Archive for Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Town Talk: Plans filed for major sand pit plant between Lawrence and Eudora; wild burros and horses coming to city; an update on Wyandotte County fieldhouse talk

August 22, 2012


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News and notes from around town:

• 5,000 tons of sand per day. No, we’re not talking about what I bring back in my swimming trunks following a visit to the beach. We’re talking about a new proposal for a major sand plant operation between Lawrence and Eudora.

Bill Penny of Lawrence-based Penny’s Concrete has plans to create a 351-acre sand pit operation adjacent to his sand dredging plant located along the Kansas River near the intersection of Noria Road and North 1500 Road.

Penny’s, which operates about 24 concrete plants in eastern Kansas and western Missouri, has long had a dredging operating in the Kansas River about 1.5 miles northeast of the intersection of Noria Road and North 1500 Road (which is East 15th Street extended for all you city folks.)

But expanding a dredging operation is mighty difficult to do with all the various permits and potential objections from environmental groups. So, the trend in the sand business has been to do pit excavation of sand. Essentially, crews dig large pits to get the sand that is just below the surface of the ground.

Penny is proposing to dig an undetermined — as of now — number of pits on 350 acres of property between his current sand dredging operation and North 1500 Road.

According to a study presented to the Lawrence-Douglas County planning office, the operation would produce about 5,000 tons of sand on a normal operating day. It also would produce about 200 trucks entering and leaving the facility on a normal work day, which is expected to stretch from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

The project will need to ultimately receive a Conditional Use Permit from the Douglas County Commission before it can proceed. But first it will go through a hearing at the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission. That hearing tentatively is set for the planning commission’s Sept. 24 meeting.

County planners, though, are still gathering information about the proposal. Mary Miller, a planner with the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Department, said she’s requested an operational plan from the company, which will show in more detail how many pits are proposed and how the facility will function on a day-to-day basis.

“If you are a neighbor, it is kind of hard to know what you think about this until you know more about their operational plan,” Miller said.

She said there are two residences adjacent to the 350 acre site.

Miller said the company also will need to submit a reclamation plan that shows what will happen to the land once sand excavation stops at the site many years down the road. Traditionally, sand pit areas have been converted into large ponds or small lakes.

Various county departments also are being asked to weigh in on the proposal, especially on the point of how additional truck traffic may affect the condition of the roads in the area. Parts of Noria Road, I believe, are in the city limits, so city officials may be asked to weigh in as well.

A traffic study conducted by a consultant hired by Penny’s concludes the area roads can handle the additional traffic. The study is recommending a new right turn lane for eastbound traffic at the intersection of County Route 442 and County Route 1057.

A majority of the sand plant trucks will be traveling through that intersection to get on Kansas Highway 10. I believe the bulk of the sand from the proposed plant will go to Penny’s concrete plant off of Kansas Highway 7 in Shawnee.

The traffic report is estimating the number of trucks operating during the morning and afternoon peak traffic hours will increase by about 40 trucks.

This proposal is another reminder that Douglas County is actually fairly sand rich. This is at least the third sand pit proposal in the last couple of years. There was a proposal by a Kansas City area company to construct a sand pit just outside of Eudora, which was fiercely opposed by Eudora officials over concerns the operation would disrupt valuable groundwater supplies.

The Manhattan-based company that purchased Lawrence-based LRM Concrete sought to build a sand pit project near Midland Junction in northern Douglas County. But that project was fiercely opposed by airport leaders who believed the operations would draw too many water fowl too close to the airport. Several environmentalists also expressed concern the operation would take up too much prime farm ground.

The Manhattan company has since moved its efforts to Jefferson County. My understanding is construction is under way on a sand pit operation on the north side of the Kansas River between Perry and Lecompton. It also is my understanding that Jefferson County is receiving a fee based on the amount of sand taken from the site to help compensate the county for additional road maintenance in the area.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out locally. The sand pit operation, it could be argued, will be bringing new money into Lawrence because the bulk of the sand will be paid for by Kansas City developers building projects in the metro area. But the site is on valuable farm ground, and that has been an issue in the past, plus traffic is often brought up as a concern in these matters.

• If folks don’t like the idea of all those trucks, maybe they can haul the sand out of there via burros. I don’t know how many burros it would take to haul 5,000 tons of sand, but I do know where you can get a start on creating a burro herd.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management will hold a wild horse and burro adoption program on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the Douglas County Fairgrounds.

