June 18, 2008

Nitro Considers Industrial Plans

By Rusty Marks, Staff writer

Consultants, Nitro city officials and officials for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency want citizen input into how to revitalize about 600 acres of industrial property in town.

As part of the EPA's Brownfields Program, environmental consultants and city officials are holding an open house from 4 to 8 p.m. today at the Nitro Community Center, 21st Street and Second Avenue.

Sean Garrigan of Pennsylvania-based consulting firm SGA Inc. said the public meeting is to get citizen input about Nitro's needs for the area west of the railroad tracks and present some of SGA's ideas for use of the land.

Garrigan said Nitro's industrial area comprises about 600 acres from about 19th Street to the Interstate 64 bridge, much of it occupied. But much of the property has also been vacant for years, victim of decades of environmentally unsafe chemical production methods.

If the area can be cleaned up, Garrigan said there is room for as much as 2 million square feet of development in the area. Last year, Nitro secured $400,000 in federal grant money to assess environmental hazards in town.

Local environmental consultants Chris Amick of KEMRON Environmental Services and Dawn Seeburger of Environmental Resources & Consulting are also working on the project. Amick said environmental officials have already identified 54 potential hazardous waste sites and 54 sites potentially contaminated with petroleum that might qualify for redevelopment under the program.

The Brownfields Program was set up to work with property owners, government and other entities to encourage redevelopment of abandoned or contaminated industrial sites.

"It ends up being a win-win situation for everyone," said Seeburger. If plans work out, owners stuck with otherwise unattractive property get to sell their land, making the property available for development or community use.

Planners already have a few ideas for Nitro's industrial sites. Amick said officials for Norfolk Southern railway are already talking with the West Virginia Public Port Authority about building a centralized warehouse facility in the area with about six railroad spurs where Norfolk Southern can concentrate cargo for shipment.

With its nearby river access and close access to Interstate 64, the industrialized side of the tracks is a natural shipping and industrial center, Amick said. Planners are talking about opening the industrial area up for easier road access to the interstate and creating a transportation corridor from one end of the area to the other.

But planners are also talking about opening up the west side of the tracks for more community use.

"For a river town, Nitro is pretty well cut off from the river," Amick said. "Part of the planning is to re-establish that connection."

Garrigan said preliminary plans include developing the riverfront in the area to include walking trails and parks and possibly putting in new housing and an amphitheater.

But it's all going to depend on what local residents and business owners want and need.

"We just want people to come and give their 2 cents - or more," Garrigan said.

Reach Rusty Marks at [email protected] or at 348-1215.

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