Archive for Thursday, July 6, 2000

Road, dam top list of Oz requests to Johnson County

July 6, 2000

When Oz officials sit down with Johnson County Commissioners for the first time on July 24, they will have a lot to talk about.

Oz CEO Robert Kory and his company plan to ask commissioners be a 30-year tax break, a $2 million dam and a $6 million road leading to the proposed Wonderful World of Oz Theme Park and Resort.

County Commissioner Johnna Lingle said she needed more time to review the pertinent documents before forming a final opinion on the requests, but her initial reaction was that they were "a bit excessive."

Kory said Monday the requests are not out of line when you consider how much tax money the theme park would generate for the county and the benefits the road and lake would provide area residents.

Oz is requesting the dam be built to create a lake on land surrounding the theme park. Kory said the commissioners have known about the dam request for some time and the road was a natural extension of the dam.

"The dam has been part of the plan all along," he said. "And the road would go over the dam, so if you build one, you build the other."

As a part of the deal, Oz officials will agree to develop 1,000 acres of land for "open space uses," Kory said. He explained the lake would be part of that agreement.

The road the entertainment company is asking for would give the public access to park areas also included in the open space agreement, he said. The park area and the lake would be available to the public free of charge.

"It's something local people could take advantage of without paying to get into the theme park," he said.

The proposal offers county officials a chance to pay for recreation areas with tourism money, Kory said.

"Given the fiscal impact of the project, I don't think the requests are excessive at all," he said. "We would create enough money to pay for both the dam and the road in a year or two."

The July 24 work session will be open to the public but it will not be allowed to participate. Lingle said the commission will host at least two public hearings on the proposed development before a final decision is made.

The work session will be held in the evening, Lingle said. A time and place have not been set.

Oz officials must gain approval from the commission before the development can proceed.

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