PENDER COUNTY — Pender County is better positioned to prepare the former BASF property, once home to a chemical manufacturing plant, for future development with a $500,000 grant from the Golden LEAF Foundation.
An undisclosed company has expressed interest in 155 acres of the 400-acre brownfields property, adjoining Pender Commerce Park. It would invest $400 million and create 1,000 jobs, with an average salary of $31,200.
County manager Chad McEwen told Port City Daily demolishing the former structures and preparing the land would move forward regardless of the potential sale.
“We are fortunate we have someone interested in the property,” he said. “But our intentions have always been to demo those buildings and expand the Pender Commerce Park along that property.”
McEwen is hoping for speedy action to get the site cleared, cleaned and ready for a potential client.
In Monday’s county commissioners meeting, board members couldn’t approve the funds fast enough.
“We have to think about that just a minute, don’t we?” commissioner George Brown asked in jest, followed by a resounding, “not at all.”
The vote was unanimous to accept the grant for clearing the property. Board chair David Piepmeyer was absent due to illness.
“This will make way for future development,” McEwen added. “This is huge for the county.”
The county was granted the maximum award amount from the Golden LEAF Foundation, which focuses on job creation, economic investment, workforce preparedness, agriculture, and community competitiveness, capacity and vitality.
The funds will be used toward the sale of the property and to demolish remaining structures, including unused utilities and lighting, from the site formerly owned by BASF’s Care Chemicals Division. It manufactured and formulated Vitamin C products for the dietary supplement industry. Prior to that, it was owned by Takeda Chemical Products USA until purchased by BASF in 2001. BASF discontinued operations on March 31, 2009.
In 2010, the county purchased the 400-acre brownfields site as part of Pender Commerce Park, which now is maxed out with six tenants across 245 acres.
The area was deemed a brownfields site in December 2011 after environmental reviews identified residual deposits of monitored contaminants on the grounds. Monitoring wells were installed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources following its designation to track the presence of leftover contaminants.
Defined by the Brownfields Property Reuse Act of 1997, a brownfields site is an abandoned or underused property where the threat of environmental contamination has hindered redevelopment.
The area off U.S. 421 South straddles the Pender and New Hanover counties border with 84.47 acres in Pender County, at 110 Vitamin Dr.
As of 2021, reports indicate all monitored contaminants at the brownfield site have been removed or naturally diminished from the property, except chloride. The remaining chloride concentrations exceeding the acceptable standards for development are located on New Hanover County’s portion of the property, according to a January 2021 request for qualifications (RFQ) from the county for environmental support services.
Wood Environment and Instrument Solutions was unanimously chosen by the board at its Mar. 15 meeting to consult on the demolition and decommissioning of the property. A $187,350 contract was approved at the Oct. 18 meeting, with commissioner David Williams the sole dissenting vote.
The company will work with the former BASF property owner and the N.C. Division of Environmental Quality to develop a strategy to remove the mandated-monitoring wells from the areas designated for future development.
RELATED: Engineering work to begin on Pender County’s 421 utility project
Demolition could begin this month and would include razing six buildings, a parking area, fencing, light structures and ridding of extensive underground utilities, once connected to water and sewer plants on the property no longer in use.
McEwen said the final cost of demolition will be known for certain once a contractor bid is approved; the large amount of scrap metal on site should help offset some of the expense.
“There is a requirement with the contractor to document all metal, salvaged and scrapped, that is a credit line item,” McEwen explained.
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