Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is a Brownfield Site or Area?
A: Brownfield sites are defined as real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by actual or perceived environmental contamination. A brownfield area is multiple sites that are contiguous (property lines touch) of real property that may or may not have environmental contamination. An area designation does not mean that all or any sites have contamination.
Q: Will being in a brownfield area lower my property value?
A: While there may be some perceptions that being in a brownfield area is a negative image for residential properties, there has been no evidence of property values declining because of a designation. The area designation is similar to a Community Reinvestment Area or Enterprise Zone Area, where incentives can be offered to property owners to develop or redevelop the sites contained within the area. For residential properties, one such incentive includes sales tax rebates for affordable housing projects.
Q: Will I have to disclose to potential property buyers that I am located in a brownfield area?
A: While we recommend that you contact your real estate attorney to answer this, our experience has been that it is not required to disclose that your property is located in an area if you have no known or suspected contamination on your property. As with all material defects in a property, if you know or suspect contamination, it is required to disclose such information (like a leaking roof or lead paint).
Q: How does a community benefit from brownfield redevelopment?
A: Brownfield redevelopment can help a community in many ways. Many brownfields sites are in unattractive, economically depressed parts of a community. Cleanup and redevelopment of the sites can encourage higher property values and create jobs, as well as positively impact the local economy by creating a safer, healthier spaces to house businesses, parks and residences.
Q: What are the benefits of brownfield redevelopment to property owners?
A: In addition to providing benefits to surrounding communities, property owners that clean up and reuse their brownfield properties may benefit directly by:
- Avoiding potential environmental enforcement actions by federal, state and local regulatory agencies that could impose penalties and costly cleanups;
- Receiving tax benefits for cleaning up and reusing the property;
- If there is contamination on the site, reducing the likelihood that contamination from the property will migrate off site or into the groundwater under the site, thereby limiting liability for, and long term costs of, cleaning up the property;
- Creating good will within the community
- Realizing an enhanced return from the property by making it more valuable and marketable.
Q: Where are brownfields located?
A: Brownfields are found all across the country, in urban areas, in the country-side, in residential neighborhoods and on industrial sites. They may be former gas stations or dry cleaning facilities, farms or former industrial properties where at one point hazardous substances may have been used.
Q: Where can I access information about a specific brownfield site or area?
A: All of the sites and designated areas under Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) oversight, including brownfields and sites with known contamination, can be accessed through the DEP GIS mapping system . Anyone interested in looking at case files can also file an Open Public Records Act request for these sites.
Q: Where can I find Florida’s Brownfield Laws?
A: The Brownfield Redevelopment Act (links to Statutes) was established in 1997, empowers communities, local governments and other stakeholders to work together to assess, clean up and reuse brownfields.
Q: Who is involved in brownfield redevelopment?
A: A variety of private and public sector organizations may play a role in the course of cleaning up and redeveloping brownfield sites. Not all of these organizations will be involved at every site. Key players include: state environmental agencies, state economic development and planning agencies, citizen and community groups, commercial lenders, technical consultants, legal counsel, local government agencies, developers, investors, real estate professionals, local community development corporations, and federal government agencies, such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Q: Are there tax incentives for brownfields redevelopment?
A: In addition to direct financial assistance, federal, state and local tax incentives are available to property owners and developers to help reduce the costs of brownfield projects. There are federal and State incentives as well as alternative financing options for brownfield site redevelopment.
Q: What is the role of environmental insurance in commercial brownfields transactions? A: Insurance can help reduce the risk for many of the key players in a brownfield transaction, thereby facilitating cleanup and redevelopment. For example, insurance can reduce the risk to a property owner who wants to sell a property but is concerned about potential liability for environmental contamination discovered after the sale. Insurance can also help reduce a prospective buyer's risk of potential liability for cleanup or for personal injury and property damage claims. These and other kinds of insurance are increasingly helping to encourage lenders to provide loans for contaminated properties. In addition, insurance can be used to reduce the risk of potential liability of cleanup contractors.
Q: How clean is clean - must a brownfield site be cleaned up to pristine conditions before it can be reused?
A: The extent of cleanup will vary considerably depending on the type, amount and area of contamination, and the cleanup standards used by the specific regulatory program that governs the cleanup. In addition, a key factor in determining the level of cleanup is whether the use of the property is taken into account in setting cleanup standards. For example, if a property is slated for industrial use, the cleanup standards may be less stringent than if the property were to be used for residential purposes, because the level of exposure to the contaminants will be less.
Q: How much will the cleanup cost?
A: The cost of a cleanup (if needed) will vary considerably depending on many factors. The level, type, amount, and extent of contamination are key determinants. For example, if the groundwater under the site is contaminated, the cost of cleanup is likely to be much higher than if just the soil is contaminated. If the contaminated materials need to be transported off site for treatment that will also affect the cost. The cost will also depend on the standards that apply to the cleanup, particularly whether the use of the property is considered in setting cleanup levels. If a brownfield property is cleaned up to commercial use standards, for example, rather than residential use standards, the cleanup will typically be less expensive. The cost to the property owner of the cleanup will also be affected by whether there are other parties, such as previous owners of the property, that are also responsible for the contamination and can contribute to the costs.
For More Information:
State and Federal Incentives
If a site is part of a designated brownfield area or is a designated site, incentives are available to the end user, including tax incentives, to reuse or clean-up the property from its current state. Through a combination of state and federal programs, if a property is contaminated, and the current owner is not a primarily responsible party, clean-up funding may also be available.