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Archive for Thursday, June 15, 2006

2nd firm interested in Farmland

Company wants mixed-use site with residences, retail, industry

June 15, 2006

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A second company says it wants to buy the dormant and polluted Farmland Industries fertilizer plant east of Lawrence, and there still may be others waiting in the wings.

Leaders with St. Louis-based Environmental Liability Transfer Inc. said Wednesday they were interested in turning the site into a mixed used development that would include multifamily residential units, retail and an industrial park.

And they don't plan on letting the 467-acre site - just west of the East Hills Business Park - go without a fight. The property, because it is wrapped up in the bankruptcy proceedings of Farmland Industries, must be sold at public auction.

"We'll be happy to go toe-to-toe at an auction," said Randy Jostes, president and chief executive officer of the privately owned company that specializes in cleaning up and redeveloping environmentally troubled properties.

The interest from Environmental Liability Transfer comes one day after TRC Companies Inc., a Connecticut-based company that specializes in cleaning up sites, said it was planning to make a formal offer for the property. That offer likely would trigger a public auction, which may not occur for several months to give other bidders an opportunity to enter the process. TRC said it did not have specific plans for how the property should be redeveloped.

Rusted pipes that used to transport fertilizer stretch across the dormant Farmland Industries plant just west of the East Hills Business Park.

Rusted pipes that used to transport fertilizer stretch across the dormant Farmland Industries plant just west of the East Hills Business Park.

Members of the county and city commissions previously said they oppose the property being used for anything other than industrial purposes.

But Douglas County Commissioner Bob Johnson indicated that there could be wiggle room in the position of local leaders. He said if the entire site were developed for industry, it likely would require public spending to be feasible. If the private sector proposed a mixed-use development that included large amounts of industrial but did not require public money, he would listen so long as there were assurances all the property would be cleaned.

"It could be a trade-off," Johnson said. "If we could accomplish most of what we want through the private sector, I would be in favor of that. I would be willing to give a little to get a lot."

But other commissioners weren't bending on the idea that the entire site needed to be industrial because any residential or even commercial development would make it very difficult to ever develop industrial uses on the property.

"People aren't going to let you build an industrial park next to their new home," said Douglas County Commissioner Charles Jones. "I'm pretty mystified by Bob's comments because he knows we have consistently told people that's not our position."

Kamyar Manesh, a trust administrator for the Farmland property, confirmed that Environmental Liability Transfer had expressed an interest in the property. He said four groups had shown what he considered serious interest in the property. That includes TRC, ELT and the city/county. There was another private company he declined to identify.

"There have been other folks who have had kicking the tires type of interest out here," Manesh said. "My opinion is that once the auction is triggered, there may be even more people coming forward."

Manesh said the Farmland bankruptcy trust - unlike the city and county - has no problem with the site being developed to include retail and residential uses. He estimated that about 250 acres of the site have no environmental issues that would prohibit any type of development. The portions of the property that are polluted mainly suffer from nitrogen - basically fertilizer placed on farm fields - that has leaked into the groundwater. A system of wells is pumping that water in an attempt to keep it from spreading.

The bankruptcy court also isn't likely to consider final use of the property when it is auctioned. But the city and county have ways to control the property's use. Currently, the site is not within city limits. Any large-scale development would require annexation, and the site isn't zoned for retail or large-scale residential.

Farmland Industries

Jostes said his company expressed its interest to the Farmland trust late last year. Continued growth in the greater Kansas City area, along with the state's interest in creating a high-tech economy, spurred his firm's interest in the site, he said.

"We have been watching the growth corridor from Lawrence to Kansas City for a while now," Jostes said "We try to look out 10 years to see what would be a good investment, and this looks like it could be one."

The company, which is privately owned, touts that during the past 20 years it has cleaned properties totaling more than $750 million in environmental problems. Some of its projects include redeveloping an aluminum smelter in the Spokane, Wash., area that is being converted to retail and residential use. The company also points to redevelopments involving former manufacturing plants for General Motors, Caterpillar Inc. and Kraft Foods.

Comments

ASBESTOS 8 years, 2 months ago

"But Douglas County Commissioner Bob Johnson indicated that there could be wiggle room in the position of local leaders."

Sorry BOB there is NO "wiggle room" with environmental regulations. If you want part of it to be residential, you will have to clean the site to the regulatory staqndards. Only an "Industrial use" would be a candidate for "alternative clearance and closure" levels.

"He said if the entire site were developed for industry, it likely would require public spending to be feasible."

Same old BS with Politician or commissioner and developer connection. "These poor corporate entities need our help they are as poor as church mice", atttitude of wooing business erodes the tax base. Hell, I bet the commission would also throw in tax abatement too.

""There have been other folks who have had kicking the tires type of interest out here," Manesh said. "My opinion is that once the auction is triggered, there may be even more people coming forward.""

And ALL of them have to be held to the same legal standard, guarnteed by the constitution.

All thes companies talk about is the Nitrogen....how come they are not talking about the HEX CHROME!!!!

