Archive for Thursday, July 21, 2005

KU, K-State to get Sunflower property

July 21, 2005

The designated developer of the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant announced agreements Wednesday with the state's two largest universities that the developer says will be a boost to the state's year-old life science initiative.

Under the deal awaiting approval of Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, Sunflower Redevelopment LLC will make public benefit transfers of 642 acres to Kansas State University and Kansas University. K-State will receive the 300 acres that have long been the home of its research and horticultural test fields. KU will get 300 Sunflower acres, which will augment the 200 it already owns near the plant and south of Kansas Highway 10.

Sunflower Redevelopment executive director Kise Randall said the developer had also agreed to wrap the KU land with an additional 250-acre bioscience and research park. Sunflower Redevelopment would own that 250 acres but development would be limited to that eligible for state incentives from last year's bioscience initiative. A bioscience authority and not the developer would make that determination.

The agreements with the universities follows those reached in recent weeks with the city of De Soto for the water treatment plant on Sunflower and with USD 232 for 30 acres of land for a future schools. Randall told De Soto City Council members earlier this month the agreements were needed to demonstrate to the Army that progress on the transfer was being made so that funding would stay in the pipeline.

Sunflower Redevelopment attorney John Petersen said it was appropriate that Sunflower should play a part in the $500 million state bioscience initiative.

"Gov. Sebelius and the Kansas Legislature have made the life sciences initiative one of the state's highest priorities," he said. "It is appropriate that one of the first uses of Sunflower property following the transfer would be to provide land to our state's two major universities to generate life science research and the training of scientists for Kansas' emerging bioscience industry."

Sebelius must approve the transfer of the closed plant to Sunflower Redevelopment and has said that approval was dependent on a "significant portion" of Sunflower being made available for a life-science research park.

Johnson County's Community in a Park master plan approved in 1998 set aside land for a research park. Subsequent to the demise of Oz Entertainment Co.'s plan to build a theme park on the property, the citizens' group Taxpayers Offering Tomorrow's Opportunities advocated using North Carolina's Triangle Research Park as a model for Sunflower's redevelopment.

TOTO President Micheline Berger said she was disappointed with the amount of land donated to KU.

"I was really hoping that the amount of land granted KU for a research would have been far more than that," she said.

But Berger added that the size of the transfer was reached through negotiations with the universities.

"Obviously, if that's an agreement they have reached with KU and if KU is happy with that, I'm not going to scream bloody murder," she said. "We want to see the details. We probably will tell the governor we would have liked to see more land for the research park. If this is what the universities want, we intend to work with them to see that a legitimate research park happens."

Sunflower Redevelopment's goal is to complete the transfer by July 29.

"We certainly have our noses to the grindstone working to realize that," Randall said.

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