Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Contaminated Property and Sea Level Rise / S Florida

On the 10th of February, the Miami-Dade District held its monthly luncheon at Morton’s Steakhouse in Coral Gables. The topic was “Environmentalism and Commercial Real Estate.” Michael Goldstein, Esq., Managing Partner at The Goldstein Environmental Law Firm, gave the first presentation: An Environmental Primer to Help CCIMs Successfully Navigate Contaminated Land Transactions in South Florida.

Historically, contaminated land has been a problem for buyer / sellers and to finance. It was considered not only an environmental problem, but also a business problem. Banks would not lend, thus deals would not close. But Mr. Goldstein explained how contaminated land is not a problem but rather an opportunity for investors, developers, and government to cooperate. 

One of the earliest brownfield (land with environmental issues) projects in Miami-Dade County was AMD Codina Beacon Lakes- NW 117TH AVE and NW 25TH street. It was a massive illegal landfill site, contaminated with petroleum hydrocarbons and arsenic. Through State Liability Protection and Voluntary Cleanup Tax Credits, the site was redeveloped into an office warehouse park.

Mr. Goldstein debunked several myths concerning contaminated land:

-         Myth: It is impossible to transact contaminated land in Miami-Dade County.
-         Fact: Goldstein Environmental Law firm supported over 100 such transactions in 2016.

-         Myth: You can’t get financing on contaminated land.
Fact: Lenders routinely lend on contaminated land of all kinds.

-         Myth: You can’t insure contaminated land.
-         Fact: The marketplace is awash with environmental insurance.

State and Federal governments are subsidizing cleanup costs for these development projects, which represents a wonderful opportunity for investors.

The second talk was given by Wayne M. Pathman. He is managing partner of Miami-based Pathman Lewis. He is one of Florida’s distinguished lawyers with more than 30 years’ experience. Mr. Pathman heads the firm’s Land Use, Zoning, and Environmental Law Section. He is the Chair of the City of Miami’s Sea Level Rise Committee and the Chair of the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce. 

Wayne M. Pathman, Esq.
Mr. Pathman spoke about the risks of sea-level rise, especially in Miami and costal areas. Sea-level rise is not something that will happen in 20 years or in 10; it is occurring every day. In West Miami, some residents were recently concerned of a foul odor, and one of the reasons was attributed to sea-level rise. About 40% of Miami-Dade County has septic tanks which are vulnerable to the water table rising due to waste collecting below ground which would be exposed to the rising water.  Also, sewer lines that are buried underground are vulnerable to sea level rise.  Thus, there is a lot of work to be done with our infrastructure in getting it ready for the water level rise.   It is interesting to note that FEMA has done little to remap the United States with regard to coastal area and this issue.

Miami is vulnerable to sea-level rise because of its low-line geology and limestone foundation. This will inevitably have an effect on both residential and commercial real estate. We are witnessing it now in Miami Beach, where insurance premiums are and will continue to rise.  

Sea-level rise affect other sectors of business including financing, environmental laws and taxes. Most importantly, how will it affect south Florida investments and investors?

Carlos Rodriguez Jr. // KW Commercial