Douglas County commissioners say they are frustrated at how long it is taking to get something done with the former Farmland Industries site.
They are critical of the city of Lawrence for letting the Farmland issue drag on.
The city and the county are lagging behind Johnson County in development of the Kansas Highway 10 corridor, commissioners said.
"Look at what's happening in Johnson County, and it feels like we are falling further and further behind," Commissioner Charles Jones said. "I just think that we are putting ourselves in a very, very poor position."
Commissioners Bob Johnson and Jere McElhaney agreed, although Johnson said he realizes the city "has several things on its plate."
Industrial development should be a priority, Jones said.
"There's nothing on anybody's plate right now that should be more important than industrial development," he said.
The former Farmland chemical plant is on the north side of Kansas Highway 10 near O'Connell Road. Farmland declared bankruptcy a few years ago and the 467-acre property has been in bankruptcy court. The site is just outside the city limits but two years ago city leaders asked the county to allow the city to prepare a redevelopment plan and submit a bid for the property to the court. City officials noted that the city eventually would annex the area. In July the city submitted a bid to the court. The amount of the bid was not released. Last fall a draft of a redevelopment plan for the site was released.
Several million dollars are in two accounts for administration and remediation of the property, and the accounts are being managed by the court. It was not clear this week how much was in the accounts. County commissioners said they fear the money in those accounts is being drained while the property remains in limbo.
There has been no action by the court on the city's bid and the city is at the mercy of the court, Mayor Sue Hack said.
"They set the speed. We don't," Hack said. "We've had lots of discussions with anyone who would listen to us and come help us process through this, but there's no way to move it along any faster."
Jones, however, said the city could be pushing for court action.
"There's some threshold at which the people controlling Farmland would make it end," Jones said. "Just find out, 'what is that threshold' and then let's talk about what we want to do. We've hired all these big-shot attorneys who we have spent a lot of money on, who have not moved us one inch toward a resolution."
Jones said he wouldn't mind if the county took the Farmland project back. Johnson and McElhaney said they think it was a mistake for it to go completely to the city.
"Working together, we'd have a better chance of getting it done," Johnson said.
Hack said she'd love to have either the city or the county or both own the Farmland property and be tearing down the structures, mitigating the environmental issues and planning the building of an industrial park. She said the City Commission has similar sentiments.
Jones said he'd like to see an incentive aspect for industrial development included in the joint city and county southeast area plan, which covers southeastern Lawrence and nearby areas outside the city limits.
Farmland should not be the only industrial site the city and county should be thinking about, Johnson said.
"I think Farmland is a significant piece of the future industrial development tax base, but it is not the answer," he said. "One of the things we need are industrial development sites that are more accessible to I-70."