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Port authority signs papers to own Republic Steel site

VIENNA — In the next couple of weeks, the 1,000-acre legacy Republic Steel site — viewed as having tremendous potential for redevelopment — will belong officially to the Western Reserve Port Authority.

“We signed the papers with BDM and their ownership group last week, and it is in the hands of the county now, who has to go through title changes in the recorder’s office to transfer the deed from BDM to the Western Reserve Port Authority,” John Moliterno, port authority CEO, said on Wednesday. “That has already been handed off to the county … and once that happens, we’ll officially own all of it.”

It was in January when the port authority board gave Moliterno the OK to negotiate a deal with landowner BDM Warren Steel Holdings LLC for 825 acres along Pine Avenue SE that BDM wanted to donate to the agency.

Later, BDM came back to the port authority about acquiring 200 more acres adjacent to the site, west of the Cleveland Cliffs coke plant.

That land would be used to connect the 825 acres — already one of the largest, if not the largest shovel-ready sites in Ohio — to points west, including a prime industrial development and a transportation corridor in Lordstown.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency in October blessed the larger portion with an environmental clean bill of health by granting a covenant not to sue after BDM completed remediation at the site. The covenant protects the owner or future owners from being legally responsible to the state for further environmental investigation and cleanup.

The protection becomes part of the property deed and transfers to future owners. It can last forever as long as the property is used and maintained according to the terms of the covenant, according to the state.

The smaller 200-acre site has undergone an initial environmental hazard assessment. Now, the port authority is waiting on cost proposal to clean up the issues that exist, Moliterno said.

Remediation work could begin as soon as this year.

“Once we get that proposal and determine we have the dollars to be able to do that, we will proceed with it,” Moliterno said.

The 200-acre site was placed into a nonprofit foundation formed by the port authority, done as a “another layer of protection for the port authority” because it “does not have all the environmentals done on it yet,” Moliterno said.

The property was used to produce multiple forms of steel from 1912 to 2012. The last steel producer was RG Steel, which sold the mill to BDM in 2012, when RG Steel went bankrupt. BDM immediately started looking for a new buyer. With none in sight, BDM auctioned parts of the mill in spring 2013 and began tearing down buildings and started to market the land. The blast furnace, the last remaining one in Trumbull and Mahoning counties, was torn down in 2017.

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