Grants Available to Stimulate Development in Manatee County

Realize the True Potential of a Property Without the Uncertainty of Environmental Cleanup Costs!

Do you know of a property in Manatee County that would be great to develop, but you are concerned that it might have contamination from petroleum or other hazardous substances? You may be eligible for a portion of the $1 million in brownfields assessment grants that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently awarded to the Sarasota-Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) and its Coalition Partners. The Florida Brownfields program can provide additional benefits, such as $2,500 for every new employee hired, a loan guarantee, and a sales tax credit for building materials.

Typically eligible sites include former gas stations, dry cleaners, junkyards, automotive repair shops, and others. Representative applicants to the program include community and neighborhood groups, non-profit community development organizations, as well as private business owners and developers.

Putting sites back into the development arena
The Tamiami Trail (U S Highway 41) Brownfields Revitalization Initiative provides resources to public and private developers to remove the environmental stigma on properties that would otherwise be viable redevelopment projects. These EPA and Florida brownfields grants are used to advance local economic development, entice businesses to move to the area, create open and green space, implement environmental justice, and support sustainable redevelopment and historic preservation efforts throughout Sarasota and Manatee counties. The Coalition Partnership is intent on stimulating development to put properties, which were once out of play due to suspected or actual contamination, back into the development arena with a clean slate.

Shedding the Stigma of Brownfields Sites
Sometimes the mere possibility of contamination on a site presents an environmental stigma that prevents interest in redeveloping a property. Technically called brownfields, these parcels often are abandoned or underutilized sites, but possibly could be clear of contaminants. These sites become a burden to the community in the form of unpaid property taxes, illegal dumping, unmaintained buildings, and a potential for future environmental health risks. The effort to investigate the presence of contamination and estimate any clean up costs can be overwhelming.

With the help of federal and state funding and incentives, though, hundreds of brownfields redevelopment projects across the state and country are helping to improve the quality of life for local communities, including higher property values, improved employment opportunities, a larger and more economically stable customer base, as well as better access to transportation, health care, schools and fresh foods.

The EPA’s Coalition Assessment grant is comprised of two parts: $700,000 to be used for sites with potential petroleum substances, and $300,000 to be used for sites with other hazardous substances. The Coalition Partnership includes the cities of Bradenton, North Port, Palmetto, Sarasota, and Venice, as well as Sarasota and Manatee counties. This partnership also extends to the Florida Department of Transportation, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, chambers of commerce, and other interested stakeholders to ensure all community needs are being considered.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection incentives include a job bonus refund of up to $2,500 for each new job created; a loan guarantee program for up to 5 years; an expedited permitting process; a sales tax credit on building materials used for construction for certain projects in brownfields areas; a voluntary cleanup tax credit on corporate income of up to 75 percent on annual voluntary cleanup costs, up to $500,000 in tax credits per year; Enterprise Zone Program which provides job creation tax credits, business equipment sales tax refund and electrical energy sales tax exemption; and local option sales surtax exemptions for sales made in urban infill and redevelopment areas.

Seeing Results
One of the earliest applications of the program came from the Palmetto Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA). “The MPO and EPA educated us on the program prior to its implementation so we were ready to move with our Riverside Drive Project,” said Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant. “They assisted with both environmental ground evaluations and an asbestos study on the old dilapidated Shell Station.”

The CRA project incorporates a number of potential future grant opportunities from a myriad of government programs, but the Agency needed the technical expertise of the MPO/EPA partnership to understand Brownfields, especially in the form of an old service station. “A big thanks goes to Mike Maholtz, Brownfields Director, Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization; David Egetter, EPA Project Manager; and Miles Ballogg, Brownfields & Economic Development Director for Cardno TBE and consultant to the MPO.”

“Thanks to this team,” continued Bryant, “we now understand the risks and, more importantly, the opportunities that are available on the site. They were exactly what we needed to make a hard decision a lot easier, and we plan on continuing that relationship as long as possible.” The Palmetto Agency hopes that this project will eliminate blight while creating a new south to north US 41 gateway, add much needed parking spaces for the Riverside Boat Ramp, offer Low Impact Design stormwater treatment, and create new waterfront business opportunities, jobs and additional tax base.

