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Archive for Monday, February 4, 2013

City to start process of building $10 million worth of infrastructure at Farmland site

February 4, 2013

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Lawrence city commissioners on Tuesday are set to take their biggest step yet toward starting about $10 million of infrastructure work to convert the former Farmland Industries fertilizer plant into a business park.

City crews work at the former Farmland property Monday as the city prepares to connect the property to East Hills Business Park. Since 2010, the city of Lawrence has worked to clean up and remove debris from the former Farmland Industries fertilizer plant off Kansas Highway 10. The city took ownership of the 467-acre site with the intention of creating additional space for industrial development and expanding the city’s business park.

City crews work at the former Farmland property Monday as the city prepares to connect the property to East Hills Business Park. Since 2010, the city of Lawrence has worked to clean up and remove debris from the former Farmland Industries fertilizer plant off Kansas Highway 10. The city took ownership of the 467-acre site with the intention of creating additional space for industrial development and expanding the city’s business park.

They’ll also be making progress on fulfilling a motto that City Manager David Corliss has been chanting for months.

“I’ve been saying for a while now that our goal is more shovels and less lawyers,” Corliss said.

At their weekly meeting tonight, commissioner will consider taking the initial steps to create a benefit district that technically will fund nearly $10 million in roadwork, waterline construction and sewer improvements needed to make the more than 400-acre site on Lawrence’s eastern edge ready for development.

Corliss, though, is making sure that leaders understand that, in reality, it will be city taxpayers who are paying for improvements for the foreseeable future. Normally, a benefit district passes the costs along to property owners in the district through special assessments that show up on property tax bills.

But the Farmland property currently is owned by the city, which means the city will be responsible for paying the special assessments. Even if the city does end up selling some of the property to future tenants of the business park, Corliss said it is still possible the city will be left to pay the bills for the infrastructure.

“Who pays those special assessments probably will be part of the negotiation process when we try to attract employers to the site,” Corliss said. “It is very common for a company that provides jobs to a community to expect the community to provide some level of support.”

The city took ownership of the environmentally blighted piece of property in 2010, and has been continuing to pump groundwater at the site to rid it of high levels of nitrogen fertilizer that had been spilled at the site over the years.

But tonight’s action will set the stage for construction on streets, sewers and water lines to begin in April. Commissioners hope to award bids for the infrastructure work in mid-March.

A new road connecting the Farmland property to the adjacent East Hills Business Park will be the most visible improvement at the site. The new road will run parallel to Kansas Highway 10, which is just south of the property.

The city also will construct a short portion of O’Connell Road north of Kansas Highway 10. The new portion of O’Connell will serve as an entrance to the business park and will connect with the new east-west road that runs into the East Hills Business Park.

Work to install a traffic signal and turn lane at 23rd and O’Connell began last week. A signal should be in place by mid-summer.

Corliss expects the infrastructure work on the Farmland site — which also includes installing about 9,300 feet of sewer lines, water mains, sidewalks and bike lanes — to be completed by early 2014.

When done, the infrastructure will open up for development about a dozen industrial lots, ranging in size from about 5 acres to about 80 acres.

Future phases of infrastructure projects would create access and utilities to about another half-dozen lots. The largest future project is another expansion of O’Connell Drive to the north so it would connect with 19th Street, which dead ends at the Farmland property.

Corliss said there is not a timeline for that project. He said it would require a complete rebuilding of 19th Street and would require significant conversations with neighborhoods in the area.

The first round of infrastructure improvements, though, will allow the city to more aggressively market the property to potential tenants. The city showed the site to a manufacturer of wind energy components in 2012, and was a finalist for the project but eventually lost out to another city.

“As companies see more progress on the infrastructure, as they see progress on the cleanup and as they see work begin on the South Lawrence Trafficway in the area, I think we’re going to see a lot more interest in the property,” Corliss said.

The city won’t know the total cost of infrastructure improvements until it gets bids next month. But Corliss said the city’s bond and interest fund has sufficient reserve funds to make the expected bond payments for the next 20 years without needing to increase the property tax mill levy.

“The city will bear these costs for a while, but we have been good stewards of our bond and interest fund, and we’re in a position to do this,” Corliss said.

Commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.

Comments

irvan moore 1 year, 7 months ago

more shovels less lawyers says the lawyer?

2

Steve Jacob 1 year, 7 months ago

What has happened with the Sunflower plant scares the heck out of me. Once they starting digging, the price went up, up, and away.

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Katara 1 year, 7 months ago

Who pays those special assessments probably will be part of the negotiation process when we try to attract employers to the site,” Corliss said. “It is very common for a company that provides jobs to a community to expect the community to provide some level of support.” ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The community are already provides some level of support by being a good place for the employees to live yet businesses that expect to community to provide some level of support (pony up the tax breaks and credits) just break that community support by eroding the tax base.

3

KU_cynic 1 year, 7 months ago

"If we build it, they will come."

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gccs14r 1 year, 7 months ago

So a company gets an abatement to move here, but the way the agreements are written, once the abatement period is up, there is nothing to hold them here and they leave to milk a different set of taxpayers.

