Fort Collins Targets Northside Contaminated Sites

Coloradan Article

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.

 

ENVIRONMENT:  

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.

 

FORT COLLINS:  Downtown business group eyes improvement district

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.

 

ENERGY POLITICS:  Polis donates $25K to group pushing oil, gas amendment

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.

 

Interested?

For more information on the Northside Revitalization project, contact Bonnie Pierce, environmental regulatory specialist, at 970-416-4255 or bpierce@fcgov.com; Patrick Rowe, redevelopment coordinator, 970-416-2231 or prowe@fcgov.com.

 

Eligibility rules

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

City of Fort Collins Begins Northside Revitalization Brownfield Assessment Project; Aim to Improve Environmental Health and Economic Vitality in Area North of Old Town

FORT COLLINS, CO – The City of Fort Collins has begun the initial phases of the Northside Revitalization project, an Area-wide Brownfield Assessment effort funded through a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that was awarded to the City in late 2015.

Fort Collins was one of 15 communities or counties to receive $4.8 million in Region 8 funding through the EPA’s Brownfields Assessment and Cleanup grant competition. More can be learned about the grants at http://www.epa.gov/brownfields/news/

Brownfield sites include properties previously used for industrial or commercial activities that may have been environmentally impacted by such activities as auto repair and servicing; petroleum retail sales and dry cleaning.

The assessment process will allow the City to more carefully examine prospective brownfield sites, and give the community a lens to remove the stigma of contamination from properties that are not impacted or determine if any actual environmental contamination exists.

Because of the diverse nature of brownfield sites, assessments provide much needed confirmation for property owners, lenders, developers and the community at large of potential issues that may impact public or environmental health, or hinder future use or redevelopment in the area. A valuable benefit to property owners is that these environmental assessments complete an important step in obtaining environmental liability protection for their properties.

The City of Fort Collins has kicked off the initial process of site selection and prioritization in partnership with Larimer County and the Downtown Development Authority.

Once a prioritized list of sites is finalized in the Northside Revitalization project area, the City will begin contacting relevant property owners to determine their interest in voluntarily joining the project to receive a no cost Phase I Environmental Site Assessment on eligible properties. The City will also begin conducting public outreach to property owners within the project area to determine if additional properties may be eligible for, and benefit from, participation in this project.

Brownfield sites in Fort Collins may disproportionately impact lower-income areas and discourage revitalization near a vital community resource, the Poudre River. The grant from the EPA helps assure that the City of Fort Collins has the resources to reinvest in these areas to promote public health, social equity, assure water quality, and enhance development in an advisory capacity.

“As a community, Fort Collins is committed to sustainability, systematically and creatively balancing environmental, social, and economic health. This EPA grant is helping us continue that commitment in order to meet the present and future needs of our community,” said Jacqueline Kozak Thiel, Chief Sustainability Officer for the City of Fort Collins.

The City recognizes this assessment project as a key component of Northside Revitalization, and hopes the process will restore and enhance the ecology and environmental quality of the area; improve quality of life for residents; strengthen the value and safety of impacted neighborhoods; sustain existing business; and foster new development.

Information regarding specific public information sessions and community forums will be available soon. For more information on the Northside Revitalization project, contact Bonnie Pierce at 970-416-4255.

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Bonnie Pierce, Northside Revitalization Project Manager, 970-416-4255, bpierce@fcgov.com

Patrick Rowe, Redevelopment Coordinator, 970-416-2231, prowe@fcgov.com

 

EPA Awards City of Fort Collins $500,000 Grant to Assess Brownfields Along Poudre River

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded a $500,000 grant to the City of Fort Collins and partners Larimer County and the Downtown Development Authority to conduct environmental assessments in the Poudre River/North College area.

Fort Collins was one of 15 communities or counties to receive $4.8 million in Region 8 through the EPA’s Brownfields Assessment and Cleanup grant competition. For more information about the grants, go to http://www.epa.gov/brownfields/news/.

The grant to Fort Collins’ Sustainability Services Area will be used to further assess some blighted areas that may be contaminated – properties that were once used for such things as manufactured gas production, auto repair and servicing, petroleum retail sales and dry cleaning. The grant will help set the stage for environmental cleanup where needed.

Those blighted properties now hinder the City’s desire through City Plan to connect Downtown to the North College corridor and to promote redevelopment that could provide additional housing and other infill projects that could bring jobs. Obstacles include outdated buildings, surface parking lots and underused land parcels with limited pedestrian and connecting bike paths.

“We appreciate our partnership with the EPA, Larimer County and the DDA to further promote healthy, sustainable connections and improve the quality of life for residents and businesses in this area,” said City Manager Darin Atteberry.

The grant is the second obtained by the City from the EPA for assessments along the Poudre River. In 2000, the EPA awarded the City a $250,000 Assessment Demonstration Pilot grant as part of the City’s Downtown River Corridor Implementation Program. The City conducted soil and groundwater testing in the area before building Northside Aztlan Community Center - the first LEED Gold certified community center in the nation. The first grant also helped the City improve its water quality and habitat along that stretch of the Poudre.