The Highland County Land Reutilization Corporation (land bank) held a special meeting Thursday morning and discussed a brownfield grant the county has the possibility of using.
Mark Current, Highland County Community Action Organization housing director, detailed some of the projects that the land bank could move forward with:
* The Gross-Feibel industrial building on Elm Street in Hillsboro
* Rocky Fork Truck Stop near Rainsboro
* The mill in East Monroe
* The former Parker Hotel in Greenfield
* The Berrysville service station
Matt Wagner, the Tetra Tech certified professional that will be working with the land bank throughout the grant process, said that for the Gross-Feibel property, he would have to talk to the Hillsboro Area Economic Development Corporation (HAEDC) and verify that they have all the necessary documents. He said if they don’t, then it can’t be submitted.
Wagner said that all the previous due diligence and proposals would be needed for demolition. He also said the environmental reports would be needed.
“That is certainly, I think, everybody understands that that probably is the number one site for the county, without question,” Wagner said. “However, there’s just some things there that need to be investigated.”
Current said the owners of the Rocky Fork Truck Stop are interested in getting involved with the brownfield grant. He said that because they didn’t cause the brownfield situation, they would be able to retain the property throughout the entire process. He said the process gives the land bank the access and authorization to do what it needs to do the clean the property.
Wagner said that because the owners of the truck stop were at the meeting and willing to do the redevelopment, it was a more “exciting” situation from an economic development point of view. He said the land bank could assist them with the preliminary due diligence and any possible remediation that might be needed.
He said the land bank will be applying for the Jan. 31 deadline and there would be a Phase 1, Phase 2, a geographical survey and a predemolition asbestos survey that would give them all the information need to find the extent of any vertical and horizontal contamination and then develop the cost assessments for asbestos abatement or demolition. Wagner said he could see the land bank getting that done before the April 30 deadline, which he highlighted was “in essence” the land bank’s last deadline to not risk losing the grant money.
Commissioner Terry Britton, who is also on the land bank board, said they wouldn’t be able to sign any memorandum of understanding, the document that would allow the land bank to work on a property, until the contract of services, the agreement for the land bank to serve in the stead of the commissioners for the brownfield grant, was signed.
Britton said that the commissioners could sign the contract of services on Jan. 19, during the next Highland County Board of Commissioners meeting and then sign the necessary memorandums of understanding on Jan. 20, during the next land bank meeting.
The land bank then moved to go forward with the memorandum of understanding with the exception of the approval until after the contract of services is put in place.
Wagner said that the land bank doesn’t know if it will get to the million-dollar threshold with grant funds, but if it does, a 25 percent match component would be activated for any more money used after the threshold passed. He said at that point, the land bank would need to prioritize projects that might make more sense. He said a project like the Berrysville service station might be looked at because it has “no money” and wouldn’t be able to do the project if they must come up with a 25 percent match.
Wagner said those are aspects of the process the land bank would need to think about if it gets close to the threshold. He said they might have to rank projects or look at projects in a different light.
Wagner said that the first deadline is on Jan. 31 and that he expects them to make an award or give a response by around the middle of February. He said that for projects where they might need more information or clarification, the land bank would have 10 days to respond. He said that if the land bank had projects such as those, they could look at the awarding of grants at the end of February or mid-March and then the challenge for the land bank would be to get all the paperwork done by the April 30 deadline.
Wagner said that the only “bogey” that would be in that period would be the remediation aspect, which would include the process of cleaning up possible soil and groundwater. He said that in the above-ground area for projects, the land bank could start the demolition estimate process and when any project is started, they could immediately start that so they’d be ready for the April 30 deadline.
Reach Jacob Clary at 937-402-2570.