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City steps up effort to clean vacant site

Urbana property owes back taxes, is used for illegal dumping.

The abandoned Q3 JMC Inc. site in Urbana owes thousands of dollars in back taxes, is likely contaminated and, in some instances, has been used as an illegal dump site for items ranging from furniture to construction debris.

Despite those challenges, Urbana city staff see some potential at the property and are taking early steps that they hope will eventually lead to new jobs for the city. Council members approved a $45,000 expenditure that will allow the city to hire an attorney to help acquire the site. The city is also working with Hull and Associates, an Ohio company that specializes in redeveloping former industrial properties.

The process will likely take several years, said Doug Crabill, assistant to the director of administration for Urbana. But the long-term goal is to clean the property and get it back on the market.

“Our hope is that we can work to long-term, bring back something to the site to create jobs,” Crabill said. “At this point we don’t know what that could be.”

The roughly 20-acre property includes sites at 605 Miami St., as well as a location at 200 Beech St. in the city. The Miami Street property was typically used to manufacture steel and aluminum air cylinders while the Beech Street site was used for plastic molding operations until it closed in 2008, according to information from the city.

Since its closure, however, Crabill said the site has fallen into disrepair, is located in a busy section of the city and owes thousands of dollars in unpaid taxes. The property includes a total of six buildings, all of which have been vacant since at least 2008 and which are rapidly falling into disrepair. Information from the city shows there are few buffers between the site and the surrounding neighborhood, meaning trespassers and those hoping to dump trash illegally have access to the property.

Still, the site has potential if it can be cleaned, Crabill said. It has access to utilities and rail, is located on a main thoroughfare in the city and is zoned for industrial uses.

The city had previously worked with the company to gain access to the property and has completed an environmental assessment. In recent months, however, Crabill said the city has had little contact with the company. The money approved by city council earlier this week will provide legal assistance in taking over the property, and eventually, will allow the city to seek funds to clean up the site.

“Our goal at the end of the day is to bring jobs back to the site,” Crabill said.

Much of the contamination at the property comes from chlorinated solvents, often used in cleaning or degreasing industrial machinery, said Heather Lauer, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

“We do know that it was pretty common for manufacturing facilities for a certain era to have that kind of contamination,” Lauer said.

The property has been used in manufacturing in one form or another for more than 100 years, said Kara Allison, director of government and community relations for Hull and Associates, which has worked with the city on similar projects in the past.

A recent example of a brownfield site that was restored in Urbana was the former Fox River Paper Mill facility, Allison said. That site had also been restored with a grant from the Clean Ohio Revitalization Fund and is now being used by Weidmann Electrical Technology Inc., which produces electrical insulation for transformer manufacturers.

Once the city acquires the Q3 property, Allison said, the next step will be to secure a grant or other funding to demolish the existing buildings and begin cleaning the site.

“If the nuisances on these properties can be cleared, it certainly opens the door for future economic activity for the city,” Allison said.

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