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Councillor frustrated taxpayers on the hook to clean up former gas stations in London

(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Former gas stations often sit vacant for years awaiting decontamination and redevelopment — and it’s London taxpayers who can end up footing much of the bill.

On Monday, the Planning and Environment Committee considered a grant application of $642,000 from the city’s Brownfield Community Improvement Plan (CIP) to remediate the soil beneath a former gas station at Southdale Road and Dundalk Drive in order to permit a large residential development.

The intent of the Brownfield CIP is to remove or reduce the obstacles that hinder remediation and redevelopment by the private sector.

“I’m happy to have those sites remediated because it’s better for the environment and for infill (developments), but my issue is who pays for it,” explained Coun. Skylar Franke. “Right now taxpayers subsidize our Community Improvement Plans (CIPs), and so essentially taxpayers will be subsidizing the remediation.”

Former gas stations sit vacant at prominent locations across London.

Franke asked city staff about requiring financial securities as a condition of approving new gas stations or soil contaminating industries.

“In the future could we start collecting things like securities for things like gas stations or chemical/hazardous industry?” she asked.

Paying a security deposit before building a new gas station could provide a financial incentive for corporations to prevent soil contamination or clean-up the site when it closes.

Alternatively, Franke would like to see the province fund brownfield restoration to prepare properties for residential development to help meet London’s housing pledge of 47,000 new homes by 2031.

The province has an environmental fund, but its annual expenditures are minuscule compared the amount of contaminated brownfield sites in Ontario.

After the committee meeting, Franke said she will meet with city staff to discuss options, “The onus should be on the corporation that caused the environmental harm.” Top Stories

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