The Jaax family, who own this house at the corner of 71st Street South and Tyler, say they turned down an offer to possibly sell some of their land for a Tyson chicken plant. Dion Lefler The Wichita Eagle
The Jaax family, who own this house at the corner of 71st Street South and Tyler, say they turned down an offer to possibly sell some of their land for a Tyson chicken plant. Dion Lefler The Wichita Eagle

Local

You can cross this farm off potential sites for a Tyson plant

By Dion Lefler

dlefler@wichitaeagle.com

November 22, 2017 04:39 PM

UPDATED November 22, 2017 04:57 PM

The owners of a large farm near where speculators are rumored to be scouting for a Tyson poultry plant site say they won’t sell any of their land to big chicken.

The Jaax family owns a broad swath of land on the north side of 71st Street South between Hoover and Maize roads. Their holdings include a rental house at the corner of 71st and Tyler.

That corner has been rumored to be at or near where speculators have been buying land options with an eye toward assembling a parcel to try to sell to Tyson, which is considering Sedgwick County and two others as possible sites for a $300 million-plus chicken plant to process hundreds of millions of birds a year.

Karon Jaax said her family was approached by local real estate interests who wanted to negotiate an option on some of their land. But they said no, she said.

Never miss a local story.

Sign up today for a free 30 day free trial of unlimited digital access.

“We don’t feel like the roads could take that much traffic down there and we farm down there,” Jaax said. “I just think it would cause chaos to have that much traffic in that area.”

She also said the family is concerned about water, whether there’s enough available to serve a major chicken plant and the potential for contamination around the facility.

“And the smell, we’re farmers and we know what a cow lot smells like. So to tell someone a chicken lot isn’t going to smell – I don’t know.”

The area around the corner of 71st and Tyler is mostly open farmland between Haysville and Clearwater, dotted with pockets of housing to the south, west and southeast of the site, from about three-fourths of a mile to 2 miles away. Strong opposition has come from those areas.

The Girl Scouts’ Starwoods Camp is about a mile southwest of the 71st and Tyler intersection and a large Occidental Chemical plant is about 1 1/2 miles northeast.

Railroad tracks cut through the area and it is close to I-35, the major trucking corridor running from Mexico to Minnesota.

Tyson Foods and the Greater Wichita Partnership, which is researching the proposed plant on behalf of Sedgwick County, have said no site has been chosen.

The GWP has identified southwest Sedgwick County as a location where there would be enough water to support a poultry plant.

Tyson has identified three Kansas counties – Sedgwick, Cloud and Montgomery – as finalists for a plant that would bring about 1,500 to 1,600 jobs.

But company spokesman Worth Sparkman said this week that the company is still in the preliminary research stage and hasn’t looked at any specific sites.

Jaax said the family hasn’t had any contact with Tyson itself, but with local real estate interests who she would not identify.

“Tyson’s not down here causing a problem. It’s our (local) real estate people,” she said.

She said the inquiries started shortly after Leavenworth County backed out of a deal to bring Tyson to a site near Tonganoxie.

Leavenworth County commissioners initially took action to facilitate tax breaks for the company, but reversed course in the face of concerted pushback from area residents concerned about potential pollution, odor and traffic.

Tyson rumor points to 71st and Tyler

The farm fields around the intersection of 71st Street South and Tyler Road are growing more rumors than crops these days. The rumors are that Tyson Foods, the nation’s biggest meat company, is eyeing this obscure intersection between Haysville and Clearwater. (Video by Bo Rader / The Wichita Eagle) (Bensound.com)

Bo Rader / The Wichita Eagle