1999 CPEO Brownfields List Archive

From: Emery Graham <"egraham"@ci.wilmington.de.us>
Date: Thu, 27 May 1999 11:13:22 -0700 (PDT)
Reply: cpeo-brownfields
Subject: Re: "The Economic Benefits of Open Space"
Tommy Y,

I really appreciate your perspective here. Let me offer the  notions of
colonialism and imperialism as descriptors that characterize the spectrum of
social relations attending both inter and intra - state relations in socially
stratified societies. It might be useful to entertain brownfields in this light.

Perceived in this way, brownfields is an artifact of productive activity where
the owners haven't internalized all of the costs of the productive activity. The
people living in close proximity to the production activity initially, and later,
near the residue of the enterprise, tend to be of the same social class and/or
cultural group. Generally these families come from the lower socio-economic class
and the marginalized cultural group. My reading of international situations
doesn't lead me to conclude that conditions are different in other nations.

Let me stop here and offer an article titled "Brownfields Gentrification" for
your review and comment.  Brownfield Gentrification in Europe

TommeY@aol.com wrote:

> Emery--
> Thanks for your comment, and I agree with your point.  When I made my
> original  comment, it was specifically directed at the initial question,
> which seemed to me to be narrower than the one currently being discussed --
> the fact that "conservation" choices (especially open space) lead to a
> particular (economic) benefit for the nearby landowners.  Unlike "decisions
> about how to use brownlands" (which encompass a much broader list of issues
> and influences) the questions of open-space preservation (and creation) are
> almost entirely financial.  If the government forces non-agricultural
> open-space dedication, some compensation is nearly always required (anything
> from conditional land-use permits and development agreements to direct
> payments.)  Relatively rarely these days are government funds sufficient to
> purchase all the lands that are necessary to create the optimal mix of
> open-space and development.  In this context, various methods of encouraging
> self-interest (ie tax benefits, etc.) have been used to some good effect in
> the past (Williamson Act, etc. as well as the work of the Nature Conservancy
> in securing easements which, in effect, guarantee lower assessments for the
> burdened, lands, etc.)   To the extent that open-space dedication is an
> objective of value, then, consideration of this particular type of financial
> benefits is essential.
>         Connecting this discussion to brownlands, the group has moved to a
> related area, land-use choices in economically depressed areas.  (Here I am
> responding more generally to comments made under this subject heading in the
> last few days.)  There are numerous issue to be considered in this area, all
> of which are in some way connected with "environmental justice" (although not
> all come within the specific provisions of recent and proposed environmental
> justice legislation and other documents.)
>         Certainly, where brownfields redevelopment is undertaken under
> traditional types of redevelopment authority (local governmental group
> acquires depressed lands and redevelops them), the particular issues that are
> now being discussed by the group are entirely relevant.  The tendency to give
> basketball courts and parks to low-income neighborhoods as some kind of
> "bread and circuses" with some generalized idea of pacification is both
> demeaning and antithetical to any real progress for these areas and their
> residents.
>         That these options are offered as an ALTERNATIVE to development,
> however, I question, at least slightly, for several reasons.  First, the
> available activities for local redevelopment agencies are sometimes limited,
> and there can be real problems in finding and coming to terms with companies
> willing to take the initial steps into development of these regions.  Parks
> and basketball courts, at least, offer a direct benefit that is within the
> capability of local governmental groups to achieve.  Moreover, if maintained,
> its possible that such public areas may enhance the attractiveness of the
> region for future development (I don't know this, of course, it merely sounds
> possible to me.)  Finally, of course, if public moneys are available, and the
> choices are
> (1) remediate contamination and convert the area to a park; or
> (2) use the money elsewhere,
> I suspect most of us, in any socioeconomic situation would prefer the benefit
> of remediation (non-suspect water sources, less danger for our children,
> etc.) over the permanent maintenance of the status quo.
>         This brings us to the fact that, as far as I can tell, the programs
> for brownlands "redevelopment" are not intended solely for governmental
> action.  I was under the impression that brownfields program was designed to
> aid persons buried under unprofitably contaminated property, and
> hoping/needing to remedy and develop the site.  To some extent, these are
> private property (or property rights) problems, and decisions about the
> potential uses of these lands once sufficiently remedied, are bound by the
> same restrictions as other land use decisions, including the requirement of
> compensation to owners whose lands are rendered unusable by land-use choices.
>  Hence there is little incentive or financial ability for government to
> simply decide that such lands are to be "park and open space."
>         But, in both situations, I think a flat preference for either type of
> use (conservation or development) is probably inappropriate.  Governments can
> (and often do) require that some portion of the land (or other suitable land)
> be dedicated to public purposes in exchange for development permits and other
> government action necessary in order for commercial development to go
> forward.  And I expect that a significant number of brownlands redevelopment
> projects are designed to accord with area-wide planning, so that both needs
> (development and conservation/openspace) are addressed.  I see nothing wrong
> with conditioning develoopment on the dedication of a portion of the site for
> a park or other local benefit, even (or especially) in a low-income or
> depressed area.  Nor do I see these issues as mutually exclusive.
>         I can't resist tossing in 2 cents, on other point that is coming up
> in this discussion -- the extent of local control over development.  To some
> degree, I agree that local authorities, and through them the local
> constituencies, hold this power.  However, of course, there is a large body
> of law from the 60's and 70's that says that regional issues and needs cannot
> be neglected by local bodies in their land-related decision-making processes.
>  These laws and principles were originally developed to root out exclusive
> zoning practices and the development of "restricted communities", but their
> principles are more generally stated, and it would seem to have equal
> application here.
> Tomme R. Young
> UN Legal Consultant on Environmental and Conservation Legislation

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