Thursday, February 22, 2018
Editorials

Brownfield program good for Brooksville, business

The city of Brooksville is smart to try to pinpoint brownfields in anticipation of new greenbacks. A just-announced $400,000 federal grant will help identify contaminated land in the city that eventually could bring redevelopment opportunities.

Identifying property tainted by leaking gas tanks, dry cleaning chemicals or other contaminants is just the first step in making the sites eligible for further financial assistance for clean up.

There are plenty of places to look. As Times staff writer Logan Neill reported, the Public Works Department identified 25 abandoned gas stations and petroleum storage sites, railroad rights of way, vacant manufacturing and industrial sites, and city parcels formerly used by the department.

The city blamed the environmental uncertainty for contributing to an inability to redevelop blighted properties. It's a legitimate gripe. Not many investors want to acquire land without knowing what lies beneath it. The Environmental Protection Agency grant should help answer that unknown.

Not everyone has embraced that knowledge, however. The cities of New Port Richey and Zephyrhills in Pasco, for instance, resisted widespread brownfield designations. There, a grant awarded to the county is allowing for a study of contamination along north-south highways. Residents, though, balked, expressing fears the environmental designation could bring a public stigma leading to devalued properties.

Such logic is short-sighted. Surrounding areas show that the status can mean new high-end retail or simply better housing. The most visible example of a redeveloped brownfield site in the region is the Ikea furniture store in Tampa's Ybor City that replaced a former cannery. In Pinellas, a $600,000 brownfield grant allowed that county to clean up illegal landfills in the Dansville neighborhood outside of Largo with the property turned into home lots for affordable housing.

The brownfields program translates to a cleaner environment and renewed business investment to areas needing help. Kudos to Brooksville for embracing the opportunity.

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