THE U.S. CONFERENCE OF MAYORS RELEASES SECOND ANNUAL REPORT ON THE STATUS OF BROWNFIELDS IN 223 U.S. CITIES
"Recycling America’s Land" Finds U.S. Cities with Thousands of Untapped Acreage of Brownfield Sites along with Potential Benefits of Redevelopment
Washington, DC, April 27, 1999 – The United States Conference of Mayors and the Environmental Protection Agency released a report today on the status of Brownfield sites in 223 American cities. The report indicates that Brownfields are a major problem for cities large and small and the lack of funds to cleanup these sites was the most frequently identified obstacle in recycling these lands. Brownfields are abandoned or underutilized properties where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by real or perceived environmental contamination.
The second annual survey concluded that 180 cities estimated that more than 178,000 acres of brownfields sites exist, a figure representing the combined total land area of Atlanta, Seattle, and San Francisco. Fort Wayne Mayor Paul Helmke, Immediate Past President of the Conference of Mayors, said that Brownfields Redevelopment incorporates one of the countries most pressing environmental concerns, the loss of open space brought about by urbanization.
"We recycle glass, paper and aluminum cans, but as a nation, we don’t fully recycle our land. This pattern of throwing away our land must change if we are to create more livable communities," said Mayor Helmke.
Mayor Helmke said the report summarizes major impediments which also include liability issues and the need for environmental assessment to determine the extent of the contamination. Also appearing with Mayor Helmke are Dayton Mayor Michael Turner, Co-Chair of the Conference’s Brownfields Task Force, and Edward Thompson, Senior Vice President of American Farmland Trust.
Mayor Turner highlighted the potential benefits of redeveloping brownfields sites which include tax base growth, job creation, and neighborhood revitalization. the importance of redeveloping brownfield sites back into productive use for economic vitality and to encourage citizens to live in the cities.
Edward Thompson of the American Farmland Trust who joined Mayors Helmke and Turner, stressed the importance of recycling brownfield properties back into productive use as one means of helping preserve farmland and other greenspaces.
"Today, more than half the value of American farm production, including three-quarters of our fruits and vegetables, comes form metropolitan area counties," said Thompson.
Among major survey findings were:
- Two-thirds of the cities surveyed estimated that if their local brownfields sites were redeveloped, it would bring in additional tax revenues between $955 million and $2.7 billion annually;
- More than 675,000 jobs could be created on former brownfields sites;
- More than 50% of the survey responses were from cities with populations below 100,000;
- More than 75% of the cities called for additional assistance such as infrastructure upgrades, funds to demolish obsolete buildings, tax incentives, and low interest loans among others; and
- 115 cities estimated that collectively they could support an additional 3.4 million people in their city, a figure nearly equal to the population of Los Angeles.
The Conference survey found that states have increased their participation in working with cities on brownfield issues but that there were few city-state partnerships to deal with the issue of sprawl.For more information, please contact Katie Cullen at 202.293.7330.