By Mabell, Dave on December 6, 2019.
They once made money for the oil companies.
But today some are gravel parking lots. Others grow weeds.
Abandoned gas station sites have become an issue in many cities. Some lots have become an eyesore, and few pay much in property taxes.
Worse, some sites need to be decontaminated before they can become productive once again.
What can cities do to speed up that process?
At present, says City of Lethbridge urban planner Andrew Malcolm, the City is not playing an active role in seeing those properties reclaimed and repurposed. But cities do have that option, he says.
“Municipalities can develop and implement brownfield remediation strategies, which could involve providing incentives to promote reclamation,” he explains.
But they can’t usually order it be done, Malcolm says.
However, he says recent amendments to the province’s Municipal Government Act do open “a few possible opportunities which we have begun exploring on a preliminary basis.”
Malcolm, meanwhile, notes that the former Esso property at 13 Street and 5 Avenue North has been restored, and that’s also the plan for the Spotlight Shell site at 3 Avenue and 8 Street South.
“From a City perspective, we are excited to see landowners taking these steps, as from an environmental, financial and overall community vibrancy perspective we want to see redevelopment on those sites,” Malcolm says.
A perimeter fence has also been installed recently around the former Petro-Canada car wash property farther east on 3 Avenue South, indicating there are now plans for that site as well.
That artery once provided a number of gas stations, Malcolm points out, because it was the Highway 3 route out of town before the limited-access Crowsnest Trail was built in the 1980s.
Some of those 3 Avenue properties have already been repurposed, including the former Shell site at 13 Street South and the long-vacant Texaco property a block farther east.
Downtown, says Malcolm, Lethbridge does have an opportunity to encourage owners to put their idle property to better use. In some cases, the new Targeted Redevelopment Incentive Program could help in repurposing idle properties in the downtown core.
“Where the developer looking to redevelop also carried the costs of remediation, these costs would be able to be packaged together within the consideration of the TRIP incentive,” he says.
But if an owner decides the remediate a lot and then sell it, Malcolm says the incentive plan would not apply.
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