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Q: What is a brownfield?
A: Indiana defines a brownfield site as a parcel of real estate that is abandoned or inactive or may not be operated at its appropriate use and on which expansion or redevelopment is complicated because of the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, a contaminant, petroleum, or a petroleum product that poses a risk to human health or the environment. Many brownfields are obvious eyesores, while some are open fields that look pristine but may have formerly been occupied by a commercial or industrial operation that caused contamination. When fear of known or suspected contamination is hindering transfer, reuse or redevelopment of a property, the site may be considered a brownfield.
Q: Does the State of Indiana have an inventory list of the brownfields located in Indiana?
A: No, the State of Indiana does not maintain an inventory list of brownfields. The State does maintain a list of sites that have entered the Indiana Brownfields Program for financial, technical or legal of assistance. The State does not maintain a “Brownfields Inventory” because such a list of properties could be deemed to unfairly stigmatize a property by somehow negatively affecting its market value. However, if a community organization or local unit of government is interested in addressing brownfields in its community, an important first step is to identify such properties and develop such a list. This can be done by considering the definition of a brownfield and simply driving through the community, asking local neighborhood organizations for input and enlisting the help of other local governmental entities, such as the health department. The next step is to prioritize the identified brownfield sites, taking into consideration local needs and desires (e.g., as identified in a community’s comprehensive plan) and a property’s redevelopment viability. Throughout the process it is important to keep in mind that educating local citizens about brownfields and involving them in long-term planning decisions is vital.
Q: What's the difference between a Brownfields Comfort Letter and a Brownfields Site Status Letter?
A: Brownfields Comfort Letters and Brownfields Site Status Letters are valuable tools offered by the Indiana Brownfields Program that can be used to address liability issues preventing brownfields transactions and redevelopment. A Brownfields Comfort Letter is not a release from liability, but explains a specific liability exemption established by statute or IDEM policy and applies the exemption to the site and letter recipient(s). In this way, a Brownfields Comfort Letter may eliminate unnecessary liability concerns for a site with no liability for current or future users. In a Brownfields Site Status Letter, site conditions are compared to objective, risk-based cleanup standards. While a Brownfields Site Status Letter is also not a release from liability, it may serve to minimize and qualify the exposure to risk for remaining liability at a site.
Q: Can delinquent property taxes on a brownfield site be reduced or waived in order to facilitate redevelopment by a new property owner?
A: The Department of Local Government Finance may cancel any property taxes assessed against real property owned by a county, township, city, town or the state in a petition requesting that the department cancel the taxes is submitted by the auditor, assessor and treasurer of the county in which the real property is located (IC 6-1.1-36.7). This provision applies to any property, regardless of whether it is a brownfield site. However, there is a specific statutory provision dealing with the waiver or reduction of delinquent taxes on a brownfield property that applies to property owners as well. See IC 6-1.1-45.5. The brownfield tax reduction or waiver statute outlines a similar process for a person that owns or desires to own a brownfield to file a petition with the county auditor seeking a reduction or waiver of the delinquent tax liability. As a part of the petition that is filed, the petitioner must seek a statement from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) that the property is a brownfield. Submittal of the form found at http://www.in.gov/ifa/files/taxreductionwaiverinfoformMay07.doc to the Indiana Brownfields Program will enable IDEM to make such a determination. In order to be eligible for reduction or waiver of taxes, the petitioner may not have contributed, or had an ownership interest in any entity that contributed, to the contamination of the property. For additional information about the state brownfield tax reduction waiver, please visit: http://www.in.gov/ifa/files/taxreductionwaiverfactsheetMay07.doc.
Q: Who is responsible for a leaking Underground Storage Tank (UST) on my property?
A: The answer depends on whether the UST was used for petroleum or other substances, when the tank was in operation, and who the current owner is. Typically, the current owner and operator is/are responsible for the remediation of a leaking UST. However, if the UST used for petroleum has not been used since November 8, 1984, the person who owned the tank immediately before the discontinuation of the use of the tank is liable under leaking UST laws. One exception is for persons who hold title to the UST to protect a security interest, such as lenders. Other liability may exist for leaking USTs, such as liability for hazardous substances if the tank was not used solely for petroleum, and liability for common law nuisance, trespass, and worker exposure.
Q: What kind of tax benefits are available for redeveloping brownfields?
A: On the federal level, originally signed into law in 1997 and recently extended through December 31, 2009, the Brownfields Tax Incentive encouraged the cleanup and reuse of brownfields by providing the following advantages to taxpaying stakeholders conducting environmental cleanup at brownfield sites:
For more details or information about this incentive, visit http://www.epa.gov/brownfields/bftaxinc.htm.
Q: How can my community take advantage of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency brownfields grant funding?
A: Through the Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act, the U.S. EPA offers brownfields assessment, revolving loan fund, and cleanup grants to eligible entities to address brownfield sites with hazardous and/or petroleum contamination. The application process is nationally competitive and typically begins annually in late fall. For more information about eligibility requirements, the application process, and other U.S. EPA funding, please visit www.epa.gov/brownfields. For information on the State’s involvement, contact Michele Oertel of the Indiana Brownfields Program at (317) 234-0235 or email@example.com.
Q: Who are my potential partners in a brownfields project?
The Town of Ligonier is in the process of recycling materials from demolition of buildings on the four-acre former Essex Wire brownfield site, which is planned for redevelopment as a river park and possibly the future home of a fire station.