$1.2 million remediation in Bellows Falls brings opportunity

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$1.2 million remediation in Bellows Falls brings opportunity

Fri, 12/13/2019 - 1:37pm -- tim

Robertson Paper Mill. ACCD photo.

Vermont Business Magazine Governor Phil Scott today attended a ribbon cutting ceremony at the former site of the Robertson Paper Mill. This ceremony marked the completion of an environmental clean-up effort between local, state, federal and private partners through the state Brownfield Economic Revitalization Alliance (BERA).

The $1.2 million remediation addressed lead, arsenic, asbestos, petroleum and polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) at the site. The Bellows Falls Area Development Corporation (BFADC) acquired the property in 2013, identifying it as a site pivotal to redevelopment of the village.

“BFADC has a vision for the future of this property and I appreciate their work to lead this clean-up effort,” said Governor Scott. “Transforming this site from an unusable property to one that is ready to lead the redevelopment of this area is what our BERA program is all about. We must all come to the table and work together in order to meet our economic development goals. This project is a great example of what’s possible when we all pull in the same direction.”

“BFADC is pleased that the Village of Bellows Falls now has a site that is ready for construction and can be built to suit for qualified companies looking to expand or relocate,” said BFADC President Robin Renzoni-Sweetapple. “We are thankful to the BERA program for rallying state and federal resources to take on this complicated and expensive project.”

8th graders from Bellows Falls Middle School pose with Governor Scott. They brought a model of the old Robertson Mill, which they made, to the event. Courtesy photo.

The project was funded through the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development’s Brownfield and Community Development Block Grant programs, as well as the Windham County Economic Development program, the Windham Regional Commission’s Brownfields Assessment and Revolving Loan Fund, loans through the Town of Rockingham’s Revolving Loan Fund and a grant for environmental assessment from the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation. Additional funds came from the federal EPA Brownfields program.

“We are very proud that EPA Brownfields funding has played a role in transforming Bellows Falls,” said EPA New England Regional Administrator Dennis Diezel. “In communities across Vermont and all of New England, EPA Brownfields funding is a powerful catalyst for environmental assessment and cleanup at abandoned and lightly contaminated properties, allowing them to be redeveloped to benefit the community and its residents.”

Robertson Paper Mill Project

Property Owner: Island Holdings, LLC

BERA Team Partners: DEC, ACCD (Housing and Community Development, Historic Preservation, Economic Development), VTrans, BDCC, WRC, Town of Rockingham, Rockingham Planning Commission, USEPA

Property History: The Robertson Papermill resides on a 30-acre island east of the Bellows Falls Canal and west of the Connecticut River. The 45,550 square foot structure sits at the crest of the land, the parcel measures 1.7-acres. The Robertson Paper Company occupied the Site from 1907 through 1987 for the primary purpose of manufacturing wax paper products, including florist tissue and printed wrapping paper.

Proposed Redevelopment: The proposed redevelopment for Robertson paper was to return the property to active manufacturing space. The BERA team believes that to attract a tenant, the structure will have to be demolished; the site cleared and cleansed of containments before a tenant can be enticed to develop the property. Notably, the Bellows Falls Island Growth Plan is underway. One of the initial phases of the project included the construction of the Waypoint Center. The Waypoint Center is a welcome center that displays local history and provides amenities for visitors to the island. It also serves as a community center for local activities such as farmers markets. The completed welcome center sits below the Robertson Papermill.

BERA Team Initiative: The BERA team convened on April 12th; the group discussed the environmental planning and testing that has been conducted to date. The stakeholders are aware of the issues that remain outstanding. The team has identified several hurdles associated with this property that needed to be overcome before a developer would be interested in developing this property.

BERA Project Completion/Current Status: Environmental assessment work on the Paper Mill Property has been completed, and a Corrective Action Plan to remediate the property has been developed and approved. Almost $1.2 million in funding commitments have been secured, including grants of approximately $150,000 from the ACCD brownfields program, $150,000 in CDBG from ACCD, $300,000 from Windham Regional Commission and $300,000 from WCEDP. Historic preservation activity began in Spring 2018 and building demolition and site remediation is slated to begin in early 2019.

This is the second pilot BERA-designated project to cross the remediation finish line, with the completion of the Richmond Creamery project earlier this year. BERA is an initiative to streamline remediation and redevelopment of contaminated properties. Governor Scott recently signed Executive Order No. 08-19 to formally establish BERA as a state program.

Click here for a full list of BERA projects and to learn more about the alliance.

Source: Bellows Falls, Vt. - Governor Phil Scott 12.13.2019