County looks for brownfields

JERSEY SHORE – Properties in the area to be considered for an environmental assessment and potential remediation were the subject of a public meeting held in the borough by the Lycoming County Department of Planning and Community Development Wednesday night.

Bill Kelly, deputy director of the department, urged officials and residents of the area to help the county identify underutilized properties, known as brownfields, in the borough and in Porter and Nippenose townships so those properties can be added to a list as a first step to stimulate investment.

Kelly defined brownfields as properties that are underutilized for various socioeconomic reasons, such as abandonment or blight, and whose redevelopment is hindered by the presence of hazardous substances.

The project, known as the Lycoming County Brownfield Coalition, is funded by grants from the Environmental Protection Agency. In 2005, the county received a $200,000 grant and in 2012, the county was awarded $550,000.

Funds from the grant can be used for environmental assessments, remediation and community outreach and engagement.

The 2005 grant helped develop the Kohl’s department store in downtown Williamsport, according to Kelly. That grant also assisted in removing the old Brodart warehouse to clear the way for the Memorial Homes Project.

“We have an appetite for renewing ourselves in Lycoming County,” he said. “What else are we missing?”

Without the grant, environmental assessments can be costly for businesses looking to redevelop or sell their properties, according to Kelly.

The Pajama Factory in Williamsport currently is undergoing an initial environmental assessment, according to Kelly.

“The owner wants to further develop the building, so as a result, he needs to know what he’s working with,” Kelly said.

The first phase of an assessment can range from $3,000 to $4,000 and last from about four to six weeks, said Rob Goldman, a project director for TRC Solutions, the company that assists the county with brownfield services.

Goldman said the second phase costs even more, because it requires soil samples to be analyzed and groundwater to be monitored.

Jersey Shore, an area vulnerable to flood waters, could greatly benefit from the brownfields coalition, Kelly said, adding that redeveloped properties on the edge or outside of the flood zone are critical to the community.