The passing of Ohio’s new biennial budget at the end of June 2021 brought highly welcomed relief for communities across Ohio searching for funding to revitalize blighted properties. The budget, passed by the Ohio General Assembly and signed by Gov. Mike DeWine, includes $350 million for the cleanup, remediation, and revitalization of brownfields, and $150 million for the demolition of vacant and abandoned commercial and residential buildings.
By definition, a brownfield site is an abandoned, idled, or under-used industrial, commercial, or institutional property where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by known or potential releases of hazardous substances or petroleum. The funding includes $1.5 million for each of Ohio’s 88 counties, with $1 million available for the remediation of brownfields, and the remaining $500,000 allotted for the demolition of commercial and residential buildings and improvements to properties that are not brownfields but are adjacent to brownfields sites. The remaining funds for both programs ($262M for brownfields, $106M for demolition) will be awarded to projects on a first-come, first-served basis. Both programs will be administered by the newly rechristened Ohio Department of Development (ODOD), formerly the Ohio Development Services Agency (ODSA), which also administers the current Abandoned Gas Station Grant Program. The program is expected to begin accepting applications by September 2021.
For brownfields legislation in Ohio, 2021 has been an important year. In February, House Bill 143 (HB143) and Senate Bill 84 (SB84) were introduced in the Ohio House of Representatives and the Ohio Senate, respectively. The new bills propose dedicated funding to the Clean Ohio Revitalization Fund (CORF) using the state’s excess liquor profits. CORF was a highly successful program which, between 2002 and 2013, provided state funding to revitalize brownfields. Before funding was depleted in 2013, nearly $800 million in brownfield revitalization funds were invested in Ohio communities. Additionally, the bills expand the definition of eligible applicants to include land reutilization corporations, or “land banks.” This is in addition to the entities already defined as eligible applicants by CORF, which include counties, townships, municipal corporations, port authorities; conservancy districts, park districts, or other similar park authorities; nonprofit organizations, or organizations for profit that have entered into an agreement with a public entity.
More recently, Senate Bill 83, which was passed in late May and is currently in House Committee review, provides $150,000 from the General Revenue Fund for the 2021 fiscal year to be used by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) to conduct, in conjunction with Ohio public universities, a study to determine where brownfield sites are located in Ohio.
Introduction of this funding is certainly exciting news for the continued revitalization of Ohio communities. The $500 million in initial brownfield funding provided in the new state budget should jump-start revitalization efforts in Ohio, with the pending legislation providing a sound financial platform for future assessment and clean-up efforts. We are closely following these developments and will provide updates as they become available. For more information about these changes and for assistance with brownfields in Ohio, please contact any of CEC’s Ohio Voluntary Action Program (VAP) Certified Professionals: