State, Wal-Mart ink agreement for supercenter

By Thomas Wilson
STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   Officials with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) and Wal-Mart, Inc. have signed a Brownfields Program agreement for the development of a Wal-Mart Supercenter on a tract of land on the North American Corporation (NAC) property.
   "This is a good move; it is a good thing," said David Ornduff, director of Planning and Development for the City of Elizabethton, of the Brownfields designation.
   TDEC's Division of Solid Waste Management (DSWM) accepted a 25-acre portion of the NAC property into the Brownfield Program to facilitate redevelopment of the site by Wal-Mart Real Estate Business Trust.
   "The brownfield agreement has been signed," said Nat Smith, supervisor of the Solid Waste Division with TDEC's Environmental Assistance Center in Johnson City.
   The Elizabethton Regional Planning Commission voted 5-2 to approve the site plan for the Supercenter development on Feb. 4. Following the building plan review, the city would notify developers and architects responsible for the building's design if there are any deficiencies found, Ornduff said.
   "After that approval they may apply for building permits, and we will follow up and do what we need to do at the appropriate time for this project," said Ornduff.
   As a protection against third party contribution claims, the Brownfield Agreement provides third parties a 30-day public comment opportunity to comment on details of agreement. The public comment period begins once public notice is given in a local newspaper.
   "(Citizens) usually submit written responses for comment, but if they choose to submit their comment by telephone they may do so," said Smith.
   Smith and Ornduff said that to their knowledge the site is the first property to be approved into the Brownfield Program in the Tri-Cities region.
   Ornduff said the city administration was presently reviewing building plans for the Supercenter. The site plan includes a 205,000 square foot building to be constructed on 22 acres where the North American Corporation building currently stands.
   Smith said if the public comment period passed without significant issues raised about the Brownfields designation, he expected it would be a "fairly short period of time" before Wal-Mart started construction.
   The Brownfield Agreement between Wal-Mart and DSWM includes liability protections for Wal-Mart and related parties, including protection against contribution claims regarding matters addressed in the Brownfield Agreement.
   "Basically, what the brownfields agreement does is to limit the liability Wal-Mart would have on past industrial practices at the site," said Smith. "What it holds them liable to is any contamination that may be identified in their construction phase.
   "They would be responsible for characterizing the waste and properly managing it."
   The portion of the NAC facility to be included under the Brownfield Agreement includes the existing warehouse, a former cafeteria, and a former guard hut. Although the site was primarily used for warehousing finished product, manufacturing operations occurred on the rear portion of the site.
   The DSWM had the lead on clean up of the property as a result of a massive fire that destroyed a majority of the NARC building in Feb. 2000.
   "The site underwent clean up as directed by the Division, and as of this time no contamination remains on site to our knowledge," Smith said.
   Wal-Mart intends to redevelop the site into a retail shopping center along with associated paved parking areas. Under the agreement, the property will be restricted to commercial or industrial usage. A municipal water supply is available, and, therefore, the site's redevelopment will not include onsite groundwater usage, according to the agreement.
   The public notice advises that the state recognizes that future development of the site will involve some demolition and subsurface work, including installation of utilities and foundations and subsequent site grading.
   Demolition of the NARC building will be performed in accordance with applicable local, state, and federal requirements, according to TDEC. Demolition debris that cannot be salvaged or crushed for use onsite will be disposed of in an onsite construction and demolition landfill.
   The notice reads that the proposed site redevelopment as a retail facility and associated paved parking areas will essentially provide a concrete or asphalt cap over the majority of the site.
   The Brownfields Program was created "Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act", which was signed into law Jan. 11, 2002. The term 'brownfield site' means real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.
   The proposed Brownfield Agreement, a plat showing the specific boundaries of the site, and other related documents may be viewed at the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Johnson City Environmental Assistance Center, 2305 Silverdale Road, Johnson City, Tenn.
   The public may contact Smith at the Johnson City EAC (423/854-5429) to obtain a copy of the Brownfield Agreement or to request additional information during normal business hours.
   DSWM is also accepting written comments from parties that possess contribution claims regarding the matters addressed in the Brownfield Agreement for 30 days, and these comments should be mailed to Ashley Holt, with the DSWM in Nashville at:
   Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation
   Division of Solid Waste Management
   5th Floor, L&C Tower
   401 Church Street
   Nashville, TN 37243-1535