Archive for Thursday, January 30, 2003

Lawmakers mulling Sunflower legislation

January 30, 2003

Three Johnson County lawmakers are planning to introduce legislation that would facilitate the transfer and development of the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant.

State Rep. Rob Boyer (R-Olathe) said he and fellow Kansas House member John Ballou (R-Gardner) and Sen. Karin Brownlee (R-Olathe) met Jan. 22 with De Soto Mayor Dave Anderson, De Soto City Administrator Greg Johnson, De Soto City Attorney Patrick Reavey, Rick Kaplan of the K-10 Association and Danielle Noe, Johnson County's legislative lobbyist. Blaine Hastings, the U.S. General Services Administration's Sunflower project agent, and GSA attorney Mark Duffy also attended the meeting.

Another meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Boyer said. Johnson County Commission Chair Annabeth Surbaugh and 6th District County Commissioner John Toplikar are to attend that meeting, which will have the same purpose as last week's gathering.

"There was one agenda item -- whether or not the state needed to take action on Sunflower," Boyer said.

"It was this group's resolution that the best way to proceed is to create a Sunflower Land Authority that would be responsible for the development and cleanup of Sunflower.

Legislation that passed the Kansas Senate before stalling in the House last year would have created such an authority. In addition, the bill, which was introduced at Johnson County's request, would have allowed the county to create a redevelopment district at Sunflower.

With the authority to create a redevelopment district, the county could offer tax increment financing and sales tax revenue bonds to developers at Sunflower. So-called TIF and STAR bonds allow developers to divert money owed on property taxes or sales tax collections to paying off debt for infrastructure improvements.

The proposed legislation would name representatives from Johnson County, Gardner, Olathe and Eudora and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment on the redevelopment authority, while reserving two seats for De Soto members.

"In my opinion, Dave Anderson ought to be chairman," Boyer said. "He's the most knowledgeable person on Sunflower I know."

Boyer said he and Ballou would introduce legislation similar to last year's bill in the House, or Brownlee would carry the bill in the Senate. Brownlee is chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee that would consider the legislation.

"We will not introduce any legislation that doesn't have the approval of the Johnson County Commission," Boyer said.

Anderson, who has been pushing for action on Sunflower, said he was encouraged by the meeting.

"I think this was the most positive meeting I've been to on Sunflower," he said. "It puts everything in line for a legislative move."

Boyer and Anderson said the proposed legislation would do nothing to halt a proposed transfer of Sunfower to Kessinger/Hunter & Co.

In June, then-Gov. Bill Graves appointed a panel headed by Lt. Gov. Gary Sherrer to review a request from Kessinger/Hunter and its financier, Cherokee Partners of North Carolina that the state pursue an early transfer at Sunflower.

Charles Hunter, principal with Kessinger/Hunter, said Monday Boyer had spoken to him about the proposed redevelopment district.

"I'm intrigued by the concept," he said. "I would like to know more about it -- how it all works together."

Hunter said his company had always said it would sit down with all groups with an interest in Sunflower once a timeframe for the transfer was in place.

When the partners announced their interest in Sunflower, they stated the only thing they were asking of the state was the governor's approval of the early transfer process. Hunter said Monday the partners would not need TIF and STAR bonds for the acquisition and cleanup of Sunflower, but it could be a useful tool in redevelopment.

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