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Sigmund 8 years, 2 months ago

If Farmland goes to auction, and it likely will, the cost of clean up will be factored into the price buyers are willing to pay. The proceeds of the auction will go to pay off Farmland's debts and hopefully some of the debt they owe their employees. After the clean up the new owners hope to sell the land for more than what they paid plus what it cost to clean up the site. If they can sell it for more then they will make a profit, if not then they will have a loss, in either case no public money has been spent. I really don't see a problem here.

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ASBESTOS 8 years, 2 months ago

" If they can sell it for more then they will make a profit, if not then they will have a loss, in either case no public money has been spent. I really don't see a problem here."

Sigmund I agree with you all the way 100% except for the above statement. There will be public funds involved as they are already talking about tapping the Farmland Escrow account that is already set aside for cleanup. What these guys want is less stringent cleanup levels, that is why the "use" issue is bandied around so much. It is Code for "we don't want to sepnd all that money on cleanup.

And as Bob Johnso stated:

"He said if the entire site were developed for industry, it likely would require public spending to be feasible."

That is code meaning the taxpayers will foot the bill.

THAT is what I M concerned about. And that is a BIG PROBLEM!!

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aeroscout17 8 years, 2 months ago

Asbestos, you keep talking about hexavalent chromium; do you have any evidence regarding a release or contamination? I haven't found anything regarding this.

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dacs23 8 years, 2 months ago

A couple things.

First what is hex chrome?

Second why is the city/county so bent on keeping this land industry...clean up issues aside?

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ASBESTOS 8 years, 2 months ago

Hexavalent CHromium or Chromium 6. Yes the releases are in the release inventory for KDHE or they should be. THe Hex Chrome was used from the 50-early 80s as a corrosion inhibitor. THis was the OLDEST Farmland plant, which is why nobody wanted it. IT operated during the time the chromium 6 was used in corrsion inhibitors for the cooling of water. The water was used in several heat exchanger process throughout the plant. Hex Chromium or Chromium 6 is the chemical that a Lawrence native Erin Brokovich became famous for when fighting Pacific Gas and Electric. I am sure you have seen the movie.

Hex chrome is BAD with capitols all the way. You do not want it in anything, which why ist is regulated now for environmental releases AND now OSHA has come out with a Hexavalent CHromium standard just this year.

The place can be cleaned up and I am fine with that. The problem is that those who stand to make a profit need to follow the law and not only clean it up, but do it in a way that will not injure workers.

SO no bringing illegal workers in to "clean it up" with no protection either. The Supervisors need to understand the laws (ie speak english) and not make their money off of Labor exploitation.

We are having a helluva a time with illegal workers with forged certificated. It is extimated that as much as 75% of the asbestos removers are undocumented AND fradulently obtained their certification of license or was based on fradulent documents and are NOT trained to porperly remove environmental hazards.

I estimate that 50% of the asbestos worker s=certs in Kansas are fraud and illegal, and the employers should be held accountable. Exploitation is NOT a proper business plan, it may fly in Mexico, but not HERE>

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 2 months ago

"Second why is the city/county so bent on keeping this land industry...clean up issues aside?"

It's adjacent to an existing industrial park, and the city needs new industry more than it needs new housing or retail.

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bankboy119 8 years, 2 months ago

"It's adjacent to an existing industrial park, and the city needs new industry more than it needs new housing or retail."

You don't really seem to think that if you don't want to provide incentives for these industries to come here Bozo. Though you are correct in your statement that industry is needed.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 2 months ago

I won't deny that the culture of extortion that business now inflicts on cities affects Lawrence's ability to attract some/many businesses. But not submitting to extortion isn't the same as be "unfriendly."

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bankboy119 8 years, 2 months ago

If by extortion you mean providing jobs and income to a community you're correct. The "extortion" that you speak of fuels economic growth in surrounding areas while hampering Lawrence. Look at the job growth here versus Kansas City or Topeka or even Eudora and Tonganoxie.

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TeamPollution 8 years, 2 months ago

Lawrence needs to redevelop this site. The property is not doing anything good for the Lawrence economy by just sitting there idle. Even if a new industry moved in with some tax breaks, that industry would be providing jobs to area residents. Environmentally speaking an industrial development there makes more sense than anything else... would you rather have a new industry build on pristine, previously unused property (greenfield) or build on previously used and abused property (brownfield)?

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Richard Heckler 8 years, 2 months ago

Leaders with St. Louis-based Environmental Liability Transfer Inc. said Wednesday they were interested in turning the site into a mixed used development that would include multifamily residential units, retail and an industrial park.

Both firms have implied this is their desire. Who is giving them the impression this is acceptable?

Build a COSTCO if COSTCO is willing. This would relieve traffic congestion some on the south and NW parts of town. Build one with a grocery store.

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dacs23 8 years, 2 months ago

It seems to me that individuals either are opinionated or have a vested interest. On this one I have a vested interest as a property owner in the area of the farmland property. It would concern me if another company came in that would create future environmental issues to the area resulting in lower property values or my overall health. If it goes industrial I would like to discuss the types of industry that we are attracting. The idea of multi use seems to me as a way of limiting large plants form coming in.

