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Brownfield Revitalization Initiative – Environmental Strategic Plan

Client: Neville Island Development Association (NIDA)

The Challenge

Neville Township is a five-mile long 1,200-acre island in the middle of the Ohio River downstream of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The eastern end of the island has heavy industry including coke and steel, cement, oil terminals, and chemical manufacturing. The western end of the island has a large Superfund site. The residential central section of the island is bisected by an Interstate exchange. The 1999 Comprehensive Plan identified Areas of Opportunity for future development. The 2001 Environmental Strategic Plan (ESP), also prepared by Chester Engineers, represented the environmental foundation for implementing the Comprehensive Plan. The objective was to evaluate how environmental conditions might impact planning and to provide background information in support of a USEPA Brownfield Assessment Grant. Project activities included site history, parcel evaluation, prioritization for further consideration, and public participation.

Significant challenges to the project included:
  • A review of the environmental history where major landfilling has altered the island shoreline and two dams on the Ohio control groundwater flow patterns.
  • Development of a public participation program.
  • An evaluation of how the State and Federal regulatory framework affected land use planning.
  • An evaluation of the environmental constraints between land use requirements and environmental conditions.
  • Phase I ESA evaluations on 30 separate land parcels based on public information and access.
  • An evaluation of institutional, financing, and marketing issues with respect to identified environmental concerns.
  • The development of an Implementation Plan.

The Interdisciplinary Approach

The Chester project team included environmental scientists experienced in working with legacy Brownfield sites, municipal planners experienced with the marketing and funding of economic development programs, and GIS analysts who performed the mapping for the project. This was a high visibility project at all levels of Neville Township government, including the Commissioners and Township Engineer. The Neville Island Development Association included representatives of township government, business interests, and the public. The Commissioners and Neville Island Development Association (NIDA) were active participants with the Chester staff in the development of parcel information but most importantly in the public participation aspects of the project. Involvement of the “Public” was an important aspect of the Partnership for the Future. Seven different “Publics” were identified whose interests needed to be considered. These included: township residents, township businesses, Township organizations, Township Government, NIDA, County-State-Federal Government, and Off-Island interests.

The Sustainable Result

The Implementation Plan was based on the following Guiding Principles:
  • Recognize that Neville Island is part of a regional market place and businesses compete in a world-wide economy.
  • Maximize the advantages of location with marketplace accessibility by river and interstate highway.
  • Take positive actions to improve the Island’s legacy industrial image.
  • Encourage the highest and best use of all properties.
Specific actions were recommended within the framework of the following program goals:
  • Create a public / private partnership between NIDA and the business community.
  • Identify property owners willing to conduct environmental remediation on their properties within the Pennsylvania Act 2 Land Recycling Program.
  • Attract new businesses to the Island capable of supporting the business community’s needs.
  • Implement standards to create a planned business / industrial park image with voluntary participation in targeted areas.
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Project Highlights:
  • The use of an Alternative Environmental Futures process to identify environmental issues and public goals for the island.
  • The use of a Partnership for the Future concept which identified seven different "Publics" each with a different environmental perspective on problems, goals, and solution approaches.
  • Public opinion survey mailed to 810 residential and commercial addresses.
  • General public and business interest information meetings
  • Phase I evaluations included an island wide electronic government record database search, aerial photographs, Sanborn map review, DEP file search for targeted properties, Township Engineering Department records, and a windshield survey of each of 30 target planning parcels.
  • Each of the 30 planning parcels was evaluated for the following:
    • Parcel description
    • Environmental history
    • Existing and possible future regulatory interactions
    • Corrective Action requirements
    • Cost considerations
    • Assignment to one of four planning categories based on known problems and current or likely future PADEP Act 2 requirements
    • Development constraints