Town of Stillwater Implements New State Brownfields Law
On June 17, 2004, the Town of Stillwater was granted the temporary incidents of ownership relating to property occupied by an abandoned paper mill once owned by the West Virginia Pulp and Paper Co. Acting in Saratoga County Court on a motion made by our firm as Town Attorney, Judge Courtney Hall issued an Order granting the relief requested by the Town, pursuant to the new law relating to brownfields. We believe this is the first use of this new remedy.
In October 2003, the State of New York enacted sweeping new legislation creating enhanced programs to encourage the clean up of "brownfields"- the term used by environmentalists to describe areas contaminated by industrial pollution. These enhanced remediation programs are available to local governments, individuals and qualified non-profit corporations.
Over the years, one of the vexing problems that has confronted local governments is the abandonment of brownfield areas, leaving such properties in both a contaminated state and tax delinquent. Local governments have been understandably unwilling to undertake the normal tax enforcement procedures because of their concern that the exercise of control or ownership of contaminated properties would result in the local taxing authorities becoming liable for the damage or injury caused by contamination. As a result, contaminated, tax delinquent properties entered into an unproductive state of limbo- both contaminated and tax delinquent.
Among its many provisions, the new State legislation seeks to address this particular problem. Specifically, §56-0508 of the Environmental Conservation Law now authorizes qualified municipalities to apply for a court order granting the municipality "temporary incidents of ownership." When issued, the temporary incidents of ownership enable the municipality to enter privately owned tax delinquent contaminated property in order to undertake the engineering studies necessary to determine the extent of contamination and the estimated procedures and cost to remediate the property.
In the Town of Stillwater, operating pursuant to Judge Hall’s Order, the Town’s engineer has commenced the investigation that will form the basis of the Town’s application for State financial assistance to clean up the property.
For additional information, please contact us.