Former Farmland plant
A new plan developed by City Hall begins to show how much work the community may have to undertake if city leaders want to convert the former Farmland Industries plant into a business park.
City planners have released a draft version of a redevelopment plan for the 467-acre former fertilizer plant that shows what likely would be a multimillion-dollar expansion of roads to the area.
The draft Farmland Industries Redevelopment Plan recommends that 19th Street be extended eastward through the Farmland property to connect with the East Hills Business Park and that O'Connell Road and Franklin Road both be extended northward to hook into either 15th Street or 19th Street. Also envisioned is either a new traffic signal or a full-blown interchange with entrance and exit ramps at the intersection of Kansas Highway 10 and Franklin Road.
The plan - developed by the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Department - doesn't attach any costs to the improvements, but city leaders concede they would be significant. They also said the improvements largely would be the responsibility of the city - instead of a private developer - if it is successful in purchasing the property through the bankruptcy process.
"But we really need space for future industrial growth," City Commissioner Boog Highberger said. "I think the Farmland site is the most logical site. I think I would rather spend our money there than some of the other places that have been proposed."
The city previously has said it is interested in purchasing the property as part of the bankruptcy process, but a date for a bankruptcy auction has not yet been announced.
The new plan is designed to guide redevelopment of the property regardless of whether the city or a private party purchases the property, said Dan Warner, a long-range planner with the city. City and county commissioners ultimately will be asked to approve the plan and insert it into Horizon 2020, the long-range comprehensive plan for Lawrence and Douglas County.
Warner said extending the streets through the Farmland property is important. He said the new streets would provide access to the East Hills Business Park and new businesses that would be expected to establish locations at the Farmland site.
"It might take some pressure off of K-10," Warner said.
Other issues that the plan addresses include:
¢ Approximately 225 of the 467 acres are deemed environmentally clean and have not been affected by the fertilizer operations. The plan is relying on about 1,200 soil samples that have been taken by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to make that determination.
¢ The vast majority of the site should be used for business park purposes. The plan, though, does leave the possibility of a limited amount of retail development - such as a convenience store - to serve employees of the business park. Warner, however, said the plan does not anticipate any retail along a K-10 frontage road, or any retail designed to attract customers from the larger community.
¢ The second largest use for the site should be open space. The plan calls for several areas - including a hilly, wooded area that features a bluff overlooking the Kansas River valley - to be used for open space and trail development.
¢ A third use of the property would be for an expansion of the Douglas County 4-H Fairgrounds. The plan carves out a piece of ground to the east of the fairgrounds and to the south of an adjacent salvage yard to be used for civic purposes.
The Farmland property is the second proposed industrial site that may require the city to invest in infrastructure improvements. Developers who are proposing to convert 144 acres near the Lawrence Municipal Airport into a business park also have said the city may need to make an investment to extend sewer service to the site.
City Commissioner Rob Chestnut said he's willing to consider making investments in both properties. He said the city should recoup its costs as land is sold to businesses in the future. Plus, he said the city needs to be aggressive in bringing new jobs to the community.
"I want to look at both sites," Chestnut said. "I don't want to limit what our potential industrial expansion can be. I think more options ultimately will mean more opportunities."
On the Farmland site, there also may be trust fund money that has been set aside as part of the Farmland bankruptcy that could be used to extend infrastructure to the site. The city is counting on using trust fund money to do the environmental cleanup at the site, but they also are hoping to use a separate set of trust fund money to improve roads and utilities leading to the site.
Planners are seeking public comment on the draft redevelopment plan for the property. People can submit written comments to Warner at email@example.com.