Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Brownfields Bonanza

In all modesty, my theories are often quite accurate as you shall read. It is merely putting the pieces together for my readers to know in advance and waiting for them to be publicized as they generally always are.

Wow, all of a sudden brownfields are the rage in Windsor. That will make a terrific re-election platform along with other mind's eye visions like a canal, a transportation hub and Greenlink.

I am not going to deal with the Zalev property yet but I am going to talk about another one.

In passing I did like how Edgar took it upon himself to jump a step and hire an outside Toronto lawyer to answer a Council question about the Zalev lands. Don't we have an Administration that does that or is this another Councillor Halberstadt "Your Arrogance has no bounds" moment coming up? When else has the Mayor hired a consultant to answer such a question.

Obviously, Edgar does not care what Council thinks just like with the canal. Who would argue against expropriating the Zalev lands? It is bad enough that Brister jumped the gun, for which he will pay dearly. And Edgar needed a good news story after the Kwame investigation story.

Both Councillor Brister and London's Mr. Farhi may have lucked out with this.

Remember this latest East End arena story on Eh-Channel at the end of October but not in the Star re arena parking, one of many:
  • "There's mounting pressure on Windsor councillors to take action after almost a year of frustration for Spitfires fans.

    Arguably a victim of its own success, the WFCU centre has been the target of criticism for insufficient parking.

    As municipal affairs specialist Daryl Newcombe showed on A News at Six, hockey fans are calling for more parking spaces."

According to the story, there are talks are "heating up" between the City and Mr. Farhi to buy some adjoining Lear land for parking but boy would it be expensive since it is our new downtown! I would have thought that he could get more for the land for office or residential use or for a hotel but a short-term lease for parking could be an option.

It was obvious from opening day that there was not enough parking so why wasn't something done. Here is why Councillor Brister is so lucky. It would have increased the cost of the arena so that he could not say it was built "on time and on budget." If there are extra millions now, well it is not his problem!

So what is the solution. Why it should be obvious especially because Edgar (aka Eddie) is front and centre on it:

  • "Toxic site seized by city could cost millions to clean up

    In taking over an industrial property that represented Windsor’s largest delinquent tax account, the city has also assumed an as-yet-unknown, but potentially very costly, cleanup of an urban toxic zone.

    The Star has learned a preliminary estimate pegs the reclamation cost at up to $6.1 million for the former WCA Canada Inc. property in East Windsor, seized Oct. 26 after accumulating more than $3 million in tax and interest penalty arrears.

    But local taxpayers could be on the hook for even more. A consultant’s report says more study is required, particularly to assess whether chromium, a known carcinogen, as well as other metals and toxic pollutants are leaching off the 11-acre property at 9082 Tecumseh Rd. E.

    “The concern to us was that doing nothing was not something we felt was advantageous,” said Mayor Eddie Francis."

Why wasn't "doing nothing" a smart idea? For this, the Mayor should not be faulted other than buying the arena property in the first place since the horrible contamination has been known for decades:

  • "The property, featuring a 165,000-square-foot factory building, lies southeast of the WFCU Centre...

    The city was advised as early as 1987 that chromium, used in WCA’s bumper plating process, was being detected in an adjacent storm sewer. More environmental warnings followed.

    “It’s got a fair level of contamination,” said city engineer Mario Sonego. “It’s next to the Little River and Hawkins Drain — is there a potential for leaking out? Absolutely,” he added.

    Francis said he’s “not worried” about Windsor eventually recovering the value of the lost municipal tax millions, as well as the anticipated multimillion-dollar cleanup bill.

    Located along a major commercial corridor — across Tecumseh Road from a Canadian Tire outlet — the property could fetch more than $5 million “in a robust real estate market,” the mayor said.

    He said the municipality would likely also be able to tap into senior government “brownfield” remediation funding."

Or Gord's mountain of cash. What a set-up! Now you know why Gord's column was written.

Imagine now if the WFCU site became contaminated or Mr. Farhi's valuable "new downtown" land and needed clean-up like his lands downtown. Imagine how he would sue. Lucky for him, now he has a defendant with deep pockets: the City of Windsor.

I think Edgar's math is a bit off: $3M in back taxes and $6M in cleanup costs does not equal $5 in a sale price in a "robust" market whenever that will happen.

But never fear, there is a better plan: a parking lot for the East End arena patrons.

It is a bit inconvenient but not that long a walk and it solves everyone's problems especially Mr. Farhi's since he won't have to clean up his property at his cost or have to sue us.

I did predict this 2 years ago by the way: BLOG December 13, 2007, "The Arena's New Parking Lot"

  • "But here's something else. We all know that the number of parking spaces for the East end arena is inadequate. You don't really think that people who go to Spitfire hockey games are going to be happy to take a Windsor Transit bus after the game to some off-site location to pick up their cars do you.

    Obviously then a solution is needed to find more parking spaces nearby. Let me suggest an alternative and help save the City a couple of hundred thousand dollars so that they can use that money for the crossing guards.

    Did you see this story in the Business Section of the Windsor Star as well:

    "City mulls testing at Wickes site

    Windsor city council is considering spending $200,000 for an environmental assessment of the contamination levels on the former Wickes Manufacturing property at 9082- 9152 Tecumseh Rd. E.

    The 8.89-acre property was recently listed as part of the city’s annual property tax sale valued at $2.66 million, but there were no bidders, largely because of the potential contaminants that remain in the soil.

    City deputy treasurer Janice Guthrie said the assessment will also help the city decide whether to assume ownership of the property.

    Under legislation, the city has two years to decide whether to assume ownership. If it does, it then has the option to use the property for municipal purposes or sell it on the open market.

    Wickes, which manufactured bumpers, vacated the site in 1990 and left behind chromium, copper and nickel deposits."

    Now isn't that plant near the location of the arena? The land may be contaminated and so no one is going to buy it. Why spend $200,000 when the City can turn it into a parking lot for the arena.

    Here is a news story back in 1987:

    "It has not been a good week for Wickes Manufacturing Co. Ltd., which owns Windsor Bumper.

    ..the company appears disheartened by a "high risk" label pinned on it last week after two years of trying to clean up its act.

    A report commissioned by the Environment Ministry released last Friday said Windsor Bumper posed more risk to human health than 112 other waste sites on the Canadian side of the Great Lakes between Amherstburg and Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

    The Ministry went on to say that

    "the risk posed by the ponds ended with their removal, and that the reaction to the study has been excessive, since it was almost 18 months old by the time it was released last Friday."

    Notwithstanding what the Ministry said, that quick search of my database ought to be enough to justify that the land may have serious problems. Now we can do a "signature" Brownfields redevelopment, have parking for the arena and keep the crossing guards working at least for the next six months by saving $200,000 on another consultant's report.

    So that may be why the Mayor and Councillor Brister are keeping their heads low. Save a million here, spend millions there."

Now you better agree with my theories on the border. They may be accurate too.