The shadow of the Kimberly-Clark plant loomed over plans for a big new cold-storage plant near Gardner, as neighbors last week protested the development plans for Lineage Logistics.
Ultimately, though, the county commission unanimously approved the facility, which will be on the northwest corner of 159th Street and New Century Parkway.
About a dozen neighbors, friends of neighbors and former neighbors of the proposed development turned out to protest the plan at the commission meeting July 6. They had a long list of concerns about lighting, noise and water runoff. But at the top of the list were problems with the former plant.
“Kimberly-Clark is a proof for anybody who knows the situation that they did not keep their word and neither did the county compel them to do so,” said Kenneth Moll, of Olathe. Moll formerly lived in the vicinity of the proposed plant.
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Moll and other speakers cited backup beepers of vehicles at the site and a system that allowed water runoff to erode a neighboring property and fill ponds with silt. They were also troubled by excessive light and inadequate screening from a berm that did not completely block the view of the operations, they said.
Lineage executives want to put a 450,000-square-foot facility for cold storage of food on about 40 acres at the New Century AirCenter, employing 175 people to begin with. The commission has already declared its intent to grant a 10-year, 50 percent tax abatement on the $81 million project.
But speakers against the project said the neighboring area had been burned by unfulfilled promises from Kimberly Clark, the paper products company that moved in about a decade ago with a similar tax abatement deal.
Kimberly-Clark has gone, but its building abuts the cold storage site. Amazon.com Inc. now leases the old Kimberly Clark facility.
Neighbors also objected to the way the county handled its protest petition against the project. They had requested a list of landowners living within 1,000 feet of the site and were provided with a packet by the planning department, said Don Jarrett, the commission’s lawyer.
But their petition was declared invalid because of a mistake about where the 1,000 feet should be measured from, he said. He added that the packet contained a warning that the information might not be dependable for figuring out who could sign a protest petition.
“The local residents do not trust this process and they do not trust you, and that’s because of ongoing problems with Kimberly-Clark,” said Connie Shidler, a lawyer representing nearby landowner Micheal and Pamela Jensen, lead signers of the protest petition.
Petitioners also were not happy with a technical change allowing the project to be approved through development plans rather than a conditional use permit, she said. The conditional use permit could have been denied on the grounds that the facility would cause a nuisance to surrounding property, she said.
Shidler said she is unsure what the next step will be for the neighbors. The Jensens have already been to court once on the issue when Kimberly-Clark was the tenant, she said. That suit was unsuccessful, however.
Shidler asked the commission to delay their vote and require the developer to work one-on-one with residents about their concerns.
“All they asked the BOCC to do was to require that the developer come to the table and work toward a resolution before they voted,” she said in an email to the Star.
The Jensens were disappointed with the commission’s decision, she added.
“(Neighbors) believe that it means that the BOCC finds it acceptable that residential property should be devalued while it improves its own property on behalf of big developers and businesses. Surely this prosperous county can find a better balance between the interests of business and property owners when it comes to taking away property value.”
Corb Maxwell, representing the developer, said the company would take any opportunity to meet with residents about their concerns. Maxwell said the plan meets or exceeds all codes and will be a marked improvement when it comes to stormwater handling and quality in the area.