Ottawa County Launches New Program to Battle Brownfields and Blight

West Olive, MI – Ottawa County is economically diverse, with strong tourism, agriculture, and manufacturing industries.  But the industrial history upon which we built our thriving economy left a legacy of not only economic strength, but contaminated or underutilized properties in need of revitalization. Even today, there are tool and die shops, dry cleaning businesses, and gas stations, to name a few, that may be leave behind contamination once those operations cease. Contaminated, underutilized, or blighted properties like these all qualify as “brownfields”, and that means developers may be saddled with extra costs if they want to site their project on brownfield property.

The Ottawa County Board of Commissioners recognizes that burden, and recently approved the creation of a new, unique, and locally driven financial tool to help defray those costs. Dubbed the Brownfield Incentive Program, or BIP, the fund was established to help incentivize the redevelopment of brownfield properties with local funding.  The fund, managed by the Ottawa County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority (OCBRA), consists of certain revenues generated under the Brownfield Redevelopment Act, and from an Urban Cooperation Agreement with the Ottawa County Land Bank Authority, which provided funding for the BIP because of their shared goal of revitalizing vacant and underutilized land in Ottawa County.

Typically, using grants or loans from the United States Environmental Protection Agency or the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, or utilizing tax increment financing under an approved Brownfield Plan, are methods by which developers offset the costs of brownfield redevelopment. However, grants are difficult to secure consistently, and loan funding is limited.  It is for this reason the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners approved the creation of the BIP. While Ottawa County is fortunate not to have the extensive issues with blight and contaminated properties that many large municipalities do, it is still best to take a proactive and aggressive approach to redeveloping brownfield properties.