Archive for Wednesday, June 16, 2010

City votes to acquire Farmland site

The city received $8.5 million from a trust fund to clean up the fertilizer plant.

June 16, 2010


They’ve taken the plunge.

After more than five years of discussion, Lawrence city commissioners Tuesday agreed to sign the necessary documents for ownership of the 467-acre Farmland Industries property to be transferred to the city so that it can be converted into an industrial park.

“There is probably nothing you are going to vote on in terms of economic development, or perhaps anything else, that will be bigger than this,” Mayor Mike Amyx told fellow commissioners before the vote.

As part of the deal, the city will become responsible for cleaning up the environmental issues left behind by Farmland Industries when it used the site as a fertilizer plant. The city will receive $8.5 million in trust fund money that had been set aside to clean the property. The city will not pay a purchase price for the land, but does have to pledge the taxing authority of the city to cover any cleanup costs that go above the $8.5 million amount.

Commissioners have said they don’t think that is likely.

“There is nothing scary about this site environmentally,” Commissioner Aron Cromwell said. “It is a mildly contaminated site. We’re able to acquire a mildly contaminated site and turn it into something that will be a positive impact on the city’s economic base for a long time.”

The property’s main environmental issue is groundwater that is contaminated by nitrogen. The cleanup of the property involves pumping the groundwater through an existing pipeline system to North Lawrence, where it is spread on farm fields.

The city should take possession of the property in 60 to 90 days. While city commissioners are optimistic the cleanup can be done with the $8.5 million trust, the site will need millions of dollars in infrastructure improvements.

City Manager David Corliss said he will recommend that $3 million in new debt be included in the city’s 2011 budget to provide infrastructure upgrades at the site. Corliss said street projects to extend O’Connell Road and create a new frontage road between the site and the adjacent East Hills Business Park may be some of the first projects undertaken.

Corliss is recommending that $1 million of the money come from general obligation bonds. The remaining $2 million would be paid off through special assessments placed on the property. The city, though, will be responsible for paying off those assessments if the property isn’t sold as part of a future development.

City leaders hope to begin selling some portions of the site to business tenants sooner rather than later. The Lawrence-Douglas County Bioscience Authority has hired a consultant to begin providing recommendations on how to convert the site into a biosciences park, Corliss said.

About 225 acres of the property are clean enough to be developed immediately.

Commissioners approved the project on a 4-0 vote. Commissioner Rob Chestnut was absent.

In other city commission news:

• Commissioners approved modifications to the city’s Mixed Use Zoning District category. The change will allow bars to be included in the districts, if they receive a special use permit. But commissioners did include language that does not allow the property at 1420 Crescent Road, the site of the Jayhawk Bookstore, to apply for the special use permit. The site currently is the only mixed use district in the city, and commissioners had promised neighbors when it was approved that bars would not be an allowable use in the district.

• An ordinance making the city’s smoking ban fit with the new statewide smoking ban was approved. The biggest change will be that outdoor areas within 10 feet of a business’ entrance now will be nonsmoking.


Jennifer Dropkin 7 years, 9 months ago

Chad, how do we know that the pipeline taking nitrogen-contaminated water from the Farmland Industry site is going to farmland in North Lawrence and not to residences? Will the farmers and gardeners have any say on whether they will be using this water? What nitrogen compounds in the water are making the contamination?

Matt Schwartz 7 years, 9 months ago

4-0 vote for this place?...sh8tty dudes, sh8tty moves....and David Corliss, what about fixing the existing streets?...our streets right now are in TERRIBLE shape....

repaste 7 years, 9 months ago

It is interesting that pipeline runs through town, plants used to have same owner? hope it does not leak. . . Real story I think is still who is investment group that was allowed to skim $2,000,000 dollars from city funds? For those in the dark, an unnamed group bought the cleanup fund(?) and took $2,000,000 profit for 1 year investment that came straight out of city cash . . Who is that group, how could they buy a cleanup fund, and not clean it up? Anyone know? Where is Merril?

Kontum1972 7 years, 9 months ago

what i do not understand ....just read article about the city hurting for money....and cutting jobs....and the streets need repair.......BUT!....they city government ..."WANTS" to buy the FARMLAND CO.


ok who wants to explain this too me?

whats_going_on 7 years, 9 months ago

although, maybe if they create new businesses there, jobs will be created?

Jennifer Alexander 7 years, 9 months ago

I want to know who/what will go into this new "Industrial Business Park" I work in the East Hills Business Park, and we have SEVERAL EMPTY LOTS! I am not sure exactly how things work regarding new businesses coming into town, etc. But it would make sense that the city try to fill the existing empty sites at the current industrial business park that we have instead of dumping more money into a new park, and taking a chance on a business "maybe" coming out here.

Kontum1972 7 years, 9 months ago

and they are cutting jobs at city hall too...but they want to buy this land....LoL! I guess this is how u find money to buy contaminated property...then hire your cousin Festus to contract the clean up on the i correct Jethro?

Kontum1972 7 years, 9 months ago

have KU buy ti..then use the property to train HAZMAT personel.

Richard Payton 7 years, 9 months ago

Kansas City has the Power & Light district and Lawrence has the Toxic Waste District. KU's new party headquarters that increase's tax revenue and allows the police to issue more tickets for impared driving a great win-win. OSHA's near by with Lawrence's other dump site not far from Ray's place. Move the Outhouse to the Toxic Waste District and the name fits the new Lawrence 20/20 vision plan.

0426Roses 7 years, 9 months ago

Did anyone else at first glance read the title as "City votes to acquire Farmville site?" #killme

Richard Heckler 7 years, 9 months ago

The real estate market is NOT good. Nobody except politicians think all is well. So they continue to blow our big government tax dollars.

The person who stated Lawrence should fill existing vacant sites before creating more vacant sites is right on the money.

There is a ton of commercial real estate on the market due to over building. Commercial real estate was part of the 'boom town economics" fraud that was perpetrated on the taxpayers throughout the country and Lawrence.

City commissioners can glorify this decision all they want but the fact of the matter is they have no clue as to how successful this will be. There are no tenants signed up waiting to move in. Where is the market impact study? It's all speculation!

A Lawrence bedroom community,Riverfront Mall,Tanger Mall and The New Urbanism at 6th and Wakarusa all were going to be the greatest ever and all are failures. Where were the market impact studies? Probably coming out of our local Chamber of Commerce another failed enterprise.

Let the clean up begin! BUT don't spend any of OUR tax dollars until there is a need aka a demand for that space. WAIT to see exactly what the new tenants want. Don't waste our tax dollars.

FIX existing streets and sidewalks first because WE know it is necessary and WE know there is a demand. Obviously there is money available.

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