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Study shows impact of cleaning brownfields

WARREN – Cleaning up a brownfield site pays off when it comes to increasing property values and housing prices, according to a new study from the Western Reserve Port Authority.

Greta Frost, a Youngstown State University student interning with the port authority, prepared the study, “Brownfield Impacts on Surrounding Property Values and Overall Economic Health of Cities,” this summer.

Frost looked at property values of several sites in Trumbull and Mahoning counties to determine how remediation impacts certain areas. Her research shows an 18 percent increase in property values exists immediately surrounding remediated brownfield sites in the Valley. However, property values for sites adjacent to brownfield areas that were not cleaned up were 66 percent lower than properties one mile away.

“(This study) is significant because a lot of remediation funding has changed and is harder to get,” Frost said. “This shows there’s a reason to continue remediating or cleaning these properties. It pays off and increases their values. Having the money to clean them will make a difference.”

Sarah Lown, public finance manager for the Northeast Ohio Development and Finance Authority, or NEODFA, the port authority’s economic development arm, said a brownfield area is an industrial or commercial site where reusing or redeveloping it could be hindered by the presence, or potential presence, of a hazardous substance. She said cleaning brownfield areas encourages redevelopment and decreases the number of abandoned or vacant properties. It also increases the tax base, she added.

Government funding for economic development goes through JobsOhio, and Frost said because changes have been made regarding disbursement of money for remediation projects, it’s important to have studies like the one she completed to show the value of investing in brownfield cleanup efforts in the Valley to secure funding.

The port authority used funds from a $600,000 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant to commission the study.

Frost explained she looked at areas that border brownfields up to one mile away in quarter-mile increments, before and after remediation, using assessed values from each county auditor’s office. Her research covers a 17-year-period from 1999 to this year. Her research included nine brownfield sites, including the former St. Joseph Hospital property in Warren, three sites that were either remediated or redeveloped, or both, and five control sites.

She said from 1999 to this year, there has been a 10.45 percent increase in housing prices following remediation of a brownfield sites, a finding consistent with other research done for the area.

(Published August 22, 2016 by Virginia Shank, Tribune Chronicle)