Sunday, February 18, 2001

Lockland buys brownfield site

By Allen Howard
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LOCKLAND — The village has taken a giant step toward developing a section of its brownfield area.

        With help from a $790,000 loan from the Fifth Third Bank, the village has bought the 12-acre site, formerly American Tissue Products Co., between Sheppard Lane and Cooper Road, along Interstate 75.

        “The loan was a big boost to us because we were able to use the powers of eminent domain to purchase the property,” said Richard Melfi, village administrator and economic development director. “We intend to leverage the loan to get federal and state money.”

        One pot of money Lockland will be looking at is the $400 million set aside for brownfield development under Issue 1, passed last year.

        Issue 1 sets aside $200 million for conservation and $200 million to clean up brownfields - old industrial sites that are abandoned and often polluted. Lockland has about 150 acres of brownfields.

        A requirement under Issue 1 is that projects will be considered only if they get public support through a local government.

        Mr. Melfi thinks they have met that requirement by buying the property.

        “Now that we have title to the property, it puts us in a better position to negotiate with developers and buyers,” Mr. Melfi said. “We are in the process of estimating the demolition cost.”

        Lockland has become a pioneer in brownfield development. The 20-acre Lockland Commerce Park on the former Jefferson Smurfit site along I-75 was the first state-approved brownfield development in Southwest Ohio three years ago.

        The American Tissue Products property, which sits on both sides of the freeway, has three large buildings on it. Mr. Melfi said they will clear the site for developing light industrial and commercial.

        “We are primarily interested in the kind of development that will be labor intensive; something that will yield property and income taxes for the village,” Mr. Melfi said. “We have a lot of businesses that have expressed interest in the property, but do not want to clear it out and sell it to someone who will put a parking lot there.”

        He said the property has not been used since it was closed in 1988.

        The plant had been run by Fox Paper Co. for more than 100 years. The village of Lockland received an Urban Development Action Grant to refurbish the place.

        The village made a loan to Fox with the grant, but the company eventually closed the plant. American Tissue bought the site but never reopened it.

        “We took them to court and won. They had to pay UDAG money back to the village,” said Tim Burke, village solicitor.


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