Archive for Monday, August 15, 2011

City leaders to review site plans for former Farmland plant

Funding to convert land to business park on the table

August 15, 2011


Work on what is expected to be the city’s largest development project in years may soon kick into a new gear.

Lawrence city commissioners at their weekly meeting are expected to approve spending $1 million to do planning and some construction to convert the former Farmland Industries property into a business park.

“I want us to be in a position to offer building permit-ready lots to businesses in the next 12 to 18 months,” City Manager David Corliss said.

To get to that point, though, the city is going to have to put some lines on paper, and some pavement on the ground. Among the items Corliss wants commissioners to discuss:

• A master plan for the entire 450-acre site. This will show the location of roads and utilities and also will start to determine how many industrial lots the former fertilizer plant can be split into. Corliss said he’s anticipating the property will be divided into lots ranging from 30 to 100 acres in size, with some ability to change the configuration based on demand. Corliss is estimating that the master planning for the site will cost about $150,000.

• A traffic signal for the 23rd Street and O’Connell Road intersection. The traffic signal would be part of a plan to build a north-south road through the Farmland property. The road would serve as the main entrance to the industrial park. Corliss is estimating planning and construction of the signal and the road will cost about $850,000. Corliss believes work could begin on that part of the project in 2012.

• An east-west road that would connect the new Farmland entrance with the adjacent East Hills Business Park. The road would make it easier for vacant land on the western edge of the East Hills Business Park to be developed. With a traffic light at O’Connell it also could make for a safer way for motorists to access the East Hills Business Park. Currently, the main entrance to the business park does not have a traffic signal. Corliss said that work also could begin in 2012, or could be done in phases.

• In future years, Corliss envisions extending East 19th Street into the Farmland property. The road ends near the Douglas County Fairgrounds. Corliss said he wants to explore connecting 19th Street to the new north-south entrance road for the Farmland site.

“We would want 19th Street to serve as neighborhood access to the Farmland property,” Corliss said. “It would be the type of road designed for people to drive, walk or bike to the business park and to work. We don’t want it to be a truck access point for the businesses.”

Cost estimates for a 19th Street extension and a new road connecting East Hills and Farmland haven’t been developed yet.

But the property has received one piece of news that may help it with future revenue. Corliss said his staff has confirmed that when the city took over ownership of the property in September, it also received a large groundwater right owned by Farmland. The rights are for 1.2 billion gallons of water per year. To put that in perspective, the entire city used about 3 billion gallons of water in 2010, Corliss said.

“It is a lot of water, on paper,” Corliss said.

The water comes from wells that are not on the Farmland property, which suffers from groundwater contamination. The wells are east of Noria Road on property near the Kansas River.

Corliss said the water supply is large enough that it has attracted some interest from area water users. But he also said it could be used as a tool to attract businesses to the area that need a large supply of water.

Removal of old buildings and equipment at the Farmland site is expected to be completed by late August or early September. But cleanup of the groundwater contamination at the site is expected to take decades — although most of the work is overseeing pumps that remove the nitrogen-laced water, which is later used on farm fields.

The city, as part of its acquisition of the property from bankrupt Farmland, received an $8.6 million trust to clean the property. That money can’t be used to build roads or other infrastructure needed to convert the property into a business park.

City commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St.


50YearResident 6 years, 9 months ago

But cleanup of the groundwater contamination at the site is expected to take decades — although most of the work is overseeing pumps that remove the nitrogen-laced water, which is later used on farm fields.

Wouldn't removing the ground water contamination be the first priority before spending $1 million for planning? What if the site is not released by the government from the contamination designation? Can the property be improved while contaninated?

Chad Lawhorn 6 years, 9 months ago

My understanding is that the property can be improved while the groundwater clean-up is being completed. The property can't be used for residential development, you can't drill potable water wells on the site, and there are other similar such restrictions. But the groundwater issue doesn't stop the site from being developed as a business park, according to past reporting I've done on the issue. Thanks, Chad Lawhorn Journal-World

lawslady 6 years, 9 months ago

Why did the city decide it was wise to spend millions of dollars to clean up hazardous wastes for decades to come? Is there such a huge lack of available land for industrial buildings that it was worth funding this clean up? There was a reason no private buyer wanted the land - these clean ups can get very expensive. And who ever "owns" the property (at any time) can be held financially responsible (by the feds/state) for the clean up costs.

Kontum1972 6 years, 9 months ago!

Why dont we give it as a gift to the new governor...mb a new clone factory....

Richard Heckler 6 years, 9 months ago

“I want us to be in a position to offer building permit-ready lots to businesses in the next 12 to 18 months,” City Manager David Corliss said. " No one at city hall has any idea if this 12-18 moths scenario is even real. Taxpayers CANNOT afford to spend millions upon millions only to see nothing of substance in return in a short amount of time.

The Chamber of Commerce must be pushing this rush job as always under the guise of "planning ahead'. Their favorite tool to manipulate public opinion. In this economy who will be rushing to set up shop without City Hall giving tons of OUR tax dollars away? Meanwhile the public school budget shrinks.

This may be rushing things a bit. Let's get it cleaned up first through and through. This whole concept of always rushing into "planning ahead" is not working. There are still sites available in East Hills after nearly 30 years. There are sites available elsewhere.

  1. Let's show some restraint and discipline with the taxpayers money.

  2. Let's be able to offer tenants sites that are free of any contamination aka smart thinking

  3. City hall is pushing new lots in NW Lawrence as we speak and lots in SE Lawrence and lots in North Lawrence. Where are the tenants? Lawrence taxpayers cannot afford to operate under illusions by way of the Chamber and City Hall.

Shane Garrett 6 years, 9 months ago

Chad you are most correct commercial and residential have different rules to play by.

blindrabbit 6 years, 9 months ago

lawslady: The groundwater contamination at the Farmland site does not constitute a "hazardous waste issue" from either EPA or KDHE points of view. The term Hazardous Waste has a specific set of regulations that apply and nitrogen contamination of groundwater does not fit. If it truly was a hazardous waste issue, I'm sure the City would have stayed clear and EPA would have imposed Superfund or Brownfield regulations. The nitrogen contamination in the groundwater is a source of fertilizer to surrounding farm applications, after all that is what the plant produced when it was in operation. Sounds like a workable fix to me.

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