News Columns & Blogs

Wichita developers furious about county's Bel Aire plan

For a fortnight, I thought Sedgwick County’s proposal to drop a cool $14 million on 808 acres of prime industrial land the city of Bel Aire can’t give away was going to slip under the radar.

Brother, was I wrong!

The proposed purchase and installation of a rail spur is the talk of the city’s development community, and not in a positive way. The word “bailout” keeps coming up.

The proposal is being characterized by developers in a variety of ways: A knee-jerk reaction to Siemens’ decision to locate near Hutchinson - ironically, on a big chunk of land near a rail spur; an attempt by the county to save one jurisdiction from financial ruin; an ill-fated reach for a huge industrial client.

And in several meeting rooms, as the county going into direct competition against private developers.

There’s some truth to that argument. Can the county wait for years while the area pursues the ever-elusive Toyota plant? Probably not. So the alternative becomes subdividing the land into smaller development chunks - and going into competition against the city’s private developers.

Not a real incentive for private development, is it?

Sedgwick County’s idea to establish a huge industrial park’s got some merit - but you can fairly wonder if a tract with a bad track record of development interest is the place to start.

This chunk of land certainly looks like a bad idea - for Bel Aire back in the days when its council went into the real estate development business.

And for Sedgwick County now.