Economic Committee gives Oz its endorsement
The DeSoto Economic Development Committee has invited Oz Entertainment Co. to work with the city to assure the cleanup and progressive development of the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant.
Last week, the development committee issued a two-paragraph statement endorsing a "thorough environmental cleanup and progressive land-use plan" for Sunflower's 9,065 acres. The statement adds the committee endorses "a full partnership between the city of DeSoto and the Oz Entertainment Company in meeting this development goal."
Noticeably missing from the statement is any mention of the $861 million Wonderful World of Oz Theme Park and Resort.
Dave Anderson, president of the development committee, said that wasn't an oversight. During committee discussions prior to the statement's release, several members expressed reservations about endorsing the theme park, he said.
Oz has negotiated an agreement with the Army that would transfer Sunflower to the company for the commitment to clean up an estimated $37.5 million worth of pollution at the plant. The Johnson County Commission, the Kansas Development Finance Authority, Gov. Bill Graves and the U.S. Congress must approve all or part of the agreement.
As that approval process starts, Anderson said the focus should be on getting Sunflower cleaned up and developing the plant according to the "Community in a Park" comprehensive land-use plan the Johnson County Commission approved for Sunflower in 1998.
"The debate has to move off the theme park," he said. "It is on only 80 acres of the plant. The real key to the car is the whole 9,000 acres."
The residential, commercial and light industrial uses outlined in the Community in a Park plan offer a chance to bring quality development to Sunflower, Anderson said. It will be a unique development that will be an asset and benefit to DeSoto, he said.
For his part, Anderson said a review of the transfer agreements and process and his knowledge of the demands of the Johnson County Planning Department have increased his "comfort level" that the development committee's two objectives can be met through the Oz.
The county's land-use plan constrains the type of development Oz or any other developer can do at Sunflower, Anderson said. Compatible projects would have to apply for zoning, and any noncompatible proposals - including the theme park - would have to seek a conditional-use permit.