Legislation Seeks to Revive Clean Ohio Revitalization Fund

July 2, 2024

On May 8th, Ohio State Representatives Thomas Hall and Bride Sweeney jointly introduced House Bill 519 to restore the Clean Ohio Revitalization Fund (CORF) and provide for its administration. The CORF is envisioned as a long-term, sustainable funding source for brownfield remediation projects starting in 2025. As of the date of this article, the bi-partisan HB 519 is in the House Finance Committee.

Ohio R.C. 122.6511(A)(1) defines “brownfield” as an abandoned, idled, or under-used industrial, commercial, or institutional property where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by known or potential releases of hazardous substances or petroleum.

Brownfield funding is not a new concept to Ohio development, but HB 519 would provide communities and developers with a long-term state provided funding option to help unlock the potential of Ohio’s legacy brownfield sites.

Brownfield Remediation Program History

In November 2000, voters approved the Clean Ohio Revitalization Fund, which authorized $400 million to support environmental conservation, preservation, and brownfield revitalization activities throughout Ohio. The funding granted $200 million towards brownfield redevelopment through the original CORF and the remaining $200 million was divided between green space preservation, agricultural easement purchases, and trail programs. In November 2008, the Clean Ohio Fund was renewed, authorizing an additional $400 million in funding. The program was sunset in 2013, but from 2002-2013, CORF supported the removal and cleanup of over 160 brownfield sites and invested approximately $315 million in grants.

In 2021, the Ohio legislature allocated $500 million in new brownfield funding, with $350 million for investigation, cleanup, and revitalization of a brownfield site and $150 million for demolition of vacant or abandoned commercial or residential buildings. Since the 2021 funding, Ohio has provided brownfield grant funding to 188 cleanup and remediation projects as well as another 125 assessment grants that awarded funding in 83 of Ohio’s 88 counties, totaling approximately $700 million in funding.

Comparison of the 2021 Program v. HB 519

2021 Brownfield Remediation Program HB 519
One-time funds approved every two years by the Ohio General Assembly Sustainable dedicated funding source providing between $50 million to $100 million each year
Funding awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis Funding awarded based on merit, after being reviewed and vetted by a panel of experts
Applications for assessment funding competed directly with clean-up projects for available funds 20% of available funding will be reserved for assessments being done to determine the scale of contamination at a potential brownfield site
Requires applications to be submitted by a County Land Bank or other entity designated by the board of county commissioners; private entities are required to enter into agreements with that public entity to receive funding Public and private entities are eligible for funding with no requirement for a third-party partner


Brownfield Redevelopment Benefits

Data clearly illustrates the economic and public health benefits of brownfield programs. Greater Ohio Policy Center’s (GOPC) 2013 study found that one state dollar invested through CORF generated at least $4.67 in new economic activity and that for every one job created or sustained through activities directly tied to a remediated brownfield, more than one additional job was indirectly created or sustained. Another key finding is that remediated sites can produce economic impacts at 7.6 times their remediation costs as measured by increased household and business earnings and augmented state and local taxes. At the federal level, the EPA has found that for every $100,000 of the EPA’s Brownfield Program funds spent on assessment and cleanup activities, more than eleven jobs were created. A recent EPA study states that brownfields are often ‘location-efficient’ due to:

  • Their central location and connections to existing infrastructure.
  • The significant new job and housing growth that could be supported on brownfield sites.
  • Redeveloped brownfields enormously reducing the amount of impervious surface expansion.
  • Brownfield redevelopment in densely populated areas leading to shorter commutes, resulting in enhanced outcomes for water and air quality .
  • Increases in residential property value ranging from 5% to 15% within 1.29 miles of former brownfields.

What Does This Mean Moving Forward?

As stated by Representative Sweeney:

“Ultimately, Brownfield funding is about community revitalization. With this dedicated funding, we can turn Ohio’s aging and abandoned industrial infrastructure into the economic engine of Ohio’s future, turn abandoned factories into community parks, and turn toxic waste sites into centers for new jobs and economic opportunity.”

Under the proposed CORF program, developers will have the opportunity to take advantage of funding to revitalize and rebuild blighted, neglected, and under-used properties throughout Ohio. The growth in economic development will help create jobs, increase tax revenue, promote business development, and provide new housing across the state.

While HB 519 is still in the early stages of the legislative process, communities in Ohio have a lot to look forward to as the bill signifies a clear effort by the State Legislature to provide a significant and stable platform to promote growth and revitalization across the state. As conventional project capital costs have recently soared, brownfield incentives have become even more important. Compiling necessary funding for brownfield sites is challenging, but a renewed CORF would be a key component of multi-layered project capital stacks that may also include: Community Reinvestment Area, Tax Increment Financing and other property tax exemptions, state and federal historic tax credits,  port authority incentives, New Markets Tax Credits, Low Income Housing Tax Credits, energy efficiency and renewable energy credits, which have been recently enhanced through the Inflation Reduction Act, and others.

KJK’s Economic Development & Incentives group can help navigate brownfield project planning to help mitigate risks and maximize outcomes. To learn more about how you can benefit, contact KJK’s Economic Development & Incentives Team: Rich Morehouse (RAM@kjk.com; 216.736.7292), Charlie Bolton (chb@kjk.com; 216.736.7249), or Collin Harrington (CHarrington@kjk.com; 216.736.7211).