County launches brownfield incentive program

Alexander Sinn • Jul 10, 2019 at 7:00 AM

Developers in Ottawa County will have a new incentive to invest in disused and contaminated properties.

The county has launched a first-of-its-kind brownfield incentive program to assist with environmental assessment and cleanup costs.

A brownfield site is a former commercial or industrial property that has become abandoned and deteriorated, and may contain environmental contamination. The new program will help defray costs that can be a barrier to development.

Paul Sachs, director of the county’s Planning & Performance Improvement department, said making better use of brownfield sites can help maintain a balance of land uses in the county amid rapid growth.

“If we can get more of that new development to go into the right areas, that can accommodate growth that allows us to pursue that bigger picture of still having population growth, economic growth, but maintaining our character as a county,” he explained.

The program is funded through the Brownfield Redevelopment Act with county funds from administrative fees, and in collaboration with the Urban Cooperation Agreement and the Ottawa County Land Bank Authority. Sachs said he isn’t aware of a program like it, which will fill a gap in funding that is often hard to come by.

In 2014, Ottawa County received significant U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant funding that helped with several projects, Sachs said, leveraging more than $30 million in private investment and creating more than 300 new jobs.

Among success stories are the Gull Lake Marine project in Wright Township, which created 15 new jobs, and the Anew Fuel Station in Borculo that created 12 new jobs and was the first alternative fuel station in the state. Both operations generate significant tax revenue, Sachs said.

The county has continued to seek the EPA funding, but the federal grant is a very competitive process that can’t be counted on annually, according to Sachs.

Developers who use the incentive program can receive funding for environmental assessments to determine the conditions of a property before significant investment is undertaken. Costs of environmental remediation could also be covered through the program, Sachs said.

“You’re not only cleaning up a site, but you’re also getting it back on the tax roll and creating jobs and economic vitality,” the county official said.

To learn more about the incentive tool, call the Ottawa County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority at 616-738-4852.

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