Part of west US-192 designated brownfield

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OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. - Osceola County leaders made a difficult decision Monday to qualify for state dollars and finally redevelop the abandoned areas surrounding west U.S. Route 192.

The decision is to designate parts of west U.S. 192 as a brownfield.

The Board of Osceola County Commissioners voted to approve the designation, which according to Florida law, means parts of the area may be environmentally contaminated.

That would allow the area to qualify for state funds to help clean up the area and also create growth.

The fight to redevelop parts of west U.S. 192 is taking on new life.

The area is economically depressed and like most established commercial strips could have potentially environmentally sensitive areas, so the land meets the state requirements of a brownfield.

"There all sorts of potential sites out there whether it be dry cleaners, gas stations," said Jeff Jones, a Strategic Initiatives Director for Osceola County.

The designation doesn't mean the entire area is riddled with environmentally sensitive land. It just means there is potential for hazard among some sites.

The designation, approved by the Osceola County Commission on Monday, paves the way for state dollars to be used for any potential environmental clean-up, and also for any neighboring businesses that sat stagnant as a result of the depressed area.

"It gives them tax credits. It gets it done quicker and faster and removes the stigma of an environmental impact on a property," said George Houston, a brownfields coordinator with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

The designation increases guarantees on business loans and speeds up permitting for renovations and building, all of which stimulates the economy along west U.S. 192.

"This is yet another tool that we can use to attract investment into that corridor," said Jones.

Forty-five of the 67 Florida counties have a brownfield area and they all share $5 million a year for environmental cleanup funds.