For Immediate Release - December 21, 2011

Environmental Agreement Will Assist Redevelopment of Great Barrington Property into Affordable Housing and Continuing Care Facility

Brownfields Agreement Ensures Cleanup and Revitalization of Property

GREAT BARRINGTON – A new affordable housing complex and long-term care facility in Great Barrington took a major step towards development after the signing of an environmental agreement that will ensure the cleanup and revitalization of the property, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today.

The Community Development Corporation South Berkshire (CDCSB) owns the property, and plans to create a mixed-use redevelopment of the property that will include a 40-unit low-income housing project, a 30-unit elderly housing and continuing care facility, 30,000 square feet of commercial space and publicly accessible open space along the Housatonic River.  It is the last remaining large-scale development site in the downtown corridor of Great Barrington.

The project is the subject of a Brownfields Covenant Not to Sue Agreement (Brownfields Covenant), between Attorney General Martha Coakley’s Office, Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Richard K. Sullivan, and property owner CDCSB.  The agreement limits the liability related to contamination on the property in exchange for promises to clean up the property and pursue the redevelopment project.

“This agreement clears the way for demolition of a burned-out building so the site can be put back into productive use and create economic and other valuable opportunities within the community,” said AG Coakley.  “By shielding property owners and developers from liability, Brownfields Covenants can give property owners and developers the protections they need to invest in contaminated properties and revitalize urban communities and the economy.”

“Brownfields reclamation paves the way for critical community and economic development opportunities in cities and towns across the Commonwealth,” said Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray, who launched the Patrick-Murray Administration’s Brownfields Support Team Initiative in 2008.  “Great Barrington’s plans for an affordable housing and continuing care facility reached a major milestone by identifying resource needs and collaborating with key agencies, including the Attorney General’s Office, to advance brownfields redevelopment and enhance the local economy.”

“Redevelopment projects like this one protect our environment, establish community open space, and create jobs and economic opportunities for individuals and local businesses,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Richard K. Sullivan Jr. “We’re proud to partner with the Attorney General’s office and the property owner on this significant community redevelopment plan.”

“The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection is pleased to partner with EOEEA and the Attorney General’s Office in encouraging this important Brownfields project in Great Barrington,” said MassDEP Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell. “Once the environmental cleanup is completed, public access to open spaces along the Housatonic River will be improved, and significant housing and commercial benefits for the region will result.”

Under the agreement, CDCSB will clean up the property in accordance with MassDEP standards, as well as build the elderly and low-income housing projects and develop commercial space. 

The site was formerly used for the manufacture of log home components by the New England Log Home Co., resulting in the release of various contaminants, including dioxins, pentachlorophenol, metals, and petroleum hydrocarbons.  In 2001, a fire burned more than half of the main building to the ground, making it unsuitable for reuse.  Charred debris, including building remnants, contain asbestos.  The contamination was released to the soil and groundwater at the site before CDCSB acquired the property.  CDCSB has arranged for demolition to begin imminently.   

The property, about 8.2 acres, is located at 100 Bridge Street, in Great Barrington, abutting the Housatonic River.  

The AG’s Office facilitates cleanup and redevelopment of contaminated and underutilized properties through negotiating agreements that provide liability relief to those involved in the redevelopment. The AG’s Office works closely with property owners, developers, municipalities and state and federal officials in cleaning up and redeveloping contaminated properties throughout the Commonwealth.

Secretary Sullivan is Natural Resource Trustee for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and, working through MassDEP’s natural resource damage program, will in appropriate circumstances join the Brownfields covenants to provide protection from natural resource damage claims. 

In 2008, the office amended its Brownfields Covenant Program regulations to streamline the application process for future agreements and to create new incentives to redevelop abandoned or underutilized contaminated properties. Thirty-eight Brownfields Covenants have supported redevelopment at sites around the Commonwealth since the program went into effect in 2000.   

Brownfields Covenants are developed through close coordination between the Attorney General’s Office and MassDEP. Carol Iancu, Assistant Attorney General in Attorney General Martha Coakley’s Environmental Protection Division, handled negotiations for the agreement with assistance from MassDEP Natural Resource Damages Program Coordinator Karen Pelto, MassDEP Western Region staff members Eva Tor and Kathleen Fournier, MassDEP attorneys Lucas Rogers and Jane Rothchild, and EEA Deputy General Counsel Margaret Callanan.

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