A few years back, Orem residents were asked to share with the city what they envision Orem looking like in the future.
The ongoing project name used by the city’s long-term planners is Imagine Orem. In 2019, Imagine Orem added the Geneva Road Plan, which included cleaning up blighted land that may have remains of hazardous materials from the United States Steel Geneva Plant.
Now, Orem is seeking property owners with abandoned, idle or underutilized industrial or commercial facilities in a no-cost-to-them site testing and assessment for environmental contamination.
“The benefit to property owners is to gain confidence about the conditions of their land,” said Matt Taylor, a long-range planner for Orem. “Past users of the land may have created environmental contamination prior to the current owner’s possession. Testing and a site assessment will help them make better decisions for the property as they try to utilize or sell it.”
In July of 2019 representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency visited Orem to see what the Imagine Orem: Geneva Road Project looked like and needed.
Orem was among 149 communities selected to receive EPA Brownfields grants totaling $64.6 million through a Multipurpose, Assessment and Cleanup grant program.
As part of the July 2019 visit, the EPA presented the city with a $300,000 grant for Geneva Road brownfield areas.
The recent grant also is to help businesses do environmental assessments, cleanup and redevelopment of the brownfield sites.
Stakeholders, including property owners, have helped shape redevelopment ideas in the area. A steering committee was created with representatives from Orem, Vineyard, Utah County, Utah Transit Authority, Utah Department of Transportation, Utah Department of Environmental Quality, the EPA and the Mountainland Association of Governments.
So far, there was a robust digital engagement for the area plan, as well as three steering committee meetings, two public open houses and a special property owner’s workshop, where representatives from the city, a consultant team and Utah Department of Environmental Quality helped property owners grasp their individual obligations and the desire for them to be a business partner in the redevelopment process, according to the city’s planners.
Expansion or redevelopment of a site is often complicated by real or perceived contamination.
“Getting a clean bill of health may be a great relief and benefit to these property owners,” Taylor said.
If contamination is identified, this may make the site eligible for Federal Environmental Protection Agency assistance grants for the remediation, Taylor added. However, there is usually no obligation to act on the findings until redevelopment of the property occurs.
Contamination may be in the form of arsenic, lead, petroleum and hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds, mercury, pesticides and other contaminants.
If contamination is not located, a property owner can use the clean bill of health to help sell the property.
To this point, the city has hired consultants that, in cooperation with the multi-jurisdiction advisory committee, have identified high-priority sites for evaluation along the Geneva Road and State Street corridors. Site testing and assessment may be conducted at any property within Orem in order to support redevelopment and economic growth, Taylor said.
The work supports the goals of the Imagine Orem: Geneva Road Plan that was recently adopted by the Orem City Council in July, 2020.