You want an abatement? Fine. For every year of abatement, you guarantee one additional year of operations at a minimum economic output of the average of the last five years of operations. If you fail to meet this obligation, the city becomes the owner of all physical and intellectual property assets of the organization and will collect back taxes in full for every year of abatement until either the tax bill is satisfied or the assets are depleted. Any sale or transfer of assets completed in the 36 months prior to cessation of operations will be considered fraudulent and proceeds will be due and payable to the city. If there are any assets remaining after the tax obligations are met, they will be returned to the corporation or the bankruptcy court as applicable to dispose of as necessary to meet other obligations.

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gccs14r 1 year, 7 months ago

What's competitive about giving away the store?

2

Currahee 1 year, 7 months ago

I'm actually ok with this because they're trying to attract businesses that create jobs.

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Currahee 1 year, 7 months ago

Because they want to build things that have no use. Might as well build a 100 story building with no tenants.

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OonlyBonly 1 year, 7 months ago

But only high level jobs. City "leaders" don't want any "grunt" labor in Lawrence.

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blondejuan 1 year, 7 months ago

If they want to create business in Lawrence I hope they use Lawrence businesses to install the infrastructure.

2

50YearResident 1 year, 7 months ago

There is that "cheesy" photo again. How can you not think the wool is being pulled over your eyes when you look at the grin on the face of the person giving the details of the story?

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msezdsit 1 year, 7 months ago

Sinking 10 million into this toxic sludge dump site is just brilliant.

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jhawkinsf 1 year, 7 months ago

400 acres of native trees and grasses would look pretty good out there.

4

gccs14r 1 year, 7 months ago

And would use up a lot of the fertilizer that's in the ground and maybe convert some of the other contaminants, assuming anything can actually grow on the site.

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Lathrup 1 year, 7 months ago

I wonder if anything would grow in that soil? I also wonder what the long term health effects will be on tenents assuming anyone builds there.

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gccs14r 1 year, 7 months ago

Hopefully it's not another Love Canal.

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patkindle 1 year, 7 months ago

First off, 10 million isn’t a lot of money today Plus I am amazed no one has blamed frizzle or Compton for having a hand in this. I would hope a major portion of this farmland Project would Be a free park for everyone to enjoy, with Lots of art. After all it is all about kids and arts, We don’t really need jobs in Lawrence We just live off the dole from the govt the govt knows what is good for us, and what we need.

2

50YearResident 1 year, 7 months ago

I wonder if the city has gotten an "All Clear" for the contamination from the Environmental Protection Agency to go ahead and build the $10 Millon Dollar infastructure. Anyone know? If they don't have it, then this could backfire on the city.

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OonlyBonly 1 year, 7 months ago

"Work to install a traffic signal and turn lane at 23rd and O’Connell began last week. A signal should be in place by mid-summer. " If nothing else good comes out of it this is worth it!

1

jack22 1 year, 7 months ago

This sounds like a great spot to build the new recreation center our city leaders are so eager to build. If we already have 400 acres to develop and are bringing in the needed streets, sewers, gas, and electric to this site, why does the city need Fritzel's gift of 20 acres of undeveloped farm land in the middle of nowhere for the new recreation center? A new 30 acre recreation center on that site would save the city a ton of money and would be a big plus for attracting other businesses to locate there.

2

elliottaw 1 year, 7 months ago

great point, and they could always sell of some of the other land to recoup the cost of the rec center, meaning it would pretty much pay for itself

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FlintlockRifle 1 year, 7 months ago

What you mean getting ready to start, looks like they already have started , lot of dirt being moved there east of old plant gate area

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 7 months ago

Has this toxic clean up been approved by the EPA? a clean bill of health? Can construction proceed before a clean bill of health has been issued? There is plenty of activity out there as we speak spending those tax $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$.

How easy will it be to sell tenants on buying property in a former toxic waste site?

The Chamber of Commerce keeps telling city hall that Lawrence needs ready to go locations but never was it said that this was going to be billed to the taxpayers? Ready to go for what?

Rob Chestnut said more than once while a city commissioner that the city must take risks. Hmmmmmm.

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DanR 1 year, 7 months ago

Fine idea, but cart before the horse... how much digging do you really want plan out there until you know what kind of wasteland you're dealing with?

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gccs14r 1 year, 7 months ago

According to the new rules, I'm supposed to pull a permit before disturbing more than 20 square feet of wall area in case there is lead or asbestos. If I hire a contractor, he has to pull a permit for more than six square feet. Our city is currently taking implements of destruction to 400 acres that are known to be contaminated. What are they putting in the air that we don't know about? Where is the environmental impact statement?

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cheapskate 1 year, 7 months ago

Just a 10 million dollar sidewalk to the homeless shelter. Comes complete with a traffic light and soon will need a pedestrian overpass that we can call the gateway to this corrupt city.

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 7 months ago

Overall I'm not necessarily against this use as such. It's just that it should NOT be carried by taxpayers. UNLESS taxpayers realize substantial returns.....

Maybe the city could sell it off for about $30-$35 million....

KDHE has placed some restrictions.

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