After months of speculation by residents living along Route K and Smith Hatchery Road, a local development group has purchased a substantial amount of acreage south of Columbia that stretches to near the Missouri River.
Documents filed with the Boone County recorder of deeds indicate Providence Farms LLC, owned by local developer José Lindner, bought 824.84 acres from the W.B. Smith Hatchery Inc., and 11 acres from Glenda and William R. Beissenherz on Friday. The acquisitions are the latest step toward what could become by far the area’s largest development to date.
The purchase comes as no surprise to residents of the area, many of whom have told the Missourian that they have been approached by representatives of Providence Farms over the past year about selling their land. Despite being rebuffed by some of the property owners, Lindner’s purchase of the Smith and Beissenherz land brings his total holdings in the area to 1,076 acres. That includes about 140 acres of the Smith property that he bought in August.
While it is widely assumed that any significant development of the land would have to include annexation by Columbia, Providence Farms has yet to acquire any property that makes its holdings adjacent to Columbia’s city limits. Two tracts, one a 238-acre parcel owned by Dorsey Martin and the other a 15-acre property owned by Larry and Frances Thornburg, stand between the hatchery land and the city.
Martin on Tuesday said he has been approached by three different groups making offers on his land. Asked for specifics about who had approached him and when, he said he “didn’t want to get into all that.”
“There’s just a lot of activity going on down here, and it’s something that most of (the property owners) are familiar with by now,” Martin said. “As I said, most folks are aware that ground is being bought, and that the hatchery was being talked about.”
Frances Thornburg said Tuesday that she and her husband have lived on their 15 acres for 28 years. She said no one has approached them about selling their land.
“Most people around here have far more acreage than we do,” Thornburg said, “but it is true that we are right in between the area being bought and the city.”
Neither Lindner nor members of the Smith family could be reached for comment on the recent transactions or about future plans. Both have repeatedly declined to talk about it in the past.
Residents told the Missourian over the summer that they had been approached by Realtor Larry Oetting, who was representing Providence Farms and offering to swap them properties. Some said at the time that the offers were inadequate.
Thornburg said she’s got no problem with the developer’s activity.
“I think people have been contacted because that’s the best way to approach people who aren’t certain whether or not they would sell their land,” she said. “And they may not be certain until there’s someone offering them a good price and (they) think, ‘You know, I’m not doing much with it anyway, and I’m no longer farming it, so why not sell it?’”
For Elizabeth Wallace, who along with her husband, Kurt, own 17.5 acres near the hatchery land, the ever-growing likelihood that the city will soon be in her backyard is “heartbreaking.” She said she and her neighbors enjoy the quiet and calm that comes with living in a rural area.
Wallace and her husband have insisted they will only sell their land under certain circumstances and for a fair offer.
“They have approached us indirectly and through acquaintances that we know — at least that’s what we’ve assumed,” Wallace said. “When they spoke to us, the offer was for us to look at plans for what was transpiring down here.”
Wallace said that the last time she heard from Oetting was in November but that her husband has heard from other Realtors more recently. Those agents, she said, are telling them a major development, along with a major road through the area, are being planned. Still, she said she doesn’t believe Lindner is in any hurry to move forward and is trying to “keep landowners from making a profit.”
While Wallace said she has grown to accept the fact that life in the area is about to change, she wishes Lindner would be more forthcoming about what he wants.
“It’s not like we all have ‘For Sale’ signs up in our front yards,” she said. “If he wants something, he should just stop beating around the bush and tell the people around here what he wants from them.”