Archive for Wednesday, December 11, 2002

County approves permit for powder company

Requirements less restrictive than planning commissioners sought

December 11, 2002

A Johnson County company that wants to move its distribution center to a rural Leavenworth County site east of Tonganoxie received an early Christmas present this week.

But it's not clear how big the package is.

On Monday, Leavenworth County Commissioners unanimously approved a special-use permit that would allow Hodgdon Powder Company to open a distribution center about three miles east of Tonganoxie. The company, which distributes black powder and smokeless propellants for sport shooting, plans to purchase 144 acres at the northeast corner of 198th Street and U.S. Highway 24-40.

County commissioners approved the permit with less stringent conditions than county planning commissioners had sought last month during their review of the request. The planning commission had asked Hodgdon to:

  • Install fire hydrants every 300 feet in the area of the property being used as the distribution center.
  • Install interior sprinkler systems in buildings that contain packaging and shipping operations.
  • Restrict vegetation within 25 feet of all buildings.

But county commissioners removed those conditions from the special-use permit.

"I'm having second thoughts on that one," said Commissioner Don Navinsky.

He said he was concerned that if sprinklers inside buildings were required and if they malfunctioned the company would lose inventory.

So commissioners replaced those conditions with one that requires the company to follow regulations imposed by the state fire marshal's office.

Karl McNorton, director of fire prevention for the fire marshal's office, said whether sprinklers would be required depends on the design and use of the buildings. He said he would want to see drawings before he could determine whether sprinklers are required.

"In most cases, there may be some requirements for a sprinkler system and some explosion detection," he said. "Sometimes there are some exceptions to the code for some of that."

He said his office wouldn't require fire hydrants, but would want some alternatives in place, such as a system that would pump water from a pond or well.

Gary Ditty of Landplan Engineering, Lawrence, told county commissioners that supplying water to the site to fulfill the planning commission requirements would be difficult and costly. Ditty said Hodgdon will research exactly what the fire marshal's office would require.

"If the commissioners had gone with the recommendation as written, we would have probably lost the project," Ditty said after the meeting. "There's still hope."

Now, the next hurdle for the company is working with the Kansas Department of Transportation on access to the site from 24-40 highway.

No one spoke in opposition to the project at the county commission meeting, and representatives of Stranger Township Fire Department said they supported the company's plan.

Hodgdon officials have said water sprinklers and hydrants might have limited effect because the propellants the company distributes burn very rapidly.

The county commission attached several other conditions to the special-use permit, including:

  • The permit be in effect for 20 years.
  • Development be limited to only about 30 acres, and the remaining acreage remain in agricultural use.

The company wants to construct about 39,000 square feet of buildings, including office/security, maintenance, a ballistic lab, a screen house and processing, packaging, bulk storage, black powder storage and shipping.

Company officials have said they want to move from their Shawnee property because residential development has grown to Hodgdon's 160-acre, making the tract too valuable to use as a distribution center. They also want to use the move to make their operations more efficient.

Officials have said they would like to have the local center start operations by June 2004.

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