Regional Brownfields Programs: Best Practices in Rural Indiana

11.08.19   Beth A. Grigsby, LPG | More by this Author

Regional Brownfields Programs: Best Practices in Rural Indiana

Tackling brownfields in a rural setting can be formidable at the local level due to limited or lack of government capacity, funding, and technical expertise. The ability to manage all of the moving parts associated with the transfer and/or redevelopment of contaminated real estate may extend past the term of a local leader with the project dying on the vine.

Rural cities and towns have the same issues as their urban counterparts, but the negative economic impacts and quality of life are more substantial for smaller communities. A common example is the proximity of vacant, blighted, multi-block industrial properties to downtown neighborhoods. Another is the loss of Main Street buildings which were formerly the pulse of the community, now having more closed storefronts than open. Residents not only lose convenient grocery stores, restaurants, and other amenities but lose their sense of “community” and cultural character. To maintain a sense of place and local economic vitality, such communities often need assistance.

Over the past 10 years, Indiana Regional Councils have stepped forward to develop regional technical expertise in brownfields redevelopment, which is often a nexus of multiple local priorities. This expertise dovetails with their other technical expertise, such as water and wastewater infrastructure grants, economic/community development, emergency management, housing, and rural transportation planning. Their missions include promoting regional strategies to guide economic growth as planning organizations with a focus on assistance with developing the vision for cities and towns. Their use of EPA, Indiana Brownfields Program, and other state and federal resources such as Community Development Block Grants has served as “seed” money to begin their inventories, outreach, and assessment funding. All of the Indiana Regional Councils have worked with the Indiana Brownfields Program for financial, technical, and legal assistance to support sites in their respective represented communities. The regional councils have provided outreach at the local level to eliminate the “Fear Factor” that many rural communities have towards working with regulators.

For more information on how regional planning councils can be effective in implementing a brownfields program in a rural setting, please contact Senior Project Consultant Beth Grigsby, LPG. Beth has extensive experience with regional councils and has assisted nine Indiana regional councils in the development of successful brownfields programs.

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