The event will feature more than 50 horses and burros — both yearlings and adults — that once roamed free on public lands in the West. The Bureau of Land Management periodically removes the animals to maintain healthy herds and range lands.

It looks like there will be a competitive bidding process that begins on 2 p.m. on Thursday for folks who want to compete for the best of the lot. It then looks like there will be a first-come, first-served adoption of animals taking place on Thursday evening and again from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday and from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday.

There is a minimum $125 adoption fee. A professional horse trainer also will be on hand during the three days to provide tips on how to properly train animals that have roamed the wide open spaces of the West. In addition, two saddle-trained mustangs will be available for purchase. The auction for those two animals begins at 4 p.m. Friday.

People do have to meet some basic qualifications before they can adopt an animal. They mainly must be 18 or older, have no record of animal abuse and must have at least 400 square feet of properly equipped corral space.

• I have had several of you ask for updates on whether there really are serious plans to build a major indoor fieldhouse/recreation center in the Legends shopping development in Western Wyandotte County.

Interest in the topic is high, of course, because such a facility would be a formidable competitor to a similar facility being planned for the northeast corner of the South Lawrence Trafficway and Sixth Street.

Well, I can report there is nothing imminent in Wyandotte County. As we previously reported, there is a group that has been trying to convince the folks who own Sporting KC — which are connected to the folks who own the Cerner Corp. — to build a youth fieldhouse instead of a large outdoor soccer complex.

The Sporting KC folks had signed an agreement with Wyandotte County to build a major public recreation facility as part of the deal that allowed the professional soccer club to build a new stadium in the Legends complex.

The Kansas City area businessman, Bryan Hayes, never did a return a call to me seeking more information. But I did speak to a public relations officials with the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kan.

That official did say they were aware of some talk by outside parties who want to change the agreement to allow for an indoor fieldhouse rather than the outdoor soccer component. But he said the key point is that the original agreement for a soccer complex still stands.

“No modifications have been made to the agreement at this point,” said Edwin Birch, public information officer with the Unified Government. “The soccer fields are still the main focus at the moment.”

Following Wyandotte County developments is not my specialty, so I don’t have a good read on what to make of this. My sense is that there is an effort under way by this Mr. Hayes, but I’m not sure he has the political clout to pull it off. I tried to talk to some officials a bit higher up the ladder in Wyandotte County government, but was unsuccessful. At some point, it will be interesting to see if the key leaders with Sporting KC/Cerner who brokered this deal have anything to say. I would guess they would have plenty of clout to pull off any number of things.


Kelly Johnson 5 years, 8 months ago

So I can't just put the wild burro in my spare room? Sigh...I'm so disappointed.

sleepy33 5 years, 8 months ago

The BLM will also pay you $500 after you've kept your adopted horse for one year. Though why anyone would want to pay to adopt a horse that isn't even halter broke when there are hundreds of broke horses going for meat prices right now, I don't know. US horse slaughter plants are about to re-open, and they are going to be busy.

sleepy33 5 years, 8 months ago

Out of curiosity, do you differentiate between horse slaughter plants vs other animals? I guarantee that if dog or cat meat was considered a delicacy and commanded top dollar in other countries, someone would be trying to do the same thing. It's all cultural, we think nothing of slaughtering cattle (most of us anyway), but cattle are sacred in India.

Personally, I'm not opposed to the humane slaughter of horses, though I doubt very much that we will be able to regulate it well enough to ensure humane euthanasia. Humane euthanasia would be preferable to being abandoned to starve to death, as has become a huge problem recently. People find they can no longer afford to care for their horses, and it's very expensive to have a horse euthanized and hauled off by a vet. The market is saturated, and these unwanted horses have to go somewhere.

On a positive note, one part of the BLM program sends wild horses to a correctional facility in Hutchinson to be broke and saddle trained. That is a great idea.

Flap Doodle 5 years, 8 months ago

We should respect other cultures. I thought liberals were all about that?

Liberty275 5 years, 8 months ago

"Dog and cat slaughter plants to export their meat to Asia?"

