TDEC requirement passes without comment on proposed Wal-Mart supercenter

By Thomas Wilson


   The development of a Wal-Mart Supercenter in Elizabethton has seemingly cleared another hurdle.
   A 30-day public comment period on the "Brownfields Agreement" signed between Wal-Mart, Inc., and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) ended last week with little fanfare, according to TDEC's Division of Solid Waste Management (DSWM).
   "We have not received any written or verbal comments through this office," said Nat Smith, manager of Division of Solid Waste at the department's Environmental Assistance Center in Johnson City. "As along as Wal-Mart follows all the agreements that were in the Brownfields agreement, they can construct the Wal-Mart whenever they choose once the property is sold."
   Smith said if no comments were received the sale of the property can now be finalized and construction can then begin.
   Officials with TDEC and Wal-Mart, Inc., signed a Brownfields Program agreement permitting the retail giant to build on the North American Rayon Corporation (NARC) property. Smith said Monday he was unaware if any comments had been submitted directly to the division's Nashville office.
   The Solid Waste Management division accepted a 25-acre portion of the NARC property into the Brownfield Program to facilitate redevelopment of the site by Wal-Mart Real Estate Business Trust.
   The Brownfields Agreement between Wal-Mart and DSWM includes liability protections for Wal-Mart and related parties.
   "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.
   "If they did uncover anything they would have to notify the division of solid waste management if anything is found during the construction phase."
   The term 'Brownfield site' pertains to the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of real property that may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous pollutant or contaminant.
   The Brownfields Program was created by the "Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act" which was signed into law Jan. 11, 2002.
   The Elizabethton Regional Planning Commission approved by 5-2 the Supercenter's site plan on Feb. 4, 2002. The city's Planning and Development Department is reviewing building plans for the Supercenter development. The site plan includes a 205,000 square foot building to be constructed on 22 acres where the NARC building currently stands.
   The portion of the NARC facility to be included under the Brownfields Agreement includes the existing warehouse, a former cafeteria, and a former guard hut.
   The Division 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.
   Wal-Mart intends to redevelop the site into a retail shopping center along with associated paved parking areas. Under the agreement, the property is restricted to commercial or industrial usage. 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 proposed Brownfields Agreement, a plat showing the specific boundaries of the site, and other related documents may be viewed at the department's Environmental Assistance Center, 2305 Silverdale Road, Johnson City.