‘Baby steps’ taken to transfer Sunflower plant
The Johnson County Commission and Kessinger/Hunter and Co. took a "baby step" Thursday in the transfer of the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant with the commission's approval of a predevelopment agreement.
The predevelopment agreement between Johnson County and the Kansas City, Mo., developer builds on the commission's decision in January, naming Kessinger/Hunter the potential Sunflower developer.
The predevelopment agreement commits Kessinger/Hunter to acquiring the property from the county if a satisfactory transfer is negotiated with the Army. It is envisioned the developer would acquire Sunflower for the estimated $45 million to $60 million needed to clean sites contaminated from the plant's production of rocket propellant.
The agreement also commits the developer to cleaning the plant to residential standards and developing it in accordance with Johnson County's Community in a Park land-use plan.
Finally, the agreement requires Kessinger/Hunter to pay the costs Johnson County incurs in the transfer process.
Kessinger/Hunter attorney John Petersen characterized the agreement as a "baby step" that would be followed by more substantial and detailed agreements. It was important because it allowed the developer's representatives to start direct negotiations with various state and federal agencies involved in the transfer, he said.
The baby step was almost tripped up because of objections from the city of De Soto, which was alarmed that the agreement did not commit Kessinger/Hunter to ceding the city title to the Sunflower water plant it has leased for the last six years.
De Soto City Attorney Patrick Reavey reminded commissioners the city of De Soto convinced the Army and the U.S. General Services Administration last summer to give the city title to the water plant before the rest of Sunflower was transferred. That effort ended when the county raised objections based on its policy that all Sunflower property be transferred in one transaction.
The city needed written assurances it would receive title to the plant to borrow the money needed to upgrade the World War II era water plant, Reavey said.
Kessinger/Hunter would transfer the water plant to De Soto, Petersen said, but he objected to placing the language in the predevelopment agreement. That and the guarantees for the various public benefit transfers should be left to subsequent agreements, he said.
However, commissioners responded to Reavey's argument that the water plant represented a public-safety issue for De Soto.
"The credibility of this board has been raised as to this document," Commissioner Doug Wood said. "Are we here to serve the public interest of citizens of Johnson County or corporate interest?"
When he was joined by three other commissioners demanding De Soto's concerns be addressed, Jarrett, Petersen, Reavey and De Soto Mayor Dave Anderson left the room to negotiate.
They returned with a letter stating the commission would remove Johnson County's objections to De Soto receiving early and separate title to the Sunflower water plant if the county and Kessinger/Hunter hadn't reached a final transfer agreement by March 1, 2005. The commission approved the letter with the unchanged redevelopment agreement.
At the time Kessinger/Hunter was designated potential developer, the goal was to work for a closing of the transfer consistent with the Oct. 1 start of the federal government's fiscal year. Johnson County Chief Legal Counselor said negotiations were in progress but not advancing at the hoped-for pace.
After the meeting, Anderson said the city would negotiate with Kessinger/Hunter about guaranteeing the water plant's transfer. The city would demand the water plant or compensation equal to its investment and interest in the plant, he said.