A funding cut could jeopardize the cleanup and redevelopment of contaminated property sites in Hennepin County.
The Hennepin County Environmental Response Fund grant program is set to expire in January. Since the program started in 2001,
290 grants worth a total of $41 million have been awarded to cities, nonprofits, and private developers who use the money to cleanup contaminated sites and then redevelop them.
"These are sites that are often just sitting vacant or sitting with dilapidated structures and may sit for years before they're redeveloped because of that additional cost that's involved," said Rosemary Lavin, Hennepin County's assistant director of environmental services.
Developer Paul Hyde of Real Estate Recycling is currently working on a plan to redevelop a contaminated property in Brooklyn Center that was formerly the Howe Fertilizer Site at 49th Avenue and Brooklyn Boulevard. The site will require $1.5 million in contamination cleanup before Hyde can build a 60,000 square feet commerical office and warehouse building. Hyde said the project will be in jeopardy if he doesn't get the last round of grant funding this fall.
"We're sure worried about it," said Hyde. "Without the Hennepin County grant, it's going to be very difficult to redevelop the site."
The money for the grant program comes from a portion of the mortgage registry and deed tax, a 0.02 tax that homebuyers pay with the purchase of their home.
Chris Galler, CEO of the Minnesota Association of Realtors, doesn't have a problem with lawmakers' decision not to extend the grant program. Galler believes the tax is an unfair fee for homebuyers at a time when homeownership should be made more affordable.
"We just don't think taxing homeowners when they're transacting real estate is the right way to raise it," said Galler. "If they want to raise it, and it's a county wide problem, then it should be a county wide tax, everybody should share in the burden."
Alexandra Renslo reporting
Tuesday, July 10, 2012