So overgrown it looks as if nature has completely taken it over, a former manufacturing site in North Rome has the potential to be reused and reborn. In the quest for property to bring business to Rome and Floyd County, nothing’s completely off the table.
The Rome-Floyd County Development Authority will apply for a communitywide assessment grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency — as well as a loan from its revolving fund — to clean up local sites in need of environmental mitigation.
Procuring these types of grants is a competitive process, Authority President Missy Kendrick said, and if they aren’t awarded a grant this cycle — they’ll apply again later.
It’s part of an overall strategy to find available property. In the process, they also look at sites they suspect may have some environmental issues.
Those sites are referred to as brownfields — an abandoned or underutilized industrial or commercial property. New development on brownfield sites may be impacted by a variety of pollutants or contaminants.
The Georgia Environmental Protection Division lists nine brownfield sites in Rome and Floyd County. While those are only the sites on file, there are others that could pop up once they are examined.
The environmental issues at a brownfield site could range from manufacturing waste to a buried gas tank at a former convenience store.
There’s the potential for using any awarded grant money to assess issues on the site. That takes the cost away from the property owner and gets that site closer to reuse.
“What we’re doing is not necessarily for industrial development,” Kendrick said. “It could be for housing; it could be for commercial development. We’re trying to free up some sites that might just otherwise sit there.”
One of the most notable local brownfield sites is the former O’Neill Manufacturing location, a 7-acre tract off Anderson Street in North Rome.
The company treated and manufactured custom wood products until it closed in 2000 following the death of Sean O’Neill, its last chief executive officer.
The family-owned company was founded in 1878 in Atlanta and moved to its 102 Anderson St. address in Rome around the turn of that century.
The site came under scrutiny the year O’Neill died after a site assessment by S&ME, a private engineering firm. An assessment at that time found two 500-gallon containers of Wood Life, a wood treatment preservative known to contain significant amounts of the probable carcinogen pentachlorophenol.
The site has been tied up in bankruptcy proceedings ever since but has long been top of the list for redevelopment, said Wright Bagby, chair of the Floyd County Commission and a former mayor of Rome.
“It’s been a blight on that neighborhood,” Bagby said in a development authority board meeting last week. He indicated it is still something the city and county should look at.