Skip to comments.'Brownfield' companies get tax break without proof of pollution
Posted on 08/19/2012 1:18:22 AM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
A state program created to redevelop polluted areas is doling out tax breaks for companies that lease offices in downtown high-rises, build on pastureland and open restaurants on busy highways, even when there is no proof they are on contaminated land.
From January 2011 through April 2012 alone, about $11 million in tax refunds have been approved for dozens of businesses, according to a database accidentally released in June by the state Department of Economic Opportunity....
.....Companies are getting the breaks largely because Florida's brownfield initiative has a major loophole, critics say. To be eligible, there is no need to prove that anything needs cleaning up. The perception alone of contamination is enough under the vaguely written law.
"Cities and counties are broadly designating areas in a desperate attempt to attract businesses and investors to their area, with lands qualified for more government handouts from taxpayers," said Dan Krassner, executive director of Integrity Florida, a watchdog group that tracks state incentives.
One of the original sponsors of the law says much of its use appears to go beyond legislators' intent. And an attorney who helps companies take advantage of the law concedes it needs revisions.
...local governments in Florida have designated 226,962 acres as brownfield areas so far, and cleanup agreements are in place for just 3,642 acres........
..."So long as the state statute allows for the program to operate in the way that it does, our job is to make our city as competitive as we can make it on an economic-development front," [City economic-development director Brooke Bonnett] said.
Krassner questioned why someone would get brownfield funds for leasing space in buildings years after they're constructed.
"Without any environmental improvement," said, "why are we giving taxpayers' money away?"
(Excerpt) Read more at articles.orlandosentinel.com ...
Who would manage their own money like this?
Brownfield = land owned by a campaign donor.
I thought the problem with brownfields was that the laws were so strict that they made people afraid to develop, lest they be found liable for contaminants that were there before them. It sounds like this goes the other way.
On the other hand, if no inventory of existing contaminants is made, won’t the developers live in perpetual fear and liability of being blamed for anything that shows up in the future?
Or, does the designation of brownfield status give a developer pollution immunity for all future time?
Why is everybody pissing and moaning about this. The companies taking advantage of this are not breaking the law.
IIRC, this was used by Fannie Mae in order to make loans fit whatever profile they needed.
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