Township board discusses how much contamination is too much

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By Merinda Valley
Meridian Times staff writer

The Douglas J expansion requires the demolition of the Travelers Club and Triple Goddess Bookstore in downtown Okemos.

The Douglas J expansion requires the demolition of the Travelers Club and Triple Goddess Bookstore in downtown Okemos.

MERIDIAN TOWNSHIP — Contamination levels on the Douglas J Salon and Day Spa development site were a point of contention for several trustees at the Meridian Township board meeting Feb. 5.

The Township Board questioned representatives of the Ingham County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority and Triterra, the company that assisted the county in preparing the brownfield proposal on behalf of Douglas J.

“I do not personally see this as a highly contaminated site,” Township Clerk Brett Dreyfus said. “I see one boring location and that wasn’t on the site where the Travelers Club is located or where the Triple Goddess building is, it’s actually located on the vacant land.”

A diagram included in the brownfield plan showed that of 32 bore holes drilled to test the soil only one was contaminated.

One of 32 soil borings on the Douglas J property contained volatile organic compounds exceeding residential levels.

One of 32 soil borings on the Douglas J property contained volatile organic compounds exceeding residential levels.

“Eleven parts per million is the level of contamination,” said Trustee John Veenstra. Eleven “parts per million is not a high level of contamination, and if it meant I got $300,000, I guess I could guarantee that one out of 32 borings would be contaminated …”

Triterra employee JP Buckingham said although there is little contamination, the levels qualify the site as a brownfield development. Other problems such as an underground heating oil storage tank, asbestos and mastic plague the Douglas J property and must be removed, according to Buckingham.

Township Treasurer Julie Brixie said that attention should be given to any contaminated township property.

Brixie said, “This is the source of financing that allows the cleanup to occur in conjunction with the redevelopment of the project, which is going to generate significant tax dollars in the future and create jobs.”

Buckingham stated that such benefits are characteristic of brownfield plans.

“The reason we do this is it encourages redevelopment within an urban area. Without these reimbursable activities a developer could typically go outside a community, kind of build in a green space,” Buckingham said. “So, the purpose of the brownfield plan is to create an incentive to keep development within urban area where you have the existing infrastructure here.”

Township resident Leonard Provencher delivered his opposition to the project, saying that Douglas J salons can be found in East Lansing, Ann Arbor and other areas of the state.

“They’re a very successful business, and I don’t think the burden of their development for a for-profit organization should be a burden of the public,” Provencher said.

Sandy Gower, economic development coordinator for Ingham County, said the brownfield plan calls for a tax capture of approximately $390,000. Incremental local tax revenues will cover this cost, as stated in the brownfield proposal. Projections indicate that the capture will begin in 2014 and go through 2017, though the taxable value of the Douglas J property and other factors could change this timeline.

If the Meridian Township Board approves the brownfield plan associated with the Douglas J location, the proposal will move to the Ingham County Board of Commissioners for final approval.

Download the complete Douglas J Brownfield Plan here.

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