Archive for Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Officials tour powder company site

County planning commission to meet Nov. 13 on request for permit

October 30, 2002

City and county officials got a first-hand look on Friday at the operations of a company that distributes black powder and smokeless propellants for sport shooting.

The company, Hodgdon Powder Company, wants to move its distribution center to a 144-acre site east of Tonganoxie, on the north side of U.S. Highway 24-40, east of 198th Street. The land is owned by the Lois M. Windett Trust of Florissant, Mo.

About 15 city and county officials toured Hodgdon's Shawnee distribution center, where the company stores and packages materials. Plans call for the company to move the center to the Leavenworth County site, if the county approves the company's request for a special-use permit. The Leavenworth County Planning Commission will consider the issue at its Nov. 13 meeting.

Hodgdon Powder Company wants to construct about 39,000 square feet of buildings: office/security; maintenance; ballistic lab; screen house and processing; packaging; bulk storage; black powder storage; and shipping.

The property is zoned rural residential, as are most of the properties surrounding it. One property on the south side of the highway is zoned limited business district.

The Leavenworth County Planning Commission will consider the company's request for a special-use permit at its Nov. 13 meeting, which begins at 6:30 p.m. in the meeting room on the second floor of the Leavenworth County Courthouse, Fourth and Walnut, Leavenworth.

The planning commission's recommendation will be forwarded to the Leavenworth County Commission, which is scheduled to consider the permit request at 2:30 p.m. Dec. 9.

Following the tour, Chuck Magaha, the county's emergency management director, said he checked with Shawnee's fire marshal about Hodgdon.

"He said they've had a real good track record," Magaha said. "His comment was that we know that if there is a fire up there that it's going to burn so fast and quick that it's going to be out before we get there."

Hodgdon principals say their products will burn, but will not explode. And the buildings where materials are stored are designed to burn.

Tom Shepherd, Hodgdon's president and CEO, said the company employs 14 people at its Shawnee center.

"I think we'd move everybody," he said. "I don't think there's anybody who wouldn't come with us. We have a small family company and we try to take care of our employees."

At the center, the company stores black powder and smokeless propellants, and employees repackage the materials for shipment across the United States, and into Canada and Europe. Although the company packages materials for retail sales, no such sales occur at the Shawnee site.

Shepherd said five to six semi-tractor trailer trucks visit the site a week, along with United Parcel Service trucks.

At its Shawnee site, the company has numerous small buildings, where products are stored. If Hodgdon moves to Leavenworth County, construction of larger buildings would provide an opportunity to increase efficiency, officials said.

Doug Delsemme, Hodgdon's vice president and general counsel, said company officials would like to meet with area property owners before the planning commission's Nov. 13 meeting.

If the planning commission and council commission approve the special use permit, the company would progress with plans to move. Residential development has grown to Hodgdon's Shawnee 160-acre tract, making it too valuable to use as a distribution center.

"We'd like to move by June 2004," Shepherd said.

Diane Wicklund, Tonganoxie city planner, said she will talk with the Tonganoxie Planning Commission next week to obtain their input on the proposed development and forward that to the county.

John Zoellner, the county's planning and zoning director, said he's recommended approval of a 20-year special-use permit, with several conditions.

"The main consideration, I think, is the safety aspect of it," Zoellner said. "And I'm not sure that's that big a thing. I don't think they're going to blow up. It's more of fire spreading to surrounding properties and emergency personnel and what they have to deal with."

Magaha, who also is a volunteer firefighter, said he has only minor concerns about the operation, such as limiting vegetation around buildings. He said he's pleased the company plans on using only about 30 acres in the 140-acre tract.

"That is going to give them a pretty good buffer," he said. "I feel pretty comfortable about it, much more comfortable after seeing it and becoming educated about it."

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