Brownfield Redevelopment and Community Revitalization
Submitted by Diana Quarry
CREW Charlotte members gathered on November 14, 2017 for a discussion of the North Carolina Brownfields Program, and learned how developers are utilizing the program to restore and breathe new life into previously contaminated areas of Charlotte. The panel of speakers included Joselyn Harriger, a project manager with the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, Susan Cooper, an environmental law attorney with Womble Bond Dickinson (US) LLP, and Brett Phillips, Executive Vice President with Lincoln Harris. The panel was moderated by CREW Charlotte board member Christie Zawtocki, Principal at Hart & Hickman, PC.
The Brownfields Program serves as an effective tool in encouraging developers to undertake a clean-up of a contaminated site and redevelop the property to serve the needs of the Charlotte community. As Ms. Harriger discussed, developers who take advantage of the Program by entering into a Brownfields Agreement with the DEQ receive liability protection indefinitely (which passes along to future owners of the property, increasing the marketability of a property) and steep tax cuts for five years after development on the property begins. In exchange for these benefits, the developer agrees to remove contaminants for the property and complete an agreed-upon scope of remediation at the site to ensure it is safe for occupancy. The Brownfields Agreement will also impose certain land use restrictions on the property, which vary from site to site depending on the type of contamination that was present. For example, Ms. Cooper indicated that if a property has groundwater contamination, a Brownfields Agreement may likely state that the site cannot be used for a school, daycare facility, or certain residential uses, even once the developer completes the required remediation on the site. Despite these restrictions, Ms. Cooper discussed how the economic incentives can still make a project appealing to developers who may otherwise be deterred from assuming ownership of a contaminated property.
Mr. Phillips discussed how Lincoln Harris was recently able to leverage the benefits of the Program in connection with their new Legacy Union project, located at the old Charlotte Observer site. Having been used for printing operations for years, Lincoln Harris (which is redeveloping the site in partnership with Goldman Sachs) knew that there could be significant contamination from ink at the property. Mr. Phillips and Ms. Harriger, who acted as the project manager for Legacy Union, worked together for nearly a year on the project. They first established the project’s eligibility to participate in the Program, and worked through the terms of the Brownfields Agreement. Mr. Phillips discussed how the tax incentives that the Program offered made the redevelopment feasible and economically attractive.