Archive for Thursday, July 31, 2003

Governor’s desire for Sunflower encouraging

July 31, 2003

The transfer of the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant seems locked in some law of inertia in which every positive step prompts an equal and opposition negative response. Still, Kathleen Sebelius' decision to sign a preliminary Finding of Suitability for Early Transfer for the plant is welcome. From the outside, it appears the governor's signature on the non-binding document and intention to work with potential developer Kessinger/Hunter and Co. differs little from then-Gov. Bill Graves' announcement of 14 months ago. At that time, Graves said his administration would seek to negotiate an early transfer agreement with the same developer.
Realistically, the Graves announcement was too ambitious given the limited time left his administration, and the Sebelius team shouldn't have been expected to simply rubber stamp a proposal that greeted its arrival.
Much of the lack of progress at Sunflower can be traced to the Oz Entertainment fiasco and the three years given consideration of the proposed theme park. But it is encouraging to note that seeming counter to the Sunflower inertia law, something positive came of the citizen interest in the Oz proposal. The most recognized voice of organized opposition, the once-name Taxpayers Opposed To Oz Inc., responded to criticism that it offer a constructive plan for Sunflower that befitted it new name of Taxpayers Offering Tomorrow's Opportunities. TOTO President Micheline Burger has been sharing the group's vision of a large Sunflower life science research park to any and all willing to listen.
Given ongoing life science initiatives in the Kansas metropolitan area that hope to build on the Stowers Institute for Medical Research in Kansas City, Mo., those aspirations don't seem unfounded. It also fits neatly with the aims of the K-10 Corridor Association.
TOTO's further suggestion that the reminder of Sunflower's acres are to be given over to parkland and a campus shared by state colleges might be less doable. The push to remove the cleanup bill for the federal treasury is likely to get more strident as Congress and the administration consider record budget deficits and an open-ended military commitment. Neither the state nor Johnson County has expressed any interest in footing that bill. That probably points to a private developer looking for future profits.
Again, it's encouraging to see the governor asking any developer work to provide jobs in an emerging economic sector. That, and not yet another Johnson County housing development, would be of lasting benefit to the surrounding communities, including Eudora.

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