Landowners near the New Century AirCenter in Gardner have filed suit asking a judge to reverse the county commission’s approval of a large cold-storage facility near their homes in Olathe.
The facility would expose the neighborhood to the dangers of toxic and combustible anhydrous ammonia, the suit said. An explosion or fire at the facility, which has an 85-foot tower, might also overwhelm local firefighters, the suit said.
It’s the latest step by neighbors against a proposed structure at 159th Street and New Century Parkway. They have appeared at several county meetings to protest the development of about 411,000 square feet on about 34 acres.
Thirteen neighbors signed a protest petition against the development, saying the plans for setbacks, noise abatement, and buffering and water drainage were inadequate and would ruin their quality of life and property value. That petition was declared invalid after county officials decided not enough signers were within the 1,000-foot distance from the development.
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The neighbors often cited bad experiences with the nearby Kimberly Clark plant as the reason for their objections. Kimberly Clark’s facility is roughly the same square footage as Lineage Logistics’ would be.
Property owner Mike Jensen said the stormwater runoff after that plant was built has sent silt through his pond and created a gully down his field.
Kimberly Clark has since left, but its building is now occupied by Amazon.com. The Lineage plant would be right next door to Jensen and Amazon.
Jensen and three other plaintiffs filed the suit in Johnson County District Court. They did not ask monetary damages, but failing a reversal of the plan approval, said they should be compensated for what amounts to a condemnation of their property.
Many of the complaints in the suit echo those of the protest petition. Neighbors say the plan doesn’t provide the right setbacks or enough screening from the plant, and that they will likely hear the sounds of refrigerated semi-trailers running through the day.
One neighbor recently told the commission that she was concerned about being able to escape harm in the event of an ammonia leakage and noted a safety violation for the company.
Lineage was cited for a nine serious safety violations in 2016 by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration after a report of an ammonia release in a McAllen Texas, plant, according to the OSHA website. OSHA alleged violations of safety standards and lack of medical testing and an eyewash station for workers, and fined the company $58,000.
The suit also says the neighbors would be affected by any increase in rail capacity the company needs. The county also should have done an environmental impact study because protected whooping cranes are thought to use the area, the suit said.
The commission approved the development plans and has declared its intent to grant a 10-year, 50 percent tax abatement on the $81 million project. The county has long wanted more development at its airport land.
But it’s been slow to happen because county land is leased, rather than sold. Money from the leases goes to make the operations at the two county airports self-sufficient.