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Engage the Community in Brownfield Projects

Today, at most brownfields sites, the people who are most affected have little influence over which of these outcomes prevail. Environmental decisions - or at least sign-off - are the responsibility of state regulators, with local health agencies playing a supporting role. Land use planning is generally a prerogative of local governments, which usually answer to an electorate much larger than the affected neighbourhood. Financing may be controlled by redevelopment agencies, the private sector, or a mix of public and private entities. Given the concentration of brownfields in poor communities, the neighbours rarely have the resources to influence investment decisions.

To the affected public, the combined process of environmental cleanup and economic revitalization is at best bewildering. Agencies and companies, often with conflicting or at least disparate goals and objectives, often take actions without considering the views or interests of the people who live next door, downstream, downwind, or up-traffic. To achieve the lofty goals inherent in the brownfields concept, it's essential to bring public stakeholders into the decision-making process early in the project development process, and to keep them involved until completion. Though many developers are suspicious of community activists, a constructive program of public involvement actually promotes more successful projects.

Brownfield  Stakeholders

For successful brownfield redevelopment, the interested parties or "stakeholders" need to come together to identify interests, conflicts and problems. At the very minimum, interested parties will include:

bulletProperty owner and, if it exists, operator;
bulletBrownfield redeveloper;
bulletThe lender or financial backer;
bulletThe regulators (state, and in some cases, federal);
bulletLocal government planning and redevelopment agencies; and
bulletRepresentatives from the affected community.

Together the stakeholders can develop a strategy to productively use contaminated property. They can work together to clean up and redevelop contaminated properties, revitalize communities, create jobs, prevent urban sprawl and make a significant contribution to their country, region or city.