The Emporia Gazette
The Lyon County Commission and Lyon County Zoning and Appeals Board has been discussing a possible re-zoning of land in the 1500 block of Road 200 from agriculture to heavy industrial.
The change — which was requested by Lex and Janice Price — would allow BNSF Railway to lease the land and add the property to its inventory for a rail-ready industrial site.
The request was originally brought forth to the county commission by Lyon County Zoning Director Sam Seeley in August. It did not make a decision on the request, however, and sent it back to the Zoning and Appeals Board for further discussion. A representative from BNSF was on-hand to highlight what he said would be the benefits of the change, but several landowners in the area are opposed.
Thursday, Regional Development Association of East Central Kansas President Kent Heermann presented a letter of support for re-zoning to the county commission.
In the memo, Heermann wrote:
“Almost 10 years ago, several BNSF Economic Development staff and I studied the map and drove to the properties adjacent the BNSF transcon line from Saffordville to Lebo, and from Emporia to Reading to determine which sites are the most optimal for a large, rail-served industrial site. The Price Tract, located at 1500 Road 200 was determined to be the optimal site.
“The Price Tract has the BNSF track on the west edge, which creates a triangular shape with over 7,000 feet of railroad frontage. This railroad line from Emporia to Topeka is 136-pound ribbon rail with maximum weight capacity. In addition, there are normally 5 to 7 daily trains, ideal for a switching operation.
“On the Price tract is the (Rural Water District No. 5) 100,000-gallon water tower fed by a 10-inch water main on Road R8 and Road S is a 3-phase Lyon-Coffey Electric Coop electricity distribution line. Approximately a half-mile east on Road 200 and Road S is the Westar Emporia Energy Center, a 645-Megawatt electric generation plant at the nexus of several 115KW, and 345KW electric transmission lines. Adjacent to the northeast corner of the site is a 24-inch, 800-psi Southern Star natural gas pipeline.
“Road R8 and Road S has a 60-foot (right-of-way) south to Road 175 (old Highway 50). Then, either east or west on Road 175 with access to I-35 exit 135 or 138. On the past Projects JT and Rotag, the Kansas Department of Transportation had committed $1.5 or $2.5 million, respectively, to assist in the paving of Road S to the Price tract.
“Sanitary Sewer would have to be a free-standing sewer treatment operation, which would process waste from employees, and not process waste from production.
“The site has many assets, but infrastructure improvements would be required.”
“In 2013 we contacted the owners, Harry and Terry Price, who are brothers. We visited with them about the possibility of a two-year purchase option. Our primary reason (was) that, ultimately, their 318-acre site in the short-term could create 100 to 200 jobs with a rail-served manufacturing business. Then, other rail-served businesses could locate on the tract in the future with more job creation.
“The change occurring in rural communities are that not all farming/ranching operations could support multiple families, and over the years the next generation wanting to take off the family farm needed an outside income to support that goal. With the cost of health insurance, it’s more compelling for agriculture producers to work a full-time job for additional income and benefits.
“Over the years, plant managers at Modine, Didde and Hostess Brands would share that many of their best workers were those farmers/ranchers, a win-win situation for both.”
The RDA Mission Statement
“To proactively promote economic growth of the East Central Kansas region through commercial and industrial recruitment, expansion and training enhancements.”
“• The creation of skilled jobs that benefit the region.
“• Encourage the retention of existing employment within the region.
“• Create an atmosphere that provides growth opportunities to industry.
“To accomplish these goals, we strive to retain, expand and recruit new businesses to our region. In other words, keep what you have, grow what you have and, every once in a while, recruit a new company to the area.
“We encourage businesses to create quality jobs with benefits for our friends, neighbors and families in the region.
“Over the past quarter-century, local manufacturing business have faced many headwinds of disruptive technologies, right sizing and bankruptcies. Didde Web Press and Modine faced disruptive technologies with the obsolesce of the web press, and copper and brass radiators. Dolly Madison/Interstate Bakeries/Hostess declared bankruptcy in 2004 and 2012. It was liquidated in 2013. Tyson Meats closed the slaughter side of their operation, initially laying off 1,500 workers.
“Nothing motivates the community and the Emporia RDA more than attending a job fair to see all those unemployed persons looking for a new job. Most lost their livelihood by no fault of their own.
“In fact, today five of our top 10 manufacturing companies were not in Emporia in 1994 — those being Simmons Pet Food, CAMSO, Norfolk Iron and Metal and Hill’s Pet Nutrition. The fifth company, Hostess Brands, was closed from Nov. 2012 to May 2013. We were fortunate that new owners purchased the Emporia assets and began operations.”
“The competitiveness for new manufacturing companies in rural communities, like the Emporia region, has become more challenging to be successful.
“By partnering with the Price family, BNSF, the Emporia RDA and Emporia Enterprises, we can leverage our industrial development competitive advantage. By approving the change in zoning on the Price Tract, the Price family can list the property for sale. The Emporia RDA, in conjunction with BNSF, can begin the BNSF rail certification process by documenting the site is development ready.
“Being development ready saves the business six to nine months of time and mitigates the risks associated with due diligence of the site.
“With these competitive advantages, we will be successful in recruiting rail served businesses, which create jobs and new investment in our area.
“The Price Tract is used for grazing cattle on prairie hay or to produce prairie hay for the winter months. The annual property taxes on this 318-acre tract is $922.86. If the Price Tract develops with multiple businesses in the future, hundreds of thousands of property taxes could be generated, along with hundreds of jobs.
“In fact, on $1,000,000 appraised value property at 130.125 mills, would generate $32,531.25 annually in property taxes.”
The application and discussion of the further studies from the September Zoning and Appeals Board is expected at Thursday’s regular meeting of the Lyon County Commission at 8 a.m. in the Municipal Courthouse. Public comment is scheduled for 9:45 a.m., during the meeting.