YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Western Reserve Port Authority approved accepting, subject to certain conditions being met, the former Republic Steel site during its meeting Wednesday morning.
Since last August, the port authority has been in discussions with BDM Warren Steel Holdings LLC, which is donating the approximately 800-acre property, said John Moliterno, port authority CEO.
BDM initially approached JobsOhio, a private corporation the state created to lead its economic development efforts, about accepting the property but was referred to the port authority, Moliterno said.
The transfer is conditioned on:
- Final approval by Moliterno and WRPA consultants of the amount and location of the property being donated and the Trumbull County approved legal descriptions of the donated property.
- Final approval of an environmental agreement (including without limitation the terms and specifications related to the borrow pit described therein) by Moliterno and the consultants, and the execution thereof.
- Final approval of the deed of conveyance and all other closing documents (including without limitation assignment of leases) by the CEO and the WRPA consultants, and the execution thereof.
- Resolution of ownership of the bridge over the Mahoning River on the north side of the property near Dover Street and access to a public street from such bridge on terms satisfactory to Moliterno and the consultants.
- Receipt before closing of a Phase I environmental report covering the portion of the donated property west of the Mahoning River, if deemed necessary by the CEO and the WRPA consultants to provide additional liability protection by establishing the bona fide purchaser defense codified in the Ohio Revised Code.
The site touches five Trumbull County political subdivisions: Warren, Warren Township, Howland, Lordstown and Weathersfield Township.
“This is an extensive property,” Moliterno said. “This is the largest piece of property that JobsOhio will have to show.”
JobsOhio partner Team NEO, an economic development entity covering an 18-county region that includes Trumbull County, “is excited about this as well because they have no other site this size that they have available to sell,” he added.
The property is divided into four sub-pieces based on their environmental risk, said attorney Joe Koncelik, a former Ohio Environmental Protection Agency director enlisted by the port authority to assess risks posed by the property and develop the strategy for addressing them. The landfill property has the largest remaining liability because it has two landfills that have yet to go through final closure and certification that the landfills have been properly capped and closed, Koncelik said.
BDM has submitted a final closure plan to Ohio EPA for approval that includes a $5.7 million trust to execute that plan.
The former Republic site, last operated by RG Steel, makes up roughly 300 acres of the site. That property has gone though Ohio EPA’s voluntary action program. Last month, BDM submitted a no further action letter for the agency’s approval and documentation is under review, Koncelik said. If the agency confirms the property is in good shape, it will issue a covenant not to sue.
The site also includes greenfield property that had “no industrial activity on it whatsoever,” which is ready for site development once WRPA accepts the property. It also includes a portion in Lordstown that brownfield environmental consultant Jim Smith conducted a Phase 1 study on that found no environmental issues.
Koncelik said he and attorney Dan Daniluk are still in discussions with BDM regarding additional compliance obligations estimated at $370,000 over the next five years. He acknowledged that accepting the property carried “some risk” but put it at “the low end of the spectrum” based on the work already done.
WRPA is “taking a little bit of a leap” but “the odds are in our favor,” Moliterno said.
Board member Ron Klingle, CEO and chairman of Avalon Holdings Corp., which counts a waste management company among its operations, agreed with the low risk assessment.
“I had one of my engineers take a very in-depth look at this piece of property,” he said. “There’s very little risk associated with this. This is the easiest type of landfill to clean up.”
“The reward far outweighs the risk,” said Marty Loney, WRPA board chairman.
Moliterno said JobsOhio sees “tremendous upside” to development of the site and has expressed is willingness to help the port authority address issues at the site. WRPA already has requested assistance with a site plan to determine what could be built first and what direction could be taken with the site.
Additionally, the port authority board approved buying 42.35 acres just north of the airport from James and Nancy Alderman of Vienna Township to assist Youngstown Air Reserve Station with the construction of a new main entrance.
The port authority was enlisted to purchase the property when the price the Aldermans sought for the land exceeded its appraised value. The port authority is paying $423,500 for the land, for which it is being reimbursed by entities including the Eastern Ohio Military Affairs Commission and the state of Ohio.
The U.S. Air Force has allocated $8.5 million for the new entrance, which is being developed to address safety concerns, Moliterno said. The existing entrance is too close to the road.
The gate has been at its current location since the base was established in 1953, Master Sgt. Bob Barko said. As now configured, there is a 10-car-length stretch from the road to the main gate. The new gate will expand that to 60 car lengths.
Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio. May 19, 2021. George Nelson.