Lots of Opportunity: Using Oregon’s Land Banking Legislation to Spur Brownfield Redevelopment
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Defined by the EPA as “abandoned, idled, or under-used industrial and commercial facilities where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by real or perceived environmental contamination,” brownfields are land parcels wracked with barriers, but full of opportunity. Oregon is estimated to house over 13,000 brownfield sites, and to proactively address brownfield remediation, the State of Oregon passed House Bill 2734 in 2015. Signed into effect January 1, 2016, this bill is enabling legislation for jurisdictions to develop local land bank authorities that “shall have all powers necessary to accomplish the purposes of acquiring, rehabilitating, redeveloping, reutilizing or restoring brownfield properties” (S. 2734 4.1, 2015). Under HB 2734, land banks for this purpose are immune from liability for past contamination. Land banking for brownfields is different than a traditional land bank, in that regular land banks manage tax delinquent and foreclosed properties. One of the largest barriers to taking on brownfields is the fear of responsibility, which is what makes HB 2734 a compelling piece of legislation that could change the national conversation around how states and cities facilitate brownfield redevelopment. Although Oregon cities now have the legal backing to establish a land bank authority, the lack of familiarity with the legislation and literature available makes it difficult to expect many cities to immediately take this step towards addressing brownfields with new uncharted tools. Using a survey of over 109 Oregon cities, this research uses the state of Oregon as the study area to examine how land banks for brownfields might be created after the legislation is enacted, how these land banks may address the barriers that keep brownfields in disrepair, and how land banking as a brownfield tool is different than a regular land bank, or other agency.