One of the little-known benefits to these types of programs is the speed with which progress can be made. Phase I investigations are typically completed in 30 days or less. A Phase II investigation, if deemed necessary, usually is conducted within 120 days. Read the sidebar, What to Do Next, if you have a prospective property or if you want to get involved as an informed stakeholder.

Volker Reiss, Compliance Manager, City of Bradenton, Department of Planning and Community Development, has seen first hand how effective the grants can be and wants to stress the benefit this can be to the private sector. “Many people think that public community development agencies are the driving force to help improve an economy, but real and sustained community growth and vitality comes from the private sector. The public agencies merely guide, offer resources, and assist private developers and business owners who are the real change agents and job creators.”

For instance, Reiss ponders the possibilities for a keen developer of a site that previously housed the Shopping Guide, a huge property at the corner of 7th Avenue and U.S. 301 in Bradenton. The City of Bradenton is in the process of redeveloping an abandoned youth activity center site at the corner of 13th Avenue and U.S. 301. The site has languished due to potential contamination that could have come from nearby abandoned gas stations adjacent old railroad line. “We are using the MPO Coalition grant to complete the Phase 2 investigation, saving the developer thousands of dollars,” explains Reiss with resolve. “The site now is slated for a new grocery store, which will offer fresh and healthy food to an underserved part of the community, as well as local jobs. I can see great possibilities for a private developer making use of these grants in a similar way on the Shopping Guide site.”

Selecting the Sites
“In essence,” comments Tim Polk, Planning Director, City of Bradenton, “a developer can link the variety of funding mechanisms and incentives available through the national and state level programs making what was a marginal or risky investment into a very successful business, health care facility, and/or housing development.” Sites for which there is a firm plan in place for development get priority status.

Once a site is submitted the Coalition Partners review it as it pertains to the following mandatory and other criteria:
Mandatory Threshold Criteria:

  • EPA Eligibility Criteria Met
  • Full Site Access Obtained
  • Possess Potential for Timely Progress
Priority Criteria
  • Partner Priority Site
  • Economic Development Potential (return of property to tax rolls, jobs created/maintained)
  • Community Development (affordable housing, social needs, health care)
  • Open Space / Green Space
  • Green Infrastructure (habitat restoration, stormwater enhancements, watershed protection)
  • Sustainable Development & Smart Growth (such as renewable energy, LEED development, mixed-use development, transportation-oriented development)
  • Community Driven
  • Environmental Justice
“This new grant is exciting news and perfect timing for the county,” said Manatee County District 2 Commissioner, Michael Gallen. “The Commission is in the process of updating the comprehensive county development plan. We will be focusing on urban renewal and growth within our urban core, rather than sprawl to our suburbs. Smart growth principles, mixed use development and redevelopment of urban infill sites will be key, and these grants will help fund and promote this plan.”

What to Do Next:
If you know of a property in Manatee or Sarasota County that would be great to develop but you are concerned that it might have contamination from petroleum or other hazardous substances, you may be eligible for a portion of the $1 million in brownfields assessment grants that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other incentives from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection Agency.

1. Contact the following to submit your property for inclusion in the inventory of prospective sites or to become an active stakeholder in the process.

To submit your property*, complete the simple three-page application (www.mympo.org), including basic information, such as contact information of the applicant, address of the property, suspected contamination, and permission to access the site. No technical analysis or input is required, and a layperson can easily complete the information on his/her own.

To express interest as a Stakeholder, simply email or call the contact below.

Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization, Mike Maholtz, Brownfields Project Manager, 941-359-5772, mike@mympo.org.

*Note that a Potentially Responsible Party (PRP) is not eligible for grants. A PRP is defined as all owners, operators, transporters, and disposers of hazardous waste on the site. Read more: www.answers.com/topic/potentially-responsible-parties-prp#ixzz1ltMECZeu

2. For further information, including specific grant contacts, additional grant information, brownfields news and events, publications and links, visit:

EPA Brownfields Website

EPA Region 4 Brownfields Website / Brownfields Team

Florida Department of Environmental Protection Website