Archive for Thursday, December 28, 2000

Oz will it happen?

December 28, 2000

Editor's note: The following is a synopsis of charting the progress of the proposed Oz theme park.

Oz Entertainment Co. grabbed a year's worth of headlines as it continued its three-year quest to acquire the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant. With Oz preparing to take its proposal back before the Johnson County Commission, the issue is sure to be back in the news in 2001.

Last February, a proposal surfaced in Topeka that would have amended state legislation governing the redevelopment of closed military installations like Sunflower. The legislation would have given cities the right to issue sales tax revenue bonds.

Oz's redevelopment plan calls for the state to issue $189 million of the so-called STAR bonds to help finance the $861 million Wonderful World of Oz Theme Park and Resort the company wants to build at Sunflower.

The February proposal got a chilly reception in Topeka, where it raised suspicions that Oz was trying to bypass the oversights existing legislation gave to Johnson County and the state.

On the day the proposal was to be formally introduced, DeSoto Mayor Steve Prudden released a statement saying he was withdrawing the proposal he initiated.

In what may yet turn out to be the most significant Sunflower development of the year, Oz reached agreement with the state and federal government on documents governing the cleanup and transfer of the closed plant. The first-of-their-kind documents released in June included a transfer agreement with the Army and a consent agreement between Oz and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment that spelled out when and how Sunflower would be remediated.

The agreements commit Oz to cleaning up $37 million of solid waste contamination. Oz agreed to

See Oz, Page 3

guarantee the commitment with $400 million worth of performance bonds and insurance.

The transfer is contingent on the Johnson County Commission and Kansas Development Finance Authority approving Oz redevelopment plan for Sunflower. Soon after the release of the agreements, Oz presented it $861 million redevelopment agreement to the county and state.

At one of the many workshops and public hearings the county commission scheduled on the redevelopment plan during the late summer and early fall, it was learned Oz reserved the right to use excess sales taxes it collected to retiring privately placed debt.

Partly because of concern for the sales tax "cash trap," Oz's redevelopment plan failed to win the commission's approval. But, the Nov. 6 vote didn't kill the proposal either. With Commissioner Gary Anderson abstaining because of his law firm association with the Kansas Development Finance Authority, the commission deadlocked 2-2 over the Oz plan.

Oz Chairman Robert Kory has indicated the company will bring the proposal back to a new county commission in January. Oz opponent Commissioner Johnna Lingle was defeated in her reelection bid by Suzie Wolf during the August GOP primary.

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