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Breathing new life into Michigan brownfield sites

A bill proposed by Michigan state legislator Mike Kowall (R-White Lake Township) aims to breathe new life into the state's many "brownfield sites." According to the environmental protection agency's (EPA) website, a brownfield site is one that is not easily repurposed, reused or expanded upon due to the "presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant."

Brownfield sites are notoriously hard to develop because of the added expense and hassle associated with ridding the property of leftover industrial waste or contaminants left behind by previous commercial use. The proposed legislation - Senate Bill 1210 - would cut through some of the statutory red tape involved in developing once useless brownfield land by making it easier to get financing for costly land renewal, restoration or rehabilitation projects.

The proposed legislation would make it easier for brownfield development projects, particularly those in core urban areas, to begin, providing much-needed jobs and an influx of capital to Michigan's still-struggling economy. Of particular interest in those same urban areas will be the bill's classification of privately owned parking towers and garages as infrastructure that could result in reimbursement for the property's developers. Reimbursements would come from "tax increment financing," a way in which to use local property and school tax increases proportionate to the value added by the redevelopment to fund the project itself.

The bill would also expand the blanket "infrastructure" label to include such things as stormwater management systems and would offer incentives for developers interested in restoring historic structures to their former glory. The legislation has passed through the Senate Economic Development Committee and is expected to be heard by the full Michigan state senate when it reconvenes on September 11.

Source: Crain's Detroit Business, "Bill may boost brownfields" Amy Lane, September 3, 2012

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