Brownfield authority formed to boost bid for funding

By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers

SOUTHGATE — City officials took steps last month toward redevelopment of vacant, abandoned properties that qualify as brownfield properties.

During its regular meeting Aug. 21, councilors approved the establishment of an independent brownfield redevelopment authority in an effort to bring federal funding to rehabilitate former industrial or commercial properties with potential environmental issues.

City Administrator Brandon Fournier said the formation of a local authority is the next step needed for the city to begin making dormant properties attractive to prospective development.

“The city currently has a variety of sites that would serve as potential candidates,” Fournier said in a memo to city council. Vacant car lots and the city’s recently closed schools are among the prospective sites.

Southgate recently joined a similar program, the Downriver Community Conference Brownfield Consortium, which has brought tens of millions of dollars into local development through grants, loans and subsidies.

The DCC has identified funding that could assist local governments with conducting the necessary environmental studies on potential brownfields, and qualification for Tax Increment Financing under Michigan Public Act 381 includes having a municipal authority.

Lincoln Park, Melvindale, Wyandotte, Taylor and Trenton are among the Downriver communities which have already formed a brownfield redevelopment authority.

The city will appoint a board within 30 days of the authority’s formation and begin establishing an Act 381 work plan, Fournier said.

“The plan will have generalities,” Fournier said, with reference to schools, the former Michigan Employment Security Commission property and abandoned gas stations that would require environmental surveys.

“A lot of them we’ll identify and see if we can get an appropriate developer,” Fournier said. “It’s always better to address any issues as soon as you can.”

Fournier said the city is not on notice for any environmental threats, but that the increase in developer interest of recent years indicated it was time to identify potential clean-up funding.

“We’ve been operating under county authority for 17 years,” Fournier said. “The time has come when it seemed appropriate to establish our own authority to increase the level of local control and tap into resources.”

(James Mitchell can be reached at jmitchell@bewickpublications.com.)

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