Archive for Thursday, October 11, 2001

Keep Oz’s incentives open for developers

October 11, 2001

Even its remaining advocates must accept that Oz Entertainment Co.'s proposal to redevelop the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant is now dead. The company may be able to resurrect its planned theme park, but any new plan will be vastly different than the one that has been before the Johnson County Commission the last 15 months.

With last week's decision, Oz would have to purchase Sunflower land outright and develop its $861 million Wonderful World of Oz Theme Park without the benefit of a financial incentive package from the state. The company hasn't demonstrated the financial wherewithal to make those commitments. It is extremely unlikely it will be able to attract investors now, given recent setbacks and the country's current economic condition.

Oz's staunchest allies would do well to start looking for a new game plan. There were those who fought Oz because they were opposed to any development at the plant. With the Oz proposal dead, they will be quick to suggest Sunflower's entire acreage become parkland.

We suggest the Legislature keep the economic incentive package developed for Oz intact as a marketing tool for new development proposals. That would allow Johnson County and the state to take advantage of the positive aspects of the Oz plan its third-party assurances to complete Sunflower's environmental cleanup and its coordinated development of the plant. Both of those terms were forced on Oz as conditions of its taking title to the plant. In the end, Oz's plan failed because of the company's lack of credibility, not a flawed process.

As the state searches for new developers, competing proposals could be judged by how well they conform to Johnson County's master plan for Sunflower, the developers' financial means and the amount of acreage they were willing to provide in public benefit transfers.

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