Power Plant to Close, City Committed to Reimagine Public Lakefront Space
You may have recently heard the news about GenOn Holdings, Inc’s plans to close the Avon Lake power plant and transfer the site to a successor organization.
The overall plan is to open up the plant’s lakefront property for redevelopment that will include public access and recreational use, by closing the coal-fired plant, then remediating and demolishing it over the next two to three years. We are at the first step in the plan, which is the closing of the plant.
The second step of the plan, remediation and demolition of the site, is the responsibility of GenOn’s successor. We will be applying for brownfield grants to assist in this endeavor financially. This is a huge step towards cleaning up our environment, and we are proud to be a part of the process.
We are confident that turning this outdated facility, which currently operates fewer than 50 days per year, into usable public land will not only improve the quality of life for our community environmentally, but it will also beautify our lakefront for residents, entrepreneurs and visitors.
We are excited about the project, but like all projects it’s not without its challenges. Although the plant only operates less than 50 days each year, there are still about 55 employees working there. We understand that this will be a challenging time for them and their families. We will work with our partners at Ohio Means Jobs Lorain County to help aid their transition to new jobs.
We also know that this may have a temporary impact on property taxes as the City absorbs the loss of property tax revenue from the plant. However, any short-term impact on our homeowners, businesses and schools will be lessened by the new housing and business development that continues to and is currently occurring throughout our City. In addition, not far down the road, the gains from redeveloping 40 acres of prime real estate will be significant.
Throughout this project, which will take several years to complete, I will be sure to give you regular updates on our progress. In the meantime, read our press release and Q&A’s below to help answer some of your questions. If you have any other inquiries, ideas or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact Ted Esborn, Economic Development Director, at (440) 930-4167 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Greg Zilka, Mayor
Questions and Answers
1. What is this huge lakefront site going to ultimately be?
We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform and redevelop the 40-acre lakefront power plant site. The top priority for the City is creating new ways for the public to enjoy Lake Erie. But there is still a lot of planning work to be done. The redevelopment will be a partnership between GenOn’s successor and the City of Avon Lake.
2. Is the City of Avon Lake buying the power plant site?
That is a possible outcome, but how likely that is will be clearer when the planning work is done. GenOn will transfer the plant ownership to a successor organization, which will take on all environmental obligations for the plant site. The City purchase of a completely remediated site has been discussed, but the City believes there are many possible ownership outcomes that could all achieve the goal of public access to, and enjoyment of, Lake Erie.
3. Is the City doing the demolition and cleanup on the site?
No. GenOn’s successor organization will take on all environmental obligations for the plant site. The City plans on seeking state and federal funds for the cleanup. While those grants will open up more possibilities for the redevelopment, the cleanup and remediation are not contingent on those funds coming through.
4. How much will it cost to tear down the plant and remediate the site?
We don’t have that cost number. This would be a question for GenOn’s successor organization. What we can say is that turning this outdated facility and site into usable public land will not only improve the quality of life for our community environmentally, but it will also beautify our lakefront for residents and visitors.
5. Who is the buyer and why did they buy the plant?
The prospective buyer asked that their company name remain confidential until the deal is finalized and approval is received from federal energy regulators.
6. When will the demolition begin and will the power plant continue to operate?
The plan that GenOn and its successor have described involves closing the plant in September with demolition to begin shortly thereafter. The power plant will operate for the next 90 days, as is required by federal energy regulators.
7. How many people work in the plant now, are they all losing their jobs?
According to the plant manager, there are 55 people working at the plant. We do not know if GenOn will be able to employ any of them elsewhere when the Avon Lake plant closes. The City will work with our partners at Ohio Means Jobs Lorain County to aid in their transition.
8. Did the employees of the plant know that the plant is closing?
Yes, they were told the morning of June 9th. We know that this will be a challenging time for employees and their families. The City will work with our partners at Ohio Means Jobs Lorain County to aid in their transition to new jobs.
9. Will Avon Lake residents have to pay more taxes because of the lost tax revenue?
Yes, this may have a temporary impact on property taxes as we absorb the loss of property tax revenue from the plant. Because the tax value of the plant has tumbled over the years from $80 million to about $7 million, the reallocation of revenue will not be as much as it would have been if the plant had closed years ago. It’s important to point out any short-term impact on our homeowners, businesses and schools will be lessened by the new housing and business development that continues to and is currently occurring throughout our City. In addition, not far down the road, the gains from redeveloping 40 acres of prime real estate will be significant
10. Will the City be seeking and receiving grants for the cleanup of this brownfield site?
Yes. As a local government, Avon Lake is uniquely eligible to receive some brownfield cleanup grants, and we have offered to seek this funding. This is a big step towards cleaning up our environment, and we are proud to be a part of the process.
11. How long has the City known about this?
Last July we learned that GenOn was seeking a buyer for the plant who could manage the environmental liability.
12. What is the zoning on the power plant site and will that zoning be changed?
The current zoning is industrial. That zoning is now inconsistent with the City’s goal of new public enjoyment of Lake Erie. Any future zoning will depend on our planning work with GenOn’s successor, but zoning is likely to change to allow the City to meet its objective of new public enjoyment of Lake Erie.
13. Will this change the value of properties in Avon Lake near the plant?
It is too early for us to speculate about that, especially before redevelopment planning has been done.
14. Do you think there could be residential zoning on the site in the future?
Yes, that is possible. If the City stays involved in the planning and redevelopment, it is very unlikely to be solely residential. That would defeat our goal of new public access and enjoyment of Lake Erie.
15. Will the coal pile that runs between Lake and Walker go away?
Yes. There will be no future need for that coal in Avon Lake once the facility has been decommissioned.
16. Will the transmission lines running south from the plant go away?
Those lines belong to FirstEnergy, that decision will be up to them.
17. Where will Avon Lake residents get their power if the plant is gone?
Avon Lake residents do not actually get their power directly from that plant. They get it from a regional grid that pulls from many plants. The plant in Avon Lake only operates for about 50 days per year.
18. Avon Lake had a West End Redevelopment Commission do planning work for the plant and surrounding area in 2014-2015. Will their plan be implemented? Will the group be reassembled?
The work that they did is very helpful. At the appropriate time, we would like to bring that group into the planning discussions.
19. How much say does the City have in what is happening from here forward?
We will work with GenOn’s successor to find a redevelopment plan that both works financially for that organization and achieves the City’s goal of public enjoyment of the lake.
20. Is the old original plant building going to be spared and renovated?
It’s too early to say, though the City would prefer that the building remain if there is a viable place for it in the site’s redevelopment.