Sustainable Development: Robert Shinn

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Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on July 12, 2000. All rights reserved.

Cleaning Up In Every Sense: Sadat Associates

Oh yes, there are deals to be made out there," says

Jeffrey Entin of Sadat Associates Inc. at Forrestal Village.

"Buy land dirty (and cheap), clean it up, and great profits can

be realized. Real estate, after all, is an elastic commodity."

For those interested in the technical, legal and financial aspects

of site cleanups, Entin will be moderating a panel to examine "Is

Brownfield Redevelopment Economically Viable" for the New Jersey

Technology Council on Wednesday, July 19, at 5:30 p.m. at Johnson

and Johnson’s New Brunswick headquarters, 410 George Street. Representing

environmental, legal, and real estate interests are Terri Smith,

brownfield coordinator for the state department of environmental protection,

Joseph Schmidt of Drinker Biddle & Shanley on College Road and

Bob Cahill, senior vice president of the Advance Group, the

Bedminster-based firm that is developing the Bovis building at Alexander

and Vaughn Drive. Cost: $70. 856-787-9700.

Entin insists that brownfields (property with soil or water contaminated

to some degree by previous owners) are something that every wise investor

must consider. He should know. While the 45 scientists and engineers

of Sadat Associates range as far abroad as Morocco and develop solid

waste sites on Palestine’s West Bank, Entin is the regional expert

for Princeton’s turf. Raised in Hightstown, he holds Rutgers’ Cook

College degrees in environmental science and environmental engineering.

As Sadat’s senior manager and assistant vice president, he guides

land buyers through site selection, cleanup viability, remediation,

and on through to profit.

One of his success stories can be found in Bayonne, where on summer

weekends golfers vent frustrations on the pure green links. Beneath

them once stood buried a host of leaky oil drums that all confirmed

"rendered the property beyond investment." All except Jeff

Entin, who found safe cleaning and transporting methods.

The Elizabeth Metro Mall boasts another enviable "stolen deal"

story. With Sadat’s advice, investors purchased this old landfill

for a virtual song and placed their shopping mall on city-view property

one would happily pay triple for next door.

Altruism rarely drives brownfield redevelopment; profit remains the

major mover. But a prospective buyer must always weigh the cost of

the cleanup and the time involved against the cost of other already

clean land — and factor in the return that investors will expect.

Fortunately, Entin points out, there are some rules of thumb.

Redevelopment works best, he notes, in a healthy, building

economy, with interest rates under 9 percent.

Location, as in all real estate, is prime. Building a

clean oasis amidst a pool of pollution is a poor investment. Entin

disagrees with the adage that redevelopment is strictly a high-price,

urban game. It works throughout the least populated parts of Mercer

and Middlesex, all the time.

A total clean-up may not be required before you can build.

Here the labyrinth of law envelopes you, and specialized guides are

a must. "We love good lawyers," notes Entin. "and have

quite a cadre we recommend."

Take advantage of New Jersey’s 1998 Brownfields Act, which

has modified many previous cleanup statutes. Now you may be able to

stabilize your land’s contamination for a period. You might apply

the D.E.P.’s "Hammer," forcing the seller to share costs.

Do not depend on funding and incentives, however abundant

they may seem. The Hazardous Discharge Site Remediation Fund, for

instance, offers both grants and loans to redevelopers. Federal and

state tax incentives can be gleaned. But do not factor them into the

business plan, because if the state determines that your land has

only partially been cleaned, you might have to pay remuneration. One

thing government will not deliver, Entin says, is a done-and-paid-for

cleanup.

Know when to hold, fold and walk away. A good assessment

will show you that some sites are just not worth it. Conventional

wisdom says "stick with bad soil, run from bad water." Zinc

found in industrial soils may be static and can possibly be paved

over. Gasoline drums leaking into the water supply entail a costly

cleanup to avoid poisoning your downstream neighbor. The trick is

knowing who can do the undoable.

The final rule for the business person and venture capitalist

is to be flexible. That old piece of clean, green farmland on which

you have been envisioning your Young Ladies Country Day School probably

costs more than your investors are willing to pay. If you can enlist

the help of Sadat Associates or other environmental firms, they might

steer you toward a hidden and much cheaper site.

Though landsite cleanup technology has changed greatly in the past

two decades, the real estate industry still winces at a "contaminated"

lot, and many brokers dismiss brownfield parcels before even mentioning

them to their prospects. Granted, brownfield redevelopment will entail

substantial hassle, but it frequently provides the savings that can

graduate a business from dream to reality.

In the short run almost everyone will agree that redeveloping our

brownfields is economically worth considering. It might save a few

(or a lot of) bucks when building a business. But a bigger question

is, can we afford not to clean up after ourselves? Sadat Associates

sees redevelopment as an integrated part of revitalizing our communities:

We can’t go on merrily fouling our own nest and walking out of town.

— Bart Jackson

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Sustainable Development: Robert Shinn

Sustainable development" is the new catch phrase

among politicians and environmentalists alike, and to that end, Robert

Shinn, commissioner of New Jersey’s Department of Environmental

Protection, has played a major role. Since his appointment in 1994,

Shinn has instituted a handful of programs aimed at getting businesses

to act more responsibly about pollution.

Business development and land preservation, says the commissioner

and former head of the New Jersey Pinelands Commission, are not at

odds. "It’s symbiotic," he says. "Open space preservation

furthers development in town centers and urban areas, and DEP has

many programs to further remediation of brownfields."

Shinn speaks at the Princeton Chamber meeting on "The Impact of

Growth and Development on the Environment," on Thursday, July

13, at 11:30 a.m. Call 609-520-1776. Cost: $30. (For a Wednesday,

July 19, meeting on cleaning up brownfields, see below).

Shinn, the 11th commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection,

has held the position since 1994, longer than any commissioner in

the 29-year history of the office. A former mayor of Hainesport and

Burlington County Freeholder, Shinn has devoted 26 years as an elected

official to open space, Pinelands and farmland preservation, water

supply, and solid waste management issues.

At the time of his nomination, he was a state assemblyman, representing

parts of Atlantic, Burlington, and Camden Counties. Shinn authored

a New Jersey law that gave the state the necessary authority to manage

threatened surface and ground water resources. He also guided the

passage of a mandatory recycling act and wrote the law regulating

the disposal of medical waste in New Jersey. In support of farmland

preservation, he authored the law that allows farmers and private

owners of undeveloped land to be compensated for restricting their

property from development.

By all measures, says Shinn, corporate responsibility and compliance

on environmental issues continues to increase, thanks to successful

pollution prevention programs, and "the growing realization that

economic and environmental objectives are not by any means contradictory,

and that waste and inefficiency are costly." One of the DEP’s

programs, the Silver and Gold Track Program, gives businesses greater

regulatory flexibility in exchange for committing to high environmental

goals. "In many sectors," he says, "environmental awareness

is becoming part of the corporate culture. This is one of the objectives

of our new Gold Track Program — to further this movement by offering

regulatory incentives for achieving environmental goals."

Furthermore, research on environmental technologies is taking off,

especially in the Princeton area, says Shinn, and to further the development

of that technology, the DEP has established the Office of Innovative

Technology and Market Development, and the Corporation for Advanced

Technologies (609-984-5418).

"More and more people are realizing the costs of development,"

says Shinn. "Governor Whitman in particular is leading the charge

for more sensible development to protect the quality of life for present

and future generations. The DEP is a full partner in the governor’s

agenda for creating a sustainable state."


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