Redevelopment of former industrial sites, known as brownfields, in north Fort Collins will likely depend on the availability of land as well as what’s beneath the surface of that land.
With the aim of helping property owners understand potential contamination issues, city officials recently launched the Northside Revitalization project. The program will provide environmental assessments for properties that were home to automobile repair shops, petroleum product sales and dry cleaning.
Properties along North College Avenue and the Poudre River through downtown are within the project’s boundary area. Project manager Bonnie Pierce said the program's goal is to remove barriers to redevelopment.
The first location up for consideration under the program covers city-owned property along the Poudre River east of College Avenue. The site includes Colorado State University’s Powerhouse Energy Campus and the Northside Aztlan Community Center.
The area is known to be contaminated with coal tar from a former gas plant. It’s also near the site of a proposed whitewater park aimed at attracting kayakers and other recreational users.
Assessments and sampling done as part of the water park project found no indication of environmental hazards, Pierce said. Further assessments along the riverbank, if approved by the EPA, would provide additional data.
The boundary area for the brownfields assessment project includes the River District, which still has industrial uses. City officials want to encourage redevelopment in the area and build connections to Old Town.
The area for assessment of former industrial sites in Old Town and north Fort Collins. (Photo: Gannett)
Brownfields could also include land that once had railroad spurs and crossings, Pierce said. The land might have been contaminated by spills during the process of loading and unload rail cars and tankers.
“From an environmental perspective, it’s a proactive effort on the city’s part to ensure it is safe for redevelopment,” Pierce said.
The three-year project is funded by a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Funding is available to perform about 20 “phase I” environmental assessments, which are records searches of properties and their historic uses to determine the likelihood of contamination.
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The project also could fund six to 10 “phase II” assessments, which include taking water, air and soil samples to determine the presence of contaminants.
The project is a partnership involving Larimer County, the Downtown Development Authority and numerous city departments. Pierce, an environmental regulatory specialist with the city, said officials have developed a prioritized list of properties that could be part of the program.
Letters have been sent to owners of properties that might be ripe for redevelopment in hopes of recruiting volunteers for the program. Proposed assessment have to be approved by the EPA.
Property owners have an interest in knowing the environmental status of their land, Pierce said, such as whether it once had surface or underground petroleum storage tanks.
Environmental assessments would likely be required by a financial institution as part of any redevelopment project, said Patrick Rowe, the city’s redevelopment coordinator.
Knowing about contamination on one’s land i carries a responsibility at the point of a sale.
“If you are aware of an issue, you have to disclose it,” Rowe said.
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If contamination is found and needs to be mitigated, the project would help identify potential costs, Pierce said. Officials would assist property owners to look for state and federal grants for environmental cleanup.
The project’s boundaries roughly cover the North College Urban Renewal Area. Dean Hoag, president of the North Fort Collins Business Association, said he was briefed on the project last month.
“It doesn’t sound like a bad idea,” he said. “But I guess I need to hear more specifics about how it would work. It’s a little scary, too.”
The project might be of interest to area businesses, especially if they are considering redeveloping their land in the near future, he said. Hoag is owner of RMB Recycling, 1475 N. College Ave.
Charlie Meserlian, longtime owner of Fort Collins Truck Sales, 700 N. College Ave., said he hasn’t heard anything about the project. But he likely would have no interest in it.
“Having the EPA involved raises all kinds of red flags for me,” he said. “They are not out to be your friend.”
Kevin Duggan is a Coloradoan senior reporter covering local government. Follow him on Twitter, @coloradoan_dugg, and on Facebook at Coloradoan Kevin Duggan.
For more information on the Northside Revitalization project, contact Bonnie Pierce, environmental regulatory specialist, at 970-416-4255 or email@example.com; Patrick Rowe, redevelopment coordinator, 970-416-2231 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To participate in the brownfield assessment project, a property owner:
Cannot be the cause of contamination
Must agree to provide access to the property for environmental sampling
Must agree that grant-funded materials would be available to the public
This was taken from the Coloradoan