup.
After the City secured access through a temporary incidence of ownership, LaBella performed site inspection, asbestos survey, and hazardous building material inventory and inspection. The brownfield property, a former dry cleaner site that had been abandoned since 2007, underwent grant-funded environmental investigations that identified significant perchloroethylene (PERC) contamination of soil and groundwater. These conditions were reported to the NYSDEC, which addressed the site by completing further investigations as well as interim remedial action, including the removal of several underground storage tanks.

Pike’s plan to demolish and manage the site enabled the NYSDEC to plan for a more complete cleanup of soil and groundwater. The preliminary remedial action plan was issued for public comment in December 2016 and a final Site Record of Decision in February 2017.

In March 2017, the City scheduled an auction of the property for back taxes. At the City’s initiation the Rochester Land Bank Corporation (RLBC) entered into a purchase and sale agreement with Pike Construction. The RLBC acquired the dry cleaner property at auction and subsequently transferred it to Pike, who completed asbestos abatement and demolition by July 2017 and immediately began using the site for needed parking. The NYSDEC cleanup phase is ongoing and will require close coordination with Pike.

Although significant environmental and legal staff time was required, the City’s site assessment costs were less than $10,000.

In addition, New York State law mandates that developers are responsible for decommissioning solar farms, which are typically slated for a life of twenty years. That said, it’s in their best interest that systems are non-invasive and easy to un-install. “I like to call it the eject button,” Steve said. “If an owner decides to decommission a solar farm for some reason, it’ll take a couple months to disassemble—that’s a lot of nuts and bolts— but they can begin farming that land immediately.”

Despite different approaches, New Yorkers are united in their desire to develop cleaner energy, promote job growth, and preserve our state’s beautiful wilderness. Some communities believe solar is the answer, and others want to work towards different solution.

Whatever lies ahead , LaBella is ready to help municipalities craft a solar ordinance to match your community values and protect its resources. LaBella’s Planning Division has model ordinances, planning tools and most importantly, the expertise, to facilitate the process from start to finish.

After the City secured access through a temporary incidence of ownership, LaBella performed site inspection, asbestos survey, and hazardous building material inventory and inspection.