If there’s one thing developers always want, it’s a little extra certainty.
That’s what they have gained with the state’s Licensed Site Remediation Professionals program. Experts say the 5-year-old program has not only helped resolve environmental contamination cases that have lagged for years, but has given builders a new tool as they look to redevelop land across New Jersey.
Stephen Santola, executive vice president and general counsel of Woodmont Properties, said developers expect remediation costs to vary when they look at contaminated sites. And there was a time when simply coordinating with the state Department of Environmental Protection would add months or years to a project.
But that has changed with the LSRP program, which allows licensed private-sector consultants to oversee cleanups. Santola said a developer can now put together a remediation program and “it will get reviewed immediately” — and it will either get approved or amended based on the input from the LSRP.
And even if things change during the remediation, the LSRP has the authority to change the plan without having to shut down the entire project.
“So you know that, from a timeline perspective, even if you were to hit these unknowns as you’re moving forward, that you could get them resolved relatively quickly,” Santola said. “And investors love certainty, so while what needs to be done on site may be an ingoing variable, depending on the testing, the timeline is not as variable as it once was.
“And that is enormous when it comes to investment dollars.”
Santola said Woodmont, which is based in Fairfield, has used LSRPs for projects in South Amboy, Hanover and Cranford. The program is increasingly valuable in a state where developable land is at a premium, causing builders to look at sites that have some sort of historical issue.
“There are a lot of contaminated sites in New Jersey that are well-positioned location-wise and can be redeveloped,” he said. “But it’s a time-intensive matter, and with budget cuts at every government level, it’s difficult for DEP to be able to process all of those applications, and to process them as quickly as sometimes is necessary in the private sector.”
Sue Boyle, the executive director of the New Jersey Licensed Site Remediation Professionals Association, said the 1998 Brownfields and Contaminated Site Remediation Act “laid out the process that developers should follow” when it comes to cleanups. Those guidelines have not changed, but the LSRP program certainly speeds up the process.
She added that pre-LSRP program, property owners might drag their feet on a remediation project, “but once there was an interest in a buy-sell agreement, then the developer would have an interest to do it quickly.”