Vienna property focus of meeting

VIENNA – The Johns Manville property’s future and polluted past were discussed in a two and a half hour long visionary session at the Vienna Community Building Wednesday evening.

More than 60 people gathered to discuss the future of the Johns Manville property at 2905 Second Ave. Residents from Vienna and the Mid-Ohio Valley at large shared their thoughts on what, if anything, the property should be used for.

The Johns Manville property is a registered Brownfield site, meaning the company that once stood there either polluted or potentially polluted the land, said Patrick Kirby, representative of the West Virginia Redevelopment Collaborative Brownfields program from Morgantown. The program is designed to assist with the cleanup and reclamation of these sites across the nation, Kirby said.

According to Kirby, there are more than 45,000 Brownfield sites nationwide. The W.Va. Redevelopment Collaborative will help the city find appropriate grants to assist with the cost of cleaning up the site, but the city needs to have a general idea for what the property will be used for first, Kirby said.

The Johns Manville property is not currently a part of the City of Vienna, said Mayor Randy Rapp. It is considered part of Wood County and does not fall into any zoning regulations, he said. This would change if Vienna purchases the land, allowing it to be zoned as the city sees fit, Rapp said.

There are different levels of cleanup of Brownfield sites, said Patricia Hickman, program manager of the division of land restoration with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection. Sites planning to be used for industrial purposes must meet one set of criteria as far as cleanup is concerned, Hickman said.

Sites used for commercial purposes must meet a higher set of criteria than industrial sites, she said. Sites used for residential or recreational purposes must meet the highest criteria of all, she said.

What Vienna wishes to turn the property into will determine how much work must go into the cleanup, Hickman said.

How clean the site must be before it can be used will determine what grants the city can apply for to assist with the cleanup efforts, Kirby said.

Those present at the meeting proposed ideas for the property through drawings and group work, led by Kirby and his associate Carrie Station, also from the W.Va. Redevelopment Collaborative.

The property is divided into two sections, generally referred to during the meeting as from the railroad tracks which bisect the property to the riverfront, and from the railroad tracks inland.

The inland section saw suggestions for shopping centers, residential condos or townhouses, fine dining, a walking mall, a civic center, a youth services area, indoor recreation options, parking lots, retirement homes, a farmer’s market, medical or law offices, a skateboard park, a playground and pool, or big box retail stores.

The riverfront section of the property had suggestions for a riverfront amphitheater, kayak and paddle boat rentals, a walking or biking trail, a public park, boat ramps, a public fishing area, parking lots, or just left as a grassy area.

Some of those present voiced concerns over the riverfront section’s polluted history.

Jim Weigle of Vienna raised concerns about the possible pollutants buried on the riverfront section of the property.

Others in the audience echoed Weigle’s concerns.

Bob Bennett of Vienna referred to the Johns Manville property as “the big elephant down on the river,” and alleged Vienna was applying for Home Rule status so that it could raise taxes to pay for the clean up of the Johns Manville property.

Hickman told those gathered that the site may be polluted, but the city has two options: buy it now and clean it up for itself, or leave the 35-acre polluted property to sit in its current polluted state until someone decides to buy it and clean it up for them.

Others questioned the liens on the property and the outstanding balances owed by Bob Childers, the current property owner.

Rapp said the city has a complete list of lien holders, and says they agreed to accept less pay than they are owed when the property is sold.

Matt Wright with Triad Engineering helped perform the core sampling taken on the riverfront side of the Johns Manville site, he said. According to Wright’s reports, two locations had slightly elevated readings of arsenic, and evidence of fiberglass and brick were found in the core samples, he said.

Core samples were drilled in 23 locations, scattered across the riverfront side of the property, to a depth of 30 feet, Wright said. Groundwater samples were also gathered, and were found to be clean except for one which showed an elevated level of lead, Wright said.

The exact results of the environmental survey performed by Triad Engineering will not be available to the public until after the purchase of the property is complete, Rapp said.

“We put a lot of money into those core samples. They are of proprietary interest,” Rapp said.

A public forum for the Johns Manville property purchase will be held at 6 p.m. today at the Vienna City Council Chambers, followed by the final vote of the ordinance giving the city permission to purchase the property at 7 p.m. The public can attend both meetings.