Finalizing the city’s acquisition of the former Farmland Industries site at the east edge of Lawrence opens some exciting economic development possibilities for the community.
The action has taken a long time, and it is not without risk for the city, but acquiring the property is a good move for the city. It will give the city control over how property at a key entrance to Lawrence will be developed and provide land to expand the business, research and industrial sites Lawrence can market to new employers or local companies seeking to expand their operation.
The documents on Tuesday’s agenda will transfer ownership of the 467-acre site to the city along with $8.5 million from the property’s trust fund that will be used to remedy environmental issues resulting from the site’s former use as a fertilizer plant. The city also will accept responsibility for completing the necessary environmental remediation, which is the primary risk factor in the agreement.
After years of studying the situation, city officials believe the $8.5 million will be enough to complete the 30-year cleanup plan. Although earlier estimates put the cleanup cost at about $13 million, the city hopes to cut that cost by using city workers to complete some of the work. Projections to pay for the cleanup also include interest earned from investing the $8.5 million while the work is under way. Additional costs to extend infrastructure will be covered by special assessments on the industrial lots developed at the site.
Officials have done their best to minimize the risk of taking responsibility for the cleanup. Whatever risk remains is acceptable given the potential benefits of this site for Lawrence. Creating new jobs is a top priority for Lawrence, but it has been difficult to accomplish that goal because the city had so few sites to market to potential employers, especially large, industrial employers. Having the city in charge of the Farmland site will ensure that both cleanup and development of the area will be done in a way that makes it a long-term asset for the community.
It’s been a long time coming. It’s nice to see the project finally getting off the ground.