December 20, 2014

Elyria
Cloudy
28°F
test

Elyria officials grappling with what to do with former General Industries site

ELYRIA — City officials are grappling with what to do to get the former General Industries site cleaned up and believe relief could be found in the Lorain County Land Bank if it were to handle commercial and industrial properties.

It’s been more than four years since the factory at Taylor and Olive streets erupted in flames late in the evening July 3, 2008.

It took more than 120 firefighters from 24 different departments to bring the inferno under control. In the end, all that remained was a burned-out, asbestos-contaminated debris field that stretched for two blocks and a property owner who had no insurance to cover the cost of cleanup or to rebuild.

By summer 2009, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency stepped in to partially handle the asbestos cleanup, but that is where the work ended. The city condemned the property soon after the fire.

A complete cleanup and remediation has been atop the priority list for Law Director Scott Serazin since he took office, but the matter has become quite the quagmire, he said.

“We will get the building down,” Serazin said of the gutted structure that remains. “It’s a priority of ours to get the building down at least for the neighborhood. But the problem is there is an owner who does not have the resources to take it down, and we don’t know what the remediation issues will be.”

The city has placed a $40,000 lien on the property on top of the almost $900,000 lien the U.S. EPA has placed on the property to cover the asbestos work.

At one point, Serazin thought it would be best for the city to assume ownership and seek demolition through a brownfield grant program.

But the massive expense to the city does not make the option attractive. Plus there is no guarantee the city could receive brownfield funding if it cannot substantiate how the cleanup would spur economic development.

That leaves one alternative — the land bank, Serazin said.

“The land bank is attractive because it wouldn’t require the city to purchase the property, but right now it does not accept commercial or industrial properties, so that’s not really an option, either. We really are stuck with finding ways to do commercial demolition.”

County Economic Development Coordinator Pat Metzger said with the current demolition money the county is using from the state Attorney General’s Office, only residential properties can be razed. It doesn’t mean that the land bank would not take steps to include commercial or industrial properties, but funding would have to be secured.

“I don’t think something like that would be out of reach entirely,” he said. “But there are a lot of variables that would have to be looked at — the first of which would be who the partners are and how we put together the dollars to do something like that.”

While the average demolition for a home is roughly $20,000, Metzger said remediation at the General Industries site could be quite a bit more.

Serazin agreed.

He said he could not nail down a figure on what it would cost to clear the site because it needs more asbestos abatement and likely a more extensive environmental assessment.

Mayor Holly Brinda said the city has not taken any steps to set funds aside for the project because it is not the legal owner but acknowledged something needed to happen sooner rather later. She said the city has some responsibility to moving the process forward because nearby employer Parker Hannifin has repeatedly expressed displeasure over how the site looks.

Parker Hannifin employs 300 people at that nearby facility.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com.