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Charles Town, Ranson receive EPA grant

April 23, 2001

Charles Town, Ranson receive EPA grant



Charles Town, W.Va.

By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town


The cities of Charles Town and Ranson have received a $250,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to help officials develop an idea of turning vacated commercial areas into a high-tech business zone.

The grant award was announced last week by U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va.

The two cities have identified between 30 and 40 buildings and properties that could be redeveloped, Ranson City Manger David Mills said Monday.

In Charles Town, many of the buildings are along the CSX railroad tracks that parallel North Street. Some of the old commercial properties there include an old grainery, overgrown lots and remnants of other businesses.

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In Ranson, there are underutilized commercial buildings for which Mills is interested in finding additional uses.

The two towns agreed to split the cost of hiring a Frederick, Md., firm to put together a redevelopment proposal for the areas. For $4,000, the Brownfield Restoration Group agreed to apply for the EPA grant and start work on the redevelopment proposal.

When city officials started on the project last fall, they envisioned laying fiber-optic lines in the areas and trying to lure businesses that rely heavily on computers or the Internet to deliver services.

The first priority will be to use the grant to assess the properties and determine if any contain toxic substances, Mills said.

It will be up to owners of the properties to determine whether they want to participate, Mills said.

Officials from the two towns have declined to say who owns some of the properties. Working with owners of the properties on such a project could involve sensitive issues, especially if there are contaminants on the properties, and talking openly about the areas may spoil the plan, officials have said.

Officials have held some meetings on the project, and some owners of the properties returned letters saying they would be interested in the effort, Mills said.

"It's a fantastic opportunity to redevelop those areas," said Charles Town Mayor Randy Hilton.

Hilton said it makes sense to redevelop the unused properties "instead of chewing up new land" for economic development.

Byrd said West Virginia's economy has long been rooted in manufacturing of chemicals, metal products and glass. As industry changed, many manufacturing sites have been closed in favor of newer facilities, Byrd said.

"Unfortunately, many of the older sites are still standing, posing potential safety and health problems for the surrounding areas," said Byrd.

The vacated commercial areas, referred to as "brownfields," number about 450,000 in the U.S., according to the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

The conference estimates that redeveloping those sites would create more than 587,000 jobs and increase annual tax revenues from $902 million to $2.4 billion.

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