Letter: City should not pay cost for blight cleanup

From: Jackie Combest


This letter to the editor is in response to the recently published article titled “Project builder seeking bonds.” Yet again, a developer is making an attempt at construction on the remaining undeveloped portions of the Golden Castings Co. site.

There have been several prospective buyers over the past years who have inquired with the brownfield group at the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) regarding the site’s status in terms of environmental liability. But they have all walked away due to the magnitude of the environmental contamination issues at the former foundry site. On several occasions, IDEM has issued letters regarding the steps that would be required in order to ensure the protection of human health and the environment if development proceeds. This includes signing an environmental restrictive covenant to run with the land and many specific land-use restrictions and institutional controls.

And now the City of Columbus is asking private investors to fund development at this site, which several commercial developers have determined to be too complicated and risky to pursue. Any person or entity considering investment should be encouraged to research the environmental contamination at this property, as identified in the Indiana Brownfields Program records and available through IDEM’s Virtual File Cabinet. And before city officials ask private investors to bear the financial risk if this project fails or if the developers neglect to follow the IDEM’s requirements, they themselves should ensure that they fully understand the extent of the environmental contamination at the site and the inherent liability associated with it.

We would all like to see this blighted property improved, but unwitting investors should not be the ones to incur the financial risk. Nor should the City of Columbus have any responsibility for the costs associated with proper redevelopment of this commercial property.