Ice House – a contaminated site with a missed opportunity

Related, background posts here, here and here. 

According to the environmental assessment of the Colonial Ice House property performed in January, 2002, the city knew it was buying a contaminated site.  However, because the assessment was ordered as an evaluation for what was going to be – at the time – a planned bus parking lot, not much attention was paid to the the known contamination because plans were to ‘cap’ the site with pavement for additional city bus parking.  From the report…

“Although laboratory analytical results of soil samples detected pertoleum constituents at concentrations that exceed NC reportable concentrations, the site is proposed to be redeveloped as a parking lot which will cap the contaminated soil.  Therefore, additional assessment is not recommended at this time.”

The status of parking lot plans supposedly changed on August 4th, 2005 when the City Council voted 8-0 to purchase the property and to explore saving the building. From the minutes (PDF file, page 16) of that meeting…

“…After lengthy discussion, it appeared to be the consensus of Council to approve the purchase of the property and to direct the City Manager and appropriate staff to assess the existing building and provide information for alternatives the Council could review with regard to the property/building prior to any changes on the property, i.e., potential for the purchase and rehabilitation of the structure by private investors, staff recommendations for use of the property, the cost to taxpayers to rehabilitate the structure, etc.”

As a part of the 8/12/03 Purchase Agreement for the Ice House, some sharp city attorney attempted to financially shield the city from additional site testing and/or possible contamination cleanup by escrowing $50,000 from closing to be held for three years as a contingency fund.  That 7/15/03 Agreement states…

“The continuing obligation of notification and the potential further testing of the soil that may be required by NCDENR (NC Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources) when the building on the property is demolished by the Buyer require money to be set aside in excrow to pay for testing and remediation until such time as the NCDENR determines that any further discharge or release is low risk and that no further action is required following the demolition of the building…”

Due to its reported level of deteriorated condition, two thirds of the structure we purchased was demolished shortly after the city bought the property leaving only the structure that is now standing on the site.  However, additional testing and/or remediation was not pursued by the city following that extensivedemolition.  As a result, the escrowed $50,000 was released to the previous owners on July 31st of this year leaving the taxpayers fully on the hook for any future testing and clean-up of contaminates that we know, via the 2002 report, are present. 

We apparently squandered the opportunity to utilize that $50k for its intended purpose – now it is too late.

Such a clean up could conceivably cost much more than the $300,000 we paid for the property, but such remediation would only be required if the site is disturbed.  From what I have been able discern so far, rehabilitating the existing building would not be considered as a site disturbance by the state… neither would a parking lot.

But apparently there are big plans for that area of Greensboro in the not too distant future.

More to come…

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One Comment

  1. Posted October 27, 2010 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

    Hi, What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail? – Dr. Robert Schuller

4 Trackbacks

  1. By Hogg’s Blog » Ice House - The offer on September 19, 2006 at 8:35 am

    [...] David Hoggard’s take on local politics and life in general from Greensboro, NC « Ice House – a contaminated site with a missed opportunity Ice House – The offer September 19th 2006 @ 8:26 am Life in General [...]

  2. [...] Hell, with such a simplified and biased explanation - an explanation obviously aimed at a 10 year-old’s mentality - I’d have laughed at it, too.  But knowing what I know about the history of our ownership, the condition of the property, and the complex details found in the offer to purchase, the only thing last night’s exchange accomplished was to chap my ass. An aside: For the record, as of my Sept. 6 meeting with Johnson and Simmons at the site, Mitch had not been apprised of the offer.  Simmons explained it to the manager for the first time – in the same simplistic terms – while the three of us were meeting.  Upon hearing Simmons’ explanation, Mitch’s reaction was similar to the Mayor’s. -dhoggard no comments trackback this article comment on this article [...]

  3. [...] In addition, if the building is demolished, the current structure’s footprint will have to either be ’capped’ with concrete/pavement or undergo expensive remediation due to identified site contaminations.  Keep this in mind as well… if the site becomes a parking lot, as currently planned, the city will forego any property tax revenue for the foreseeable future.  If the building is restored, it gets placed back on the tax rolls. [...]

  4. [...] “In reality, the building may now be too far gone“, the buyer stated flatly, “but in three years, no one else has come up with a way to solve the many problems involved, save the building, and get the city some of its money back.”  “It’s not a perfect solution, and it may not work“, he confessed, “…but it is a solution, I’d at least like to find out why it won’t work.” [...]