The redevelopment of Cookeville’s L Block might be in jeopardy.
Cookeville Planning Director James Mills said developers may abandon the project because of high prices associated with environmental cleanup.
“Last week, the developer of this property indicated he had done some preliminary investigation on the potential cost for removing the structures. It turns out that there are some environmental concerns,” Mills said. “His preliminary estimates for removing the one home is over $75,000 and in excess of $100,000 for the apartment complex.”
Cookeville City Council members approved a redevelopment area overlay zoning for the property nearly two months ago. The developers plan to replace the condemned structures on West 4th Street and Chestnut Avenue with 17 townhouses.
Mills said rising environmental costs have started to become a roadblock for RAO projects.
“The RAO has been very successful in redeveloping areas that are in need of revitalization,” Mills said. “Our concern is that this could potentially deter any future redevelopment in these areas. Especially these older homes or structures that often have environmental concerns.”
The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation has specific requirements for how areas should be cleaned up. Mills said the requirements are designed to keep toxic materials from spreading to other areas.
“Apparently the cost has gone up. I don’t know if there are new regulations, but we are researching that to find out,” Mills said. “I’m not sure what’s changed but we are concerned and hopefully we can come up with something to continue our redevelopment of these areas.”
Mills said the city will consider applying for grants to help pay for the cost associated with environmental issues.
On Monday night, the Cookeville Planning Commission voted to approve the final RAO and preliminary plat for the project. The developer at the meeting said they were trying to work the environmental issues out.