Preston County official earns honor for brownfield redevelopment

CHARLESTON — Preston County Economic Development Authority (PCEDA) Executive Director Robbie Baylor was honored Friday for her work to redevelop brownfields.

Baylor was presented with the Local Leadership Award by the West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Program at its annual conference, held at the Charleston Civic Center. According to the group, the award, “recognizes a neighborhood, city or county leader with a strong commitment to brownfield redevelopment.”

The law defines a brownfield site as, “real property, the expansion, redevelopment or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant.”

That’s something Baylor is familiar with. In her position with the Preston EDA for the past 20 years, she has been in involved with a handful of sites.

Recently she worked with the Friends of Cheat on assessments for the Kingwood to Rowlesburg rail trail, the assessment on the West Virginia Northern property in Kingwood that is being redeveloped as a trail head, and assessed a W.Va. 7 property for Preston Propane before the business moved in.

PCEDA assessed the property where a large fire in 2017 destroyed a portion of downtown Rowlesburg as far as its being a brownfield. That property was recently donated to the PCEDA.

“We did an assessment there before we took ownership of that project,” Baylor said. “We’re working on redeveloping that.”

PCEDA is also working on the property in west Kingwood formerly used by Matthews Bronze, (also called the Kinney Shoe property).

“We are still waiting for the results of the environmental assessment that had to be done as part of the AML pilot program,” Baylor said.

An environmental consultant and an engineer have been hired for the Matthews project.

Baylor was unsure whether an inventory has ever been done of all Preston County brownfield sites. But any strip-mined land, anyplace where there were above ground or underground storage tanks, and former tanneries could potentially be brownfields.

“We have the potential to have quite a few sites,” she said. Baylor also answers questions from Preston County towns about brownfields and point them toward other possible help.

“I feel like we kind of have the resources to attend these conferences maybe better than some of the towns do,” Baylor said.

The conference is valuable, she said, because of where it can lead.

“I think, at this point, making sure that we’ve got the right connections for funding as we find more of these types of properties. Because the funding can be used by us in partnership with either a private owner or a government entity. But none of that can happen unless you have the resources to access the funding,” she said.

The West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Centers at WVU and Marshall were created in 2005 by the state legislature to help communities. They, “promote and coordinate the development of brownfield property by providing training and technical assistance, facilitating site preparation efforts, engaging community involvement, as well as by helping communities with grant writing and leveraging project funding,” according to the West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Centers website.

Baylor had to be nominated for the award. Past recipients include New Historic Thomas and the City of Thomas, Ray Moeller and the Richwood Main Street Alliance, and Huntington Mayor Steve Williams.

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