Sunflower transfer praised with song
With a guitar and the vocal accompaniment of two of the state's top politicians, Congressman Dennis Moore celebrated the meaning of the transfer of the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant at a ceremony last Thursday marking the transfer.
Joining the 3rd District Democrat at the microphone in the singing of "This Land Is Your Land" were Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and Sen. Pat Roberts.
The song made a point Sebelius, Roberts and four others made in speeches at the ceremony celebrating the 9,065-acre plant's transfer from the Army to Sunflower Redevelopment LLC, a partnership of Kansas City, Mo., real estate developer Kessinger/Hunter and Co. and the International Risk Group of Denver, Colo.
A common theme among speakers was that 3,000 of the plant's acres would become the people's property under required public benefit transfers.
As other speakers noted, Roberts and Sebelius were key players in the transfer. Sebelius, whose first real awareness of the issue came as she and her transition team prepared to take office three years ago, demanded that a research park be part of the transfer and that all the public benefit transfer be honored, including Sunflower's water treatment plant to the city of De Soto and 30 acres to De Soto USD 232.
The 300 Sunflower acres donated to Kansas University for life science research, the additional 250 acres Sunflower Redevelopment will set aside for life science initiatives and the 342 acres Kansas State University will receive for horticultural research will be a vital part of the state's $500 million bio-science economic development initiative, Sebelius said.
Sebelius credited Roberts' leadership as key junctures in the transfer process. Roberts introduced legislation in 2003 that ensured the transfer of 2,000 Sunflower acres to the Johnson County Parks and Recreation District. In June 2004, the senator crafted legislation that streamlined the transfer by allowing the Army to negotiate the sale of Sunflower to a private developer.
"We are here at the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant to celebrate the future," Roberts said. "I look at this as an investment in the quality of life of everyone in the state of Kansas and the area."
Another reoccurring theme was the public/private cooperation that made the transfer possible. Sunflower Redevelopment attorney John Petersen said the partnerships would go forward as the developers cleaned and developed the property, singling out the developer's relationship with De Soto jurisdictions.
"We welcome the opportunity to work with De Soto in infrastructure needs in the early stages," he said. "Another important component of bringing Sunflower from the state you see it today to a Community in a Park is the schools. We work with the De Soto school district every day. They have an excellent reputation for quality education. It is our hope to bring 1,000s of more patrons to the school district."
Johnson County Commission Chairwoman Annabeth Surbaugh, Petersen and Roberts noted the role Sunflower played in spurring growth in the past. The plant played a central role in Johnson County doubling in size in the 1940s and 1950s, Surbaugh said.
As for the future, the transferred plant would give county officials and developers a rare opportunity to plan and develop a new city from the bottom up, she said.