EPA stand may delay Norris School project
The sale of two county-owned lots to a non-profit group that wants to build a community center in Elmwood Township has been delayed by a notice from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency warning that it might seek reimbursement at a later date for its cost in cleaning up the contaminated site.
The County Board on Tuesday agreed to delay sale of two lots to the Grand Traverse Recreation and Arts Center (GTRAC) that are adjacent to the now-closed Norris School at the corner of Cherry Bend Road and M-22 in Greilickville. GTRAC was the only bidder for the two county lots at auction, offering to buy them for $44,000. It was also the lone bidder for the sale of Norris School, which is owned by the Traverse City Area Public Schools district.
GTRAC is working with the county Brownfield Redevelopment Authority toward an eventual $15 million project that will include construction of a new community center over the Superfund site. The area was severely contaminated by the dumping of cleaning solvents when it was owned by the former Grand Traverse Overall company.
“The Brownfield (Authority’s) position is in strong strong support of the future plan,” said commissioner David Shiflett, the County Board’s representative on the Brownfield Authority board.
However, the project has been placed in jeopardy because the EPA will not provide a “comfort letter” stating that it has no intentions of attempting to recoup some of its cleanup costs from proceeds generated by the project.
Eric Helzer, an engineer with AKT Peerless, believes the EPA will eventually capitulate. “This was not brought to us until last week ... we were proceeding as normal, and that has provided a significant challenge for us,” he told commissioners. “Not all the parties at the EPA understand what we are trying to accomplish here.”
AKT Peerless has been hired by the Brownfield Authority to oversee projects. However, on Tuesday, the company was representing GTRAC. Brownfield Authority director Trudy Galla said no independent engineering firm was hired by the county to review GTRAC’s application, although another engineering firm, Envirologic, will represent the county’s interest as the plan goes forward.
Commissioners extended the closing date until Dec. 31, 2012. They also approved a Brownfield redevelopment plan, which will allow GTRAC to apply for grants and lowinterest loans to prepare the site for reclamation. Both votes were 6-0, with commissioner James Schaub not in attendance.
— by Alan Campbell