City seeks liability protections at Majestic site


Photographs by The Sentinel-Record/File photo

The Sentinel-Record/File photo SLOWLY BUT SURELY: A construction worker looks on as a trackhoe operator takes apart the parking deck underneath the Lanai Towers in August 2016. Demolition work concluded later that year. The city has been waiting since then for the state to provide an environmental clearance for the property.

With the extent and location of contamination at the Majestic Hotel site identified, the city is working to shield itself from liabilities it inherited from the property’s previous owners.

The implementing agreement with the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality the Hot Springs Board of Directors will consider as part of its consent agenda Tuesday night initiates the process, obligating the city to remediate the environmental conditions specified in the comprehensive site assessment the department approved in November.

The certificate of completion the department issues at the end of the process will release the city from liability for contamination that occurred prior to its September 2015 acquisition of the property from Park Residences Development for $672,782.

“This is step one of a few additional steps to get the property cleaned up,” Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Lance Spicer told the board earlier this week. “It puts everybody on the same page.”

The assessment determined chemical compounds collected last year from eight subsurface and groundwater borings contained minor or trace amounts of contamination. The property development plan the implementing agreement requires the city to submit will detail the cleanup process and steps the city will take to provide environmental safeguards during the development phase.

Much of the cleanup will be directed at the fuel bunker on the “yellow brick” building portion of the property. The location of the paint/maintenance building, which was torn down before the February 2014 fire that led to the city’s acquisition of the site, and laundry facility will also be addressed.

Removing the bunker and excavating the surrounding area, along with spot soil removal in the laundry facility area, will be part of the cleanup plan, the city said. The property development decision document the department will issue in response to the city’s plan determines if the cleanup measures are adequate. It includes a 30-day public comment period.

The state’s environmental law code empowers the department to impose deed restrictions on properties enrolled in its Brownfield program. The restrictions are recorded in county property records and preclude development activity that undermines the remediation or poses an environmental risk.

The law requires the city to file the implementing agreement, property development plan and property development decision document with the site’s property records, making it part of the chain of title and apparent to prospective buyers.

The city has said the residential/restrictive use identified in the implementing agreement as the property’s intended use provides myriad options for redevelopment, allowing it to pursue any ambitions it has for the property.

The city enrolled the property in the Brownfield program in October 2013 after the Majestic Hotel had sat idle since 2006. It was condemned in March 2015, with demolition of the “red brick” building, Lanai Towers and Lanai Suites concluded in late 2016.

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