The right step

Published 4:51 pm Saturday, August 16, 2008

By Staff
At first glance, it may not seem that important. Then again, it may be an important economic-development step for Washington and Beaufort County.
Earlier this week, the Washington City Council extended its lease with Impressions Marketing Group for the property that the company occupies (the former Hamilton Beach site on Springs Road) for a year. So, the lease has been extended. Big deal. Yes, it just could be a big deal.
According to a memorandum from City Manager James C. Smith to Mayor Judy Meier Jennette and the council, negotiations have “essentially been completed” with the Beaufort County Committee of 100, Impressions Marketing Group and Hamilton Beach regarding the sale of the building to the Committee of 100, leasing the building to Impressions Marketing Group and continuing environmental-contamination responsibilities on the part of Hamilton Beach.
Resolving those matters successfully should provide Impressions Marketing Group an opportunity to expand its operations at the Springs Road site. That should mean more jobs, which would be good news during a time of an ailing economy.
To help make that expansion possible, the city is seeking to participate in the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ brownfields program. The city wants to participate in the program so it can proceed with its plans to sell the former Hamilton Beach property to the Beaufort County Committee of 100. The Committee of 100, as a prospective developer, has submitted an application to participate in the brownfields program.
Approximately 10 years ago, environmental contamination was discovered on the property.
The city is on the right track with its desire to participate in the brownfields program.
The brownfields program helps facilitate redevelopment of contaminated land by alleviating liability for prospective developers, thereby simplifying the process of obtaining loans for redevelopment projects.
If the city’s application is approved, the city and DENR will work together to develop a brownfields agreement specific to the property in question. Under such an agreement, a developer agrees to perform actions that DENR deems necessary to make the property suitable for the proposed reuse of the property, according to the memorandum. In exchange, DENR agrees to limit the liability of the prospective developer to those actions required in the agreement.
For Impressions Market Group to expand its Washington operations at their current location, the contamination at the site must be properly and adequately cleaned up.
Councilman Archie Jennings, during a brief interview last month, said by participating in the brownfields program, the Committee of 100 “gets a full assessment and a determination of the full extent of contamination.” The city, with its participation in the program, will get a “clean bill of health” in regard to the property it retains, he said.
That “clean bill of health” could result in a healthier local economy. By participating in the brownfields program, the city could help bring more “green” to that economy.
So, the contaminated property gets “cleaned up” and the economy just may get a boost.
Sounds like a win-win situation.