Baldwin Officials here anticipate needing two to five years to slowly develop land for a possible new business park and recreation area south of town.
City council members met with Debi Moore, economic development director for the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, to see what they need to do to make that possibility a reality. The council held a work-study session Thursday with Moore.
The council already has paid $25,000 for a one-year option to purchase 160 acres, which includes an 18-acre pond.
If the land is bought, Baldwin City Administrator Larry Paine said he thought it would be two years before new electricity, sewer and water lines were available. He said the land probably would be developed in phases so the infrastructure wouldn't be put in all at once.
"We want to take our time and do this right the first time," he said.
More than likely, Mayor Stan Krysztof said, the recreation area, with ball fields, a swimming area and walking trails, would be developed first. The city has a five-year contract to use the school district's ball fields.
On the business park side, council members said they would like to attract small businesses such as manufacturing, warehouse and service-oriented businesses.
Members said they prefer businesses with fewer than 25 employees and 5,000- to 10,000-square-foot buildings on 3-acre lots.
"I've turned down at least five different companies already; two were (small) manufacturing companies," Krysztof said.
Both companies had fewer than 25 employees each, he said.
Paine said he wanted companies that want to locate or relocate to Baldwin, pay good-paying jobs and hire Baldwin residents. New companies may provide incentives for high school and Baker University graduates to stay in Baldwin, council members said.
To help market and manage the park, Moore suggested creating a nonprofit corporation like Douglas County Development Inc., which markets the East Hills Business Park in Lawrence and helps new businesses there receive property tax exemptions.
"It has been very successful for us," she said. "We've been able to attract some companies that otherwise wouldn't have been able to locate to the county."
Moore said council members also need to decide if they want to offer tax abatements to potential businesses.
Council members Lee Whaley and Gene Nelson said they want to provide property tax relief, not increase it.
"From the objective we've got, tax abatements are not the way we want to recruit businesses. The goal is to get assessed value," Paine said.
The city council's next step will be to review the infrastructure needs for the proposed area.