Archive for Thursday, August 10, 2000

Interchange rejection not good news for Oz

August 10, 2000

The road to Oz got a bit bumpier last week.

The Kansas Department of Transportation denied a request for a $23 million interchange to lead to the Sunflower Army Ammunition plant, the proposed site of the theme park and resort.

DeSoto officials applied for the interchange last fall, hoping it would be included in KDOT's $1 billion system enhancement program. The enhancement program was approved by Kansas Legislators last year to improve the state's interchanges, bypasses and corridors with the intent of enhancing economic development.

When the approved projects were announced last week, the Lexington Road-K-10 interchange was not on the list. Oz Entertainment Co. President Skip Palmer said the decision would not affect his company right now, but added a new interchange would have to be in place on Lexington Road before the theme park could open.

"We cannot open until the highway improvements are made, but we can't deal with that until our project is approved," he said. "The application for the project was submitted to the state by the city of DeSoto. It was not an Oz project. The interchange will be necessary for any future redevelopment at Sunflower, whether Oz comes or not. All we can do is continue to work with the city of DeSoto."

DeSoto Mayor Steve Prudden said he was disappointed with KDOT's decision, but remained hopeful that state transportation officials would reconsider the project if the Oz plan gains final approval.

"Number one, we're disappointed. Number two, we think, should things get thrown into gear, there will be an alternative way to apply," he said. "I believe they (KDOT) view the Oz deal still as speculation at this point and once a plan is in place, we can reapply and give them more of a reason to approve it."

Oz officials were scheduled to meet with the Johnson County Board of Commissioners Aug. 9 for the first of two work sessions for the proposed projects.

The second work session is scheduled for 7 p.m., Aug. 15 at Johnson County Community College. The meeting will be held in room 233 of the General Education Building.

The public will not be allowed to speak at either of the work sessions, but citizen groups, public associations and organizations can register to speak at the meeting by calling (913) 715-0430.

The public will be given an opportunity to speak to the commissioners about the Oz project during two public hearings. The first hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m., Aug. 21 at DeSoto High School. The second hearing will be held at 7 p.m., Aug. 24 at Shawnee Mission South High School.

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