That said I'm curious what Asbestos's vested interest is given the multiple postings and what seems to an outsider as tangents ie undocumented workers. The average person doesn't pull that out of thin air.....

Are you associated with a local company that wants in on the piece of pie?

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conservative 8 years, 2 months ago

I love the concept that giving tax abatements to a corporation is in any way taking anything away from the city. Let's look at the math.

If a corporation receives a 90% abatement on what would have been $1,000,000 in taxes then the city still gets $100,000 that it wouldn't have if the industry didn't move to Lawrence.

Maybe a little of that money is eaten up in city resources such as emergency response but not much.

The only money the city loses is the theoretical money it would have made without the abatements, but it wouldn't get that money because the industry would build somewhere else that would give the incentives.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 2 months ago

"Let's look at the math."

OK, but look at all the math-- and emergency response is only a small part of it.

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conservative 8 years, 2 months ago

Bozo, please elaborate, what other costs? And truly I am asking, not being a smart alec, if there are other costs that I'm not considering please let me know.

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bankboy119 8 years, 2 months ago

Correct! Look at all the math. Property taxes, sales taxes, revenue being kept in the city and job growth! The wear and tear is made up by keeping more money in the town. If you're saying emergency response makes for bad businesses then you're saying my town of 1 (well, 3) is better off than Lawrence's town of 80,000. We know that's not true at all. It's more costly for, say, Concordia, Kansas to pay for its citizens than Lawrence, Kansas. You're paying a larger percentage of revenue towards maintenance when the town is smaller vs if your town is larger. Build the businesses.

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dacs23 8 years, 2 months ago

you're assuming that the land couldn't generate that same $100,000 or more if used another way. If we are talking about math you have to look at all the variables..... Is industry the most profitable use of the land tax cut or not?

As for creating jobs. Most everyone I know commutes because they do not want to live in an industrialized city but rather the small town feel that Lawrence brings. In other words Topeka and K.C. have large companies but who wants to live in Topeka?

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dacs23 8 years, 2 months ago

Thats right all the gang bangers that come to Lawrence to sell their drugs. Sorry bigger is not better.

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ASBESTOS 8 years, 2 months ago

OK my point is that the land should and must be re-entered into productivity, my concern is that 2 of the four entities that want to do it are :

1.) They want to develop it for "mixed use" just like the SFAAP. Mixed use means residences. House lots at $20,000 (hi/LO est) make a lot more money than an industrial use. IHO the land should be sued strictly for Industrial use, but the people living "next door" need to have a large say in this. Farmland was never a very good neighbor.

2.) The enties are all from out of state. Yes I want Jobs created...expecially in my business sector. I am a small business owner too and want economic growth. However in Kansas, KDHE gets in the way as consultant on these things when they should just butt out. Additionally, we always hire these jobs to out of the city and out of the state environmental companies...WHY? Hire me, hire my competitors in the city and state, but stop these jobs from leaving our city. The Environmental Sector in Kansas would employ more people if a) the regs and laws were enforced and b) if the cities and counties and state would hire KANSANS FIRST! We seem to have that motto but it does not include the Environmental Business Sector. THe Kansas Environmental Sector would generate over $1.5 Billion in Kansas if the regulations would be enforced and utilized private sector environmental businesses. How is that for growth....but due to KDHE's process, this economic engine is sidelined. DO the math on that one. This is just one site, multiply that times all the problems KDHE has with scenes like Presto etc, asbestos, etc.

Clean it up Do it Right Hire a Kansas Environmental Business Hire a Kansas Environmental Professional Build the Business

Very straight forward.

I am PRO Kansas Environmental Business. As for "extortion" KDHE has practiced that on the Kansas Environmental Businesses for the last 2 decades. NO I do not care for KDHE or the way it operates. It is simply not working.

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bankboy119 8 years, 2 months ago

dacs, if not industry then what? How is it more profitable to let it sit vacant or to let the city buy it to waste more of our (well not mine anymore) money? It's not.

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ASBESTOS 8 years, 2 months ago

MOney

467 acres times how many house lots you can get out of it times how much you can get per lot. That is the math these people who take away "environmental liability" but say nothing about the Hex Chrome contamination want to talk about. Oh, just never mind "trust us to do what is right for Lawrence" is what these companies are really saying. Don't trust them....get it in writing, if they do not want to do that, don't do the deal.

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classclown 8 years, 2 months ago

I'd rather not see any residential in that location as I would hate to see Lawrence end up with it's own Love Canal.

One needs to wonder what pollutanats are there that no one has found yet or 'fessed up to. If while being developed anything is found that is not known as a pollutant out there, will the developer say "Stop everything! Let's get all of this properly cleaned up before going any further. We might also have to tear everything we already have up down in orfer to get it done."? Or would they say "Nobody knows about this. Throw a little extra sand on it. It'll be okay."?

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