Stereotype much?

joes_donuts 5 years, 8 months ago

City needs to put a halt on this Sports Complex and find out some serious facts about what is going on at the Legends. Our Sports Mecca in a cornfield will not compete with a Legends Sports Complex at Soccer Stadium/Waterpark/casino/speedway/shopping district/Baseball Stadium/etc...

jhawkinsf 5 years, 8 months ago

Wouldn't it be in their best interests to mislead us if we were to inquire about how far along in their plans they are? I mean, we're competing, aren't we?

alex_delaney 5 years, 8 months ago

I think we all need to remember that the sports village isn't being built to compete with other cities for tournaments and revenue. Its being built because there's a huge shortfall of recreational facilities in Lawrence currently. The fact that KU has partnered with the city as well as Coach Self's Assists Foundation so tournaments are possible is the icing, not the cake. Lawrence needs like 26 more courts than it has to get Parks and Rec where they need to be, and the city has demonstrated that the money is there without raising taxes. THAT'S what our Sports Complex is for. I don't see what Wyandotte County has to do with that.

Ken Miller 5 years, 8 months ago

I disagree, Alex. I heard the pitch Monday night from architects and other city pro-rec center folks. Economic Development is the main argument. If this rec center is to at least break even or hopefully make money, it will be through the attraction of regional volleyball and basketball tournaments. Having open gym hours for the locals does nothing for city coffers.

I also have not heard definitively what role KU will play, or if the Self foundation will even participate in the funding. That remains up in the air, I believe.

It would be a big mistake to take this project on without trying to get the low down on what the Legends/KCK folks are doing. While I won't completely discount the Lawrence effort if the WY CO project goes forward, you have to believe that tournament organizers would be more tempted by hotels, shopping, a casino and a Speedway next door to a brand new fieldhouse than a greenfield at the K-10/KTA interchange.

somebodynew 5 years, 8 months ago

While I agree oscar, if you think that is going to remain a "greenfield at the K-10/KTA interchange" you are also being mis-lead.

There are reasons this developer is 'donating' the land and it all has to do with building up the area where he will make money. My guess is that he has things already lined up and he just needs this 'donation' to go through so the rest of it does.

It will still be tough competition with WYCO though. And I am also wondering just WHY the Self Foundation part of this has become very, very quiet. I haven't heard any plans of their involvement since the idea has 'expanded' to as big as it is.

How about that Chad, any info ???

Ken Miller 5 years, 8 months ago

It will remain a greenfield if developers can't crunch projected numbers and come up with a profit. Again, if the Legends project goes beyond LiveStrong soccer fields and includes a fieldhouse that can host big volleyball and basketball tournaments, why would a developer gamble on putting a hotel or other major amenity next to a lesser fieldhouse that can't compete with the established commercial areas surrounding the Legends?

alex_delaney 5 years, 8 months ago

I agree that that is a big reason people what to build this project, but even if there is a tournament going on, the walking track, game room, weight room, etc. will still all be open to the public. Of course everyone wants the Sports Complex to be more, but at its heart, it is still a local rec center.

As far as the KU/Self connection is concerned, can anyone really blame them for not getting involved while this is a heated community discussion? This may be hard for some of you to believe, but Lawrence residents have a habit of dragging each other through the mud when there is a disagreement. Why would they want to put themselves in that position until there is some consensus in the community? From what I understand, that's why A LOT of major corporations steer clear of Lawrence as well. Lawrence disqualifies itself through turmoil.

Ken Miller 5 years, 8 months ago

Lawrence didn't disqualify itself through "turmoil" with Wal-Mart, now did it?

Liberty275 5 years, 8 months ago

Sounds reasonable. It will create jobs. You can't outsource a truck driver.

blindrabbit 5 years, 8 months ago

It looks like somebody is building a large sand plant at the north end of the Perry/Lecompton bridge on the east side. What are the details, if you know???

Flap Doodle 5 years, 8 months ago

"If wishes were horses, we'd all be eating steak", Jayne Cobb.

Mary Ellen Hall 5 years, 8 months ago

Am I losing it or is the qualification of 400 square feet (20' x 20') of properly equipped corral space awfully small for an animal that has been roaming free?

cowboy 5 years, 8 months ago

you want them well controlled to get them gentled down upon coming to a new home . A very secure small corral is the way to do that. Put them in a field and you'll never get near them.

juma 5 years, 8 months ago

Was in Italy this Summer and had the most delicious horse steak meal. Is it possible to adopt-to-eat?

cowboy 5 years, 8 months ago

If I were a wild horse I'd rather have been left alone...

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