No current tax value at Sunflower, developer says
Sunflower Redevelopment LLC wants to get its recently acquired 9,065 acres on the tax rolls but doesn't currently believe there is anything of value on which to pay taxes.
The partnership of Kessinger/Hunter and Co. of Kansas City, Mo., and the Denver-based International Risk Group acquired the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant in August for the commitment to clean up its environmental contamination.
Kise Randall, executive director of Sunflower Redevelopment LLC, said the property polluted from years of explosive manufacture and dotted with structures thought to be explosive because of traces of nitroglycerin currently has a negative value and, thus, no tax liability.
Sunflower property was leased for cattle grazing in the past and there was some thought much of it would be taxed at agricultural value when it was transferred to a developer. But Randall said exclusion zones and the level of clean up activity will soon start at Sunflower and will make cattle grazing or any other agricultural activity untenable.
Johnson County chief legal counsel Don Jarrett said the county wasn't ready to dismiss Sunflower's present tax value despite the truth in Randall's comments.
"Those are all valid points. I'm not sure we see them the same way the developer does," he said. "We think it is taxable. The question is, what's the value of it?"
And he is in agreement with Randall that land Sunflower Redevelopment will transfer to the Johnson County Parks and Recreation District, the city of De Soto, and Kansas and Kansas State universities would not be subject to property taxes.
Jarrett also conceded explosively contaminated areas weren't marketable and have no value. But the county could find value in surrounding areas despite the clean-up activity and exclusionary zones even if it is classified as something other than agriculture, he said.
"I don't know how it would be classified," he said. "We haven't got through that analysis yet."
That analysis, which would also include an appraisal by Johnson County Appraiser Paul Welcome, was just starting, Jarrett said.
"Clearly, as of Jan. 1 there will be some tax value, so next November a tax bill will be sent," he said. "Whether we can move through the process quickly enough that there would be something sent this November, I can't say."
Whatever the resolution of any current tax value on Sunflower, the developer remains focused on getting the plant remediated in the next seven years so the property can really start paying dividends to taxpayers, Randall said.
That will require some patience because the transfer agreement committed Sunflower Redevelopment to first complete the burn program and then clean up the property being turned over as part of public benefit transfers, Randall said.
"We see that as a limited window at the beginning of the project," she said of Sunflower's negative value. "We want to get this property cleaned up and put back on the tax rolls. We see that happening much more rapidly than otherwise would have been the case."