Brownfields Study Group

Engaging Real Estate Lenders in Brownfields Redevelopment Projects

Financing can make or break a redevelopment project; however, lenders are often wary of the environmental liabilities associated with brownfields redevelopments. In order to encourage lenders to finance these projects, Wisconsin state law exempts lenders from environmental liabilities for a range of lending activities, if they meet certain statutory conditions.

In its 2015 report, Investing in Wisconsin, the Brownfields Study Group (BSG) recognized that Wisconsin’s liability exemption for lenders had recently turned 20 years old, and noted that the lending industry had evolved significantly over those two decades. The BSG recommended that a subset of the group meet with stakeholders to examine whether the exemption remains useful and relevant in light of current lending practices and regulations.

Between May 2016 and April 2017, a group of Wisconsin DNR personnel, lenders, attorneys, and trade organizations met five times to discuss, in a public forum, the various components of the state’s lender liability exemption and analyze whether the current exemption meets the needs of lenders and the public. In April 2017, this group of professionals formed a list of recommendations for the BSG, which will consider the proposed items at an upcoming public meeting.

During this effort, the Wisconsin DNR renewed its outreach efforts and strengthened partnerships with the lending community. The Wisconsin DNR reviewed its lender factsheets and updated and republished several guidance documents. The Wisconsin Bankers Association helped the Wisconsin DNR reach the WBA members by authoring informational articles in its membership publications and by distributing Wisconsin DNR’s guidance at its compliance forums, and including information in teaching materials for its compliance courses. Wisconsin DNR staff continue to reach out to bankers and lenders at statewide conferences and via Green Team meetings.

External Advisory Groups Help Guide, Shape DNR Policy

The Remediation and Redevelopment Program puts to good use the skills and knowledge of its customers by working together in a collaborative manner through a number of External Advisory Groups (EAG). In fact, it’s one of the core values of the agency. And with funding from the US EPA’s 128(a) grant, the Brownfields and Outreach Section assists these groups with messaging and keeping customers and the public informed.

Now in its 20th year of advising the agency is the Brownfields Study Group (BSG). The study group is one of the oldest EAGs, created in 1998 at the direction of the Governor and State Legislature to evaluate Wisconsin’s brownfields initiatives and recommend improvements, as well as propose additional incentives for brownfields redevelopment. The BSG continues to drive important brownfields policy changes in Wisconsin and among its successes can count the creation of the Site Assessment Grant Program, which awarded more than $18 million to more than 200 communities before it was transferred to a different agency. The group was also instrumental in developing the One Cleanup Program Agreement with Region 5 EPA, the most comprehensive agreement of its kind, which helps expedite cleanups of properties across the state.

Continue reading “External Advisory Groups Help Guide, Shape DNR Policy”

Updates to Wisconsin Spill Law Help Promote Land Recycling

Last November, the Governor signed 2017 Act 70, which modified Wis. Stat. ch. 292 (Wisconsin’s “Spill Law”) to help encourage brownfield cleanup and redevelopment. The Act was based on recommendations made by the Brownfields Study Group in its 2015 report, Investing in Wisconsin.

Modifications to the Spill Law include:

  • Clarification that the off-site liability exemption applies if there is vapor intrusion impacting an off-site property (Wis. Stat. § 292.13(1m))
  • Changing the definition of “property” as it is used for Voluntary Party Liability Exemption (VPLE). The new definition is “…an area of real property that is included in an application to obtain an exemption under this section, made up of a legally identifiable parcel or legally identifiable contiguous parcels created in compliance with applicable laws.” (Wis. Stat. § 292.15(1)(c))
  • Specifying the process for changing the footprint for the VPLE “property” after an application has been submitted if the “property” is subdivided, combined with other properties or otherwise changed. (Wis. Stat. § 292.15(2)(at))

The DNR’s Remediation and Redevelopment Program’s role with brownfields redevelopment is not directly affected by many of the other provisions in the Act, such as changes to tax incremental districts (TID) requirements for environmental remediation; expansion of the property-assessed clean energy (PACE) financing option to include brownfield revitalization projects; expanded options to address tax delinquent brownfields and other provisions.

Program staff will make necessary changes to VPLE documents and webpages and work with the program’s Land Recycling Team to identify other actions needed to implement the changes.

More information on the bill, including descriptions of the provisions in the Act, can be found in Senate Bill 173.

Brownfields Study Group Meeting September 15

The Brownfields Study Group will meet on September 15 in West Bend. This group was created roughly 20 years ago at the behest of the Legislature to help the DNR develop solutions and strategies to increase the number of contaminated properties that were cleaned up and returned to productive use. The group meets regularly and has members from the private sector, local governments, non-profits and others.

For an agenda and other meeting details, please contact Mick Skwarok, (608) 266-9263.

Brownfields Study Group Co-Chair Dave Misky Honored With Public Policy Award

Citing his creative solutions to solving complex redevelopment challenges, the Public Policy Forum has chosen David Misky, Assistant Executive Director-Secretary for the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee (RACM) and the Co-Chair of the Wisconsin Brownfields Study Group, as the recipient of the 2016 Norman N. Gill Award for Individual Excellence. The award will be presented at the Forum’s “Salute to Local Government” event on June 21, 2016 in Milwaukee.

Misky joined RACM in 2003 and was appointed Assistant Executive Director-Secretary in 2008. He led the agency’s redevelopment efforts in the Menomonee Valley, the Villard Library project, the 440th Local Redevelopment Plan and on efforts at Century City and the Harbor District. Under his leadership, RACM has been a national leader in securing federal brownfield grants and Milwaukee has become an EPA “showcase community.” He also helped to organize a unique Brownfield Revolving Loan Fund and has played a leading role in the city’s efforts to aggressively address tax delinquent and blighted properties.

Established in 1913 as a good government watchdog, the Public Policy Forum is a private, non-profit, independent research organization dedicated to enhancing the quality of public policy decision-making in southeast Wisconsin.

As Co-Chair of the Brownfields Study Group, Misky helps lead a wide-ranging group of professionals evaluating the state’s current brownfields policies and, where necessary, recommending changes and proposing additional incentives for the cleanup and reuse of abandoned or underused properties with real or perceived contamination.

UW-Whitewater Report Identifies Big Benefits from Brownfield Reclamation

Since 1998, Wisconsin has invested $121.4 million in the remediation of 703 contaminated properties, according to a recent UW-Whitewater study. The study says this investment leveraged tens of millions of dollars in local and federal incentives, and recouped nearly $1.8 billion from enhanced economic activity. This is a 14-fold return on investment, on top of the public health and environmental benefits generated by these cleanup projects.

The 703 projects that received state assistance are a small, but important, portion of the 15,000-plus state properties that have been cleaned up and put back into productive use over the past 20 years. These brownfield properties were once some of the toughest projects to tackle. They were dilapidated, destitute and, often, significantly contaminated. These properties needed a public push to get going.

The UW-Whitewater study, prepared by the University’s Fiscal and Economic Research Center for the Brownfields Study Group and the Wisconsin Economic Development Institute, calculates that local governments in Wisconsin gain $88.5 million annually from redeveloped brownfields.

The report shows that $1.00 of state funding for brownfields projects leverages $27.25 in total economic growth funding. In other words, $121.4 million from the state has generated $3.3 billion in direct total investment. The report also identified 29,883 direct new and retained permanent jobs related to completed projects in the 703 studied, and says another 9,107 jobs are planned at projects still underway.