By Steve Dwyer
When you create a designation around an over-arching concept, like brownfields and its attendant Brownfield Opportunity Area (BOA), you add clarity when factoring in the role of Big Government.
State and local governing bodies have a lot on their plate and wade through a lot of red tape. Some members are more fluent about certain concepts than other concepts. Creating a designation, you foster clarity and clarity triggers action among the entire governmental body.
For instance, when tax incremental financing districts (TIF) became prevalent years ago, the concept added much-needed clarity to a funding concept that now brought focus to the table. It served as a precise, niche program that state and local officials could comprehend, get their arms around.
It became regenerative as a host of new TIF districts were established across urban landscapes in the U.S. The districts were established, then funded, properly rehabilitated and put back into vibrant end use to drive new taxes, economic prosperity and social enhancement.
The advent of a BOA is akin to the TIF district as you have a program that state and local representatives can see—on paper—comprehend and react. In Big Government, clarity is our friend in a mecca where nebulousness often rules. BOAs get officials thinking about properties in a certain way.
This comes to mind when considering New York’s continued acknowledgement of BOAs and their ramifications for smart growth and reuse. The state activated the program in 2003, paced by the Superfund/Brownfield law. Under the auspices of the New York Dept. of State, BOA establishment provides municipalities and community-based organizations with assistance, up to 90% of the eligible project costs, to complete revitalization plans and implementation strategies for areas or communities affected by the presence of multiple brownfield sites, and site assessments for strategic brownfield sites.
Following two years of work, a BOA called West Shore on Staten Island is making inroads. The 179-acre parcel, designated a BOA, is proof positive that “communities across the state are revitalizing vacant brownfield sites and these designations provide the resources to make their grand visions a reality,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently said in a statement.
Recommendations from the study include major site renovations or developments for seven underutilized properties on the 179 acres, roadway consolidation and infrastructure improvements, and expanded public transit that will serve the Amazon and IKEA facilities.
The study paid careful attention to creating a district flood resiliency plan, which anticipates flooding issues associated with sea-level rising water in the West Shore’s low-lying areas that currently have limited sewer and stormwater infrastructure.
It also made numerous recommendations for improving business opportunities in the area, including blanket permitting, new public-private partnerships for service and unique tax incentives.
In order to qualify for the BOA designation, officials submit a comprehensive revitalization strategy to the New York Department of State, which administers the program and determines if the proposed projects meet the requirements. Cuomo said the grant allows local officials to bring “much needed change” to neglected communities.
“By dedicating resources to effectively plan for future remediation and redevelopment, we are ushering in a new, sustainable era” for Staten Island, said state Sen. Andrew Lanza (R-Staten Island).
Cuomo’s official BOA designation provides the Staten Island Economic Development Corp. (SIEDC) with the following tools to encourage redevelopment on the West Shore:
Support from the Department of State to municipalities and community organizations to pursue implementation of BOA plans;
Possible priority and preference for state grants and financial assistance for projects located within the BOA;
Remove uncertainty associated with investment in an emerging market;
Developers that participate in the Brownfield Cleanup Program (BCP) to remediate and redevelop sites in a designated BOA are eligible for a tax credit “bump-up” of up to 5 percent if the development conforms to the BOA plan.
Communities may apply to enter the BOA program across three steps:
Step 1: Pre-Nomination Study – This provides a basic and preliminary analysis of the area affected by brownfield sites including: a description and justification of the study area and associated boundaries; a basic description and understanding of current land use and zoning; the delineation and description of existing brownfield sites and other underutilized properties; and a description of the area’s potential for revitalization.
Step 2: Nomination – This provides an in-depth and thorough description and analysis, including an economic and market trends analysis, of existing conditions, opportunities, and reuse potential for properties located in the proposed BOA with an emphasis on the identification and reuse potential of strategic sites that are catalysts for revitalization. The Nomination concludes with a description of key findings and recommendations to advance redevelopment of strategic sites and to revitalize the area.
Step 3: Implementation Strategy – This provides a description of the full range of techniques and actions, ranging from actions and projects that can be undertaken immediately to those which have a longer time-frame, that are necessary to implement the area-wide plan and to ensure that proposed uses and improvements materialize. Site assessments on strategic brownfield sites may be eligible for funding if environmental data is required.
Legislators are busy people. Programs with designations, such as TIFs and BOAs—that are all carefully mapped out with clear, robust details—have the power to provide the clarity that Big Government requires to first comprehend it, and then act accordingly.