$ available to clean up abandoned gas stations

By Frank Lewis - [email protected]

If you’re like most of us you have wondered how long old abandoned gas stations can sit, unattended, and rotting. Now comes word from the Ohio Development Services Agency, that more than $1 million has been awarded to seven communities to cleanup abandoned gas stations. Projects were evaluated on the impact cleanup will have on the environment, the community, and the local economy.

“Bringing new life to high traffic corners adds to the success hometown businesses and local communities,” David Goodman, director of the Ohio Development Services Agency, said.

Political subdivisions including county land banks are eligible for the Abandoned Gas Station Cleanup Program.

The Daily Times inquired of the city of Portsmouth, in light of the establishment of the Land Bank, if it would be possible for them to apply for those funds for locations that have become eyesores locally.

“The City would need to foreclose on the properties to be eligible for the program,” Jason Kester, Director of the Southern Ohio Port Authority, said. “We identified two potential properties that would be strategic to some of the initiatives we are working on: one – the Buster’s Bi-Lo across from the Fish Bowl (part of east end redevelopment) and two – the former Dillow’s gas station on Scioto Trail, located on the west side of the road. We’ve (City, Health Department, SOPA) had a number of planning discussions on the grant program.”

That may not be as easy as it sounds.

“However, per our environmental law attorney in Columbus advises prior to foreclosure the City needed to complete an Environmental I,” Kester said. “The City completed the environmental I on the property on 8th (across from Fish Bowl). Our plan was to do the environmental diligence, foreclose, apply to the program and proceed to the next station on Scioto Trail. We decided to wait to foreclose until the land bank is up and running, there could be some benefit to the land bank foreclosing versus the City Land Reutilization Program (LRP). We’re probably back to the City LRP, but we’re waiting to see how a couple things develop.”

He said local authorities met with EPA, multiple environmental firms, and included most of the gas stations in their brownfield inventory, which generates additional points on most EPA applications.

“The state has not had very many applications to this program,” Kester said. “A month or two or so ago, it was less than 10. The issue being foreclosing on and being in possession of the gas stations, since the environmental liability as a potentially responsible party, thus liable for all clean-up costs, passes from the polluter to any subsequent owner. If you don’t follow the steps, you can’t get the covenant not to sue which causes a lot of new and exotic problems.”

Kester said, by the end of this month, they should be able to have more clarity on the appropriate vehicle for foreclosure.

Ohio Development Services Agency said applications will be available online at https://www.development.ohio.gov/cs/cs_agsc.htm for the second competitive funding round starting Monday, August 8, 2016, and are due to the Ohio Development Services Agency by close of business on Friday, September 9, 2016. Non-competitive Fast Track grants are awarded on an on-going basis.

By Frank Lewis

[email protected]

Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.

Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.