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LENOWISCO begins economic development site assessments on brownfield sites

Mike Still • Feb 28, 2020 at 7:30 PM

DUFFIELD — Six sites — including three former schools in Wise and Lee counties — are getting a look at their potential for redevelopment under a $600,000 federal grant.

LENOWISCO Planning District Commission Executive Director Duane Miller said the sites qualified under a 2019 federal Environmental Protection Agency brownfields grant to evaluate their best possible uses.

Miller said the term “brownfields” has been expanded by EPA in recent years from its earlier implications of toxic waste sites to include old industrial or institutional buildings, and the sites included in the LENOWISCO assessment fall along those expanded guidelines.

LENOWISCO, through contractor PM Environmental Inc., will assess four sites in Wise County:

• the former Pound and Appalachia high schools’ complexes,

• the former Buster Brown Apparel plant in the Esserville Industrial Park

• the Bullitt Mine site near Appalachia,

The former Keokee School site in Lee County and the Riverside site in Weber City complete the first round of assessments.

Miller said the assessment process will also evaluate development options ranging from demolition and site redevelopment to reuse of existing structures and facilities. After the reassessment process, Miller said a second, more detailed phase will look at cost and other factors in developing each site.

“These assessments will allow localities to better understand redevelopment costs and what potential economic development efforts would be best suited for each individual site,” Miller said.

Miller said assessment of the school sites could combine with state incentives for revitalization zones with abandoned schools through legislation adopted in 2018 and introduced by then-Delegate Todd Pillion.

“The intent of my abandoned school revitalization zone legislation is to redevelop these abandoned facilities and or the land they are located on into job-creating economic development sites,” said Pillion, now state Senator, R-40th.

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