By Estella R. Fullmer
For Hometown News
EDGEWATER -- The Environmental Protection Agency awarded a $600,000 grant to the cities of Edgewater, New Smyrna Beach and Oak Hill on May 13 as part of the Florida Brownfield Redevelopment Act.
"Cleaning up and reinvesting in these properties protects the environment, reduces blight and provides opportunities for economic development," said Malecia Harris, Edgewater grants/project coordinator.
Brownfields are parcels of abandoned land that were previously industrial or commercial sites and may now be contaminated with low levels of toxins or hazardous waste, but could be developed once the land is cleaned up. The EPA defines brown lands as real property, the expansion, redevelopment or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant.
Edgewater is taking the lead on administering the brownfields assessment grant by developing a joint advisory committee. The committee will gather community input, select brownfield sites and ensure the money is used effectively. The grant allows the cities to assess properties that are known to have environmental issues and determine the feasibility of cleaning up the land and redeveloping it.
The cities hope to receive the funds by Oct. 1 and will have three years to complete their assessments. The owners of the sites selected will not be required to match any funds to participate.
The Brownfield Redevelopment Act was created to reduce public health and environmental hazards by establishing financial incentives for voluntary clean-up of abandoned or underused industrial and commercial properties. It also sets clean-up target levels and provides processes to help land owners obtain a "No Further Action" letter issued through Risk-Based Corrective Action principles. Once a parcel of land is deemed "clean" by the EPA, the land may then be rezoned if desired and owners are free to re-purpose the land or sell it to developers. Property values around cleaned-up brownfields normally rise and boost the area's housing market.
The state has several designated brownfields in Volusia County, some of which are in New Smyrna Beach and Edgewater -- 739 acres in the Industrial Park area around the New Smyrna Beach Municipal Airport, nearly five acres on Tionia Road in New Smyrna Beach and portions of the Edgewater Redevelopment Area are eligible for grant money. Another 645 acres in the New Smyrna Beach Brownfield Enhancement Zone qualifies along with several areas in Daytona Beach, South Daytona, Port Orange, Ormond Beach, Deltona, Deland and Holly Hill. The grant money gives the cities the opportunity to assess if other areas qualify to be added to the state's list of brownfields.
Edgewater officials are optimistic the newly awarded grant money will ultimately improve blight areas, increase property values and bring new money into the area that comes with new development.