Letter to the editor: City is already protected from Oz
I wanted to refute the incredible misconceptions and misinformation, which surrounded DeSoto's recent effort to propose legislation, which would have amended the state's statutes regarding economic development in light of the proposed Oz development.
In my 21 years as a city attorney representing the cities of Kansas City, Lenexa and now DeSoto, I have never written a letter to the editor, but felt compelled to in this matter based upon the insulting insinuations by State Representatives John Ballou and Phil Kline against the city of DeSoto and Mayor Steve Prudden. Both representatives either didn't understand DeSoto's proposal or didn't care to understand our proposal for their own political motivations. My suspicion is that the latter is true, especially in light of the fact I fully explained Mayor Steve Prudden's proposal to Representative Ballou. In addition, Representative Kline totally mischaracterized the Kansas revisor of statute's opinion he personally had requested.
Here are the facts:
DeSoto is across the street and borders the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant and will be dramatically impacted by the proposed Oz development.
The City would have requested annexation of the Sunflower Army Plant (or at least the portion where the theme park is proposed) as part of its major annexation which in part have approved by the Johnson County Commissioners in 1998 but cities cannot annex federally owned land.
Mayor Prudden and the DeSoto City Council have for the past three years attempted to position DeSoto to have some control of this possible development including entering into a lease agreement with the federal government ("Army") to operate the existing Water Facilities Plant on the site to the overall benefit of the DeSoto citizens by access to abundant and thus low cost water rates to our citizens and developers. If the Oz development occurs, the city is hopeful the Federal Government Services Administration will transfer fee simple ownership of the water plant to the city of DeSoto for free (as well as 60 acres of DeSoto park land and 80 acres of property for future DeSoto water, sewer, park, fire, police and other public facilities).
Mayor Prudden had been involved in negotiations with Oz officials to provide water and sewer services for the development at no cost to DeSoto citizens but with potential tremendous benefits to the city's infrastructure at the Oz cost.
Over the past three years Mayor Prudden has consistently sought Oz officials' support if DeSoto sought annexation of the army property once it was transferred to private ownership and thus eligible under state law for DeSoto annexation.
As part of this annexation possibility, the mayor directed the city's bond counsel, financial adviser and city attorney to review the state statute regarding Economic Development (T.I.F. and STAR Bonds included) Districts.
The statute as currently written, does not provide cities in Kansas with the same authority as the special legislation passed by the legislature for the NASCAR track in Wyandotte County and the proposed Oz Park. In essence, even if the city annexes the Sunflower property, it would not have any control over a $750 Million development in its own city.
The proposed legislative bill by DeSoto would simply have provided that cities in Kansas would have the same authority as bestowed upon the Unified Government for NASCAR and to the Kansas Development Finance Authority for the Oz park.
The proposed DeSoto bill did not, as Reps. Ballou and Kline stated and insinuated repeal the provision passed by the legislature in earlier Oz legislation because:
The proposed DeSoto bill made no reference to the special Oz statute (which DeSoto sought to clean up).
The economic development statute in Kansas fully empowers a city to negotiate a "redevelopment agreement" (just as the Unified Government has done in Wyandotte County and KDFA will do for Oz) and established and terms and conditions for the bond issuance.
Through this agreement, the city could provide for all the terms and conditions the state legislature mandated for the Oz project, which was always Mayor Prudden's intent if the city annexed the property and became the bond issuer. These include:
1. Assurance taxes would still go to DeSoto Schools.
2. Strict and complete compliance with Kansas Department of Health & Environment conditions for remediation of the land backed by insurance polity guarantees.
3. Repayment of $500,000 to Wyandotte County by Oz developers.
The Revisor of statute's opinion which Reps. Ballou and Kline relied upon to allege DeSoto would abandon these conditions recognized this authority. The Revisor stated the possibility that the above Oz conditions could be lost if DeSoto's bill were passed was based upon his assumptions that first, DeSoto would annex the land and second, it would not impose these conditions in a redevelopment agreement. The first assumption was totally premature and the second assumption was dead wrong.
The bottom line is Reps. Ballou and Kline wanted to portray themselves as the great protectors of the local community.
In doing so, they insulted DeSoto, its Mayor, city council, city administrator and the city's legal and financial team as either not caring or being incompetent to govern.
The fact is DeSoto has more at stake in this development than Topeka and most areas of Johnson County and, has legal and financial team with more than 60 years experience in development issues including drafting and litigation regarding the state statute.
Mayor Prudden is not a pawn of Oz nor a dunce from some little dumb or unprepared town but rather, a hard working, intelligent visionary leader looking out for the future of DeSoto and the best interest of our citizens.