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Archive for Friday, January 28, 2005

Firms move forward on Sunflower site

January 28, 2005

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The Johnson County Commission agreed Thursday to formally recognize partners Kessinger/Hunter and Co. and International Risk Group as developers of the defunct Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant near De Soto.

The developers' attorney John Petersen said the agreement would allow the partners, now known as Sunflower Redevelopment LLC, to move beyond the memorandums of understanding negotiated with various state and federal agencies to contracts needed to close on the property.

"We are at the precipice of seeing the hopes and dreams of turning that plant into productive property come to fruition," he said.

A summer closing was now anticipated, said Petersen, who had previously predicted closings in May and October 2004. The partners have said they will develop the property in accordance with the county's master plan, which calls for a research park and a mix of residential, commercial and light industrial uses.

The partnership also has plans for removing contaminated structures and pollution left behind by munitions manufacturing.

"Our new goal is the complete cleanup of Sunflower in eight years after closing," Petersen said. "That is significantly more expeditious than previously envisioned."

It would take an estimated $150 million to clean the property and another $50 million to purchase the bonding and insurance guaranteeing the plant's cleanup, he said.

The majority of commissioners praised the possibility of seeing Sunflower developed and cleaned at no cost to local taxpayers. But two said the county process of selecting Kessinger/Hunter remained a concern.

Commissioner Ed Peterson called that process "truncated" and said it limited public involvement.

But Peterson said he would vote for the designation despite reservations because of the progress made in the transfer.

Commissioner John Toplikar, who represents the western Johnson County region surrounding Sunflower, was the lone dissenting vote, arguing that the selection process should have included involvement of a still-unnamed Sunflower Redevelopment Authority, which state legislation gave broad powers in selecting and evaluating a developer.

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