Archive for Thursday, November 20, 2003

Five applicants respond to county Sunflower request

November 20, 2003

A company with established ties to De Soto was among those notifying the Johnson County officials of their interest in redeveloping the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant.
In a Monday memo to the County Commission, Johnson County Legal Counsel Don Jarrett said five statements of interest were received before the Nov. 17 deadline. Expressing interest were Hunt Midwest Enterprises, Kansas Wind Power of Lenexa, LS Commercial Real Estate of Kansas City, Mo., Pollution Risk Services of Cincinnati and Olathe realtor Doug Dowell on behalf of an unidentified client.
In addition, the Johnson County citizen's group, Taxpayers Offering Tomorrow's Opportunities, responded with a statement of its proposed research park, Jarrett wrote.
One additional statement of interest, from Easy Credit Corporation from North Kansas City, Mo., was received after what Commissioners agreed was a flexible deadline. Jarrett said he hadn't followed up on the letter to find out how viable it was.
Hunt Midwest Mining Inc., a division of Hunt Midwest Enterprises, operates Sunflower Quarry located adjacent to the closed ammunition plant south of 95th Street.
Pollution Risk Services' Web site reports it has experience in 3,000 environmental remediation projects.
The county is already negotiating a Sunflower proposal with Kessinger/Hunter and Co. that would have the county purchase the 9,065-acre plant and then sell it to the Kansas City real estate firm.
Johnson County Commission Chairwoman Annabeth Surbaugh said at a quick glance it appeared there were those among the new applicants with the financial means to be serious contenders.
A number of applicants only expressed interest in Sunflower, Surbaugh said. Kansas Wind Power was the only one to provide a site plan for its redevelopment.
The interest begged the question of how the County Commission should go about selecting a developer from the applicants.
Surbaugh and County Commissioners John Toplikar, Susie Wolf and Dolores Furtado said Tuesday they thought it important the Commission give all interested parties equal consideration but disagreed on what role a redevelopment authority should play in selecting a developer.
Surbaugh said at minimum public hearings with public comment session would be part of the process.
"If we had two viable proposals, I would foresee public hearings on both proposals," she said. "We've said all along we'll have public input on everything we do."
The job of creating a process of evaluating the proposal would start with a work session now planned for Dec. 11, Surbaugh said. Among the Commission's tasks would be establishing timelines for potential developers to submit added details, she said.
Toplikar, who represents De Soto, said the added interest underscored the need to create a Sunflower redevelopment authority with the expectation it would review and make recommendations on the various proposals.
"Commissioners are not developers," he said. "For commissioners to try to filter through various proposals would probably dominate too much of our time."
Two other commissioners, Ed Peterson and David Lindstorm, made similar statements at a Sunflower work session Monday, but Toplikar admitted they might not share his views on the duties a redevelopment authority should assume.
The bill giving the county the right to establish a Sunflower Redevelopment Authority spelled out its duties and responsibilities, Toplikar said. The language called for the redevelopment authority to be the contact entity for developers, he said. Jarrett suggested the legislation was "enabling" and therefore more flexible, but Toplikar said the Commission should invite the comment of state lawmakers so the county didn't go forward with a process that would be counter to Legislature's goals.
A redevelopment authority "would make it a lot easier for commissioners," Wolf said, but was not ready to support its creation. It was obvious the Commission would have to rely on staff and/or outside help as it reviewed at rated the different proposals, she said.
Fartoda and Surbaugh' stance on the redevelopment authority hasn't changed since the Commission started considering a redevelopment authority in early October. Such a board shouldn't be named until its role was better defined, and that won't be known until it was decided if the county would resell the plant to a developer or market Sunflower on its own, they said. Different skills and expertise would be required for the different tasks, they said.
Bankers and bond lawyers would be high on her list for a redevelopment authority should the county retain ownership of Sunflower, Surbaugh said. Engineers and planners would be better candidates should it be passed on to a developer, she said.
Members of a redevelopment authority would also have a possible conflict of interest in reviewing proposals because if it rejected them all, they would be Sunflower's developers, Fartoda said.
The Commission should rely on resident experts to help it develop the criteria needed to evaluate the proposals and determine the potential developers' ability to accomplish the complicated and expensive transfer and cleanup.
Wolf agreed that was the place to start, but added a redevelopment authority's role in helping with the decisions should be included. She also questioned the usefulness of Jarrett's suggestion that the county's Sunflower master plan be used to evaluate the proposals.
The Dec. 11 meeting would also include discussion of re-evaluating the Sunflower Community in a Park master plan, Surbaugh said.

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