Developer Seeks to Redevelop the Former Asbestos Plant
On Monday night, October 4, the town sponsored a meeting a meeting regarding the potential adaptive reuse development of the former asbestos plant in Davidson.
As a result of COVID, the event was held virtually, and there were some technology hiccups. To begin with, since the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) hosted the meeting using the WebEx platform. (State agencies are not authorized to use Zoom.) At the outset, your News of Davidson team was unable to access the meeting on the web and had to download the WebEx application before being able to join the meeting.
Once the meeting got rolling, the NCDEQ representatives were quick to point out the difference between this meeting and others held in the recent past. The video from the meeting is scheduled to be posted on the NCDEQ website, listed below.
This meeting was held to discuss “the donut hole,” while previous meetings were held to discuss “the donut.” Translated, that means that this meeting was to discuss plans for the former asbestos mill itself, versus the surrounding neighborhood.
News of Davidson covered several of those previous discussions. In many instances, the issue in the surrounding neighborhood has been where broken asbestos floor tiles were used as “fill” in yards and driveways. Here are a couple of links to previous coverage:
Back to the donut hole.
Developer Mark Miller, who works for Lat Purser and Associates in Charlotte, has proposed an adaptive reuse development of the former asbestos mill property.
Monday’s meeting was to announce the opening of a 30-day comment period about the proposed development.
The documents for the project is available to review at the Davidson Branch Library, as well as online.
Public comments can be made online, via phone call, or in writing.
The meeting leaders swere Carolyn Minnich, an NCDEQ staff member, providing an overview of the Land Use Restrictions – 18 in all – that will be part of the process going forward. Of note, due to her own computer issues, Bruce Nicholson, the Brownfields project manager, had to step in to discuss the land use restrictions. After about 10 minutes, Minnich returned to the online meeting and picked up her brief where Nicholson had left off.
After her presentation concluded, the meeting was opened to questions from the public.
The first question was about the cost of the remediation, and who will bear those costs. The answer from NCDEQ was that the cost will be borne by the prospective developer.
Miller said that he estimated the costs to be roughly $1 million per acre – or $5 million for the entire site. That is double what is normally spent on a development that does not involve a cleanup of this magnitude. He also noted that they have been under contract with the current owner for 2.5 years, and that some of the estimates were made earlier in the process.
The next question asked was about the existing temporary cap on the site versus the proposed “permanent” cap. Miguel Alvalle from NCDEQ said that the current, temporary cap was placed to mitigate the immediate threat.
NCDEQ inspects the site weekly and makes repairs to the cap as needed. This has included damage caused by hedge hogs, who dig into the soil and break through the temporary barrier.
The permanent cap was described as a geo-textile fabric. Alvalle noted that it is the same material that is used on former landfills. This more robust cap is designed to last anywhere from 50-200 years.
Another question was centered around the threat of airborne contamination. NCDEQ staff responded that specific protocols will be put into place, and the work will have to follow “Dig in Dirt” procedures to safe
Most importantly, air sampling will be conducted on a routine basis to detect even the slightest amount of fiber release.
The next questioner asked if this were a one-of-a-kind project. NCDEQ staff responded that, while every project is unique, the technology to handle asbestos contamination is well-understood, and that all federal, state, and local guidelines will be followed.
The next question was about well monitoring on the property. NCDEQ staff clarified that since there were no wells on the property there is not a plan for any well monitoring. They added that nor would a well be permitted on the property in the future. The plan’s approval requires that the water source be city water.
A question was relayed on behalf of a neighbor, about whether the development and capping work would require the residents to be temporarily relocated. Specifically, as the EPA has cleaned up asbestos fill found in private yards and driveways, the residents were offered free relocation to a hotel while the work was being done.
One NCDEQ representative said he didn’t think there would be any need for neighbors who live near the former mill to relocate, noting that the Asbestos Design Plan is intended to specifically mitigate any release of asbestos during the work. Another DEQ representative chimed in to say that, if at any time the work did present any exposure dangers to neighbors, relocation could be an option, while reiterating that this was not expected to be necessary.
The prospective developer, Mark Miller, jumped into the conversation at this point and emphasized that safety is priority. He highlighted that there is “nothing forcing our hand to do this quickly.” Miller added that they are currently looking at long-term ownership of the property.
Davidson Town Manager Jamie Justice took a few minutes to provide the Town perspective on this development. He started by thanking the EPA and NCDEQ for their work on the project thus far and added that the current temporary solution won’t last, and that we want and need a permanent solution. He stated, “Doing nothing is not an option.”
Justice added that the effort is to protect the health and safety of our community. He ended his comments by emphasizing that residents will be able to be involved in the Town’s public input process, as well. This project will go through the normal Davidson planning process in addition to this thorough NCDEQ/EPA process, based on the status as a designated brownfield.
As the meeting about the donut hole was wrapping up, someone asked about the status of the donut. Jim Bateson noted that a new report is slated to be released later this month. Your News of Davidson team will keep an eye out for that report.
Asbestos Design Plan (ADP) – a detailed plan that will be developed following the 30-day public comment period. It is a plan that lays out the measures that must be in place to safely adaptively reuse/develop the property.
Davidson Depot II (301 Depot Street) – this is the latest designation of the parcel at the heart of this conversation. It was built as the Linden Manufacturing and Davidson Cotton Mill, and it operated until the 1930s. At that time, the Carolina Asbestos Company took over the property and manufactured a variety of products that contained asbestos.
Environmental Management Plan (EMP) – a guiding document that is designed to ensure that the project achieves compliance with environmental protection and mitigation requirements.
Land Use Restrictions (LUR) – eighteen different land use restrictions were discussed at the meeting. Importantly, it was noted that these LURs will be transferred with the property to all future owners.
Land Use Restrictions Update (LURU) – a process that requires current and all future property owners to submit and annual update on seven key points of information.
North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality
NCDEQ Proposed Brownfields Agreement:
Additional Documents search: