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City to buy 320-acre farm for $8 million to develop park

The owners say the high development in the area makes farming difficult.
Tuesday, February 27, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 11:02 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

The city will pay $8 million for the 320-acre Crane property to help create a regional park for southeast Columbia that will include major sports facilities and rival Cosmo Park, on the city’s north side, in size and scope.

The Crane land will be combined with property surrounding Bristol Lake on the former Philips farm north of Gans Road to create a swath of parkland spanning nearly 500 acres. The Crane property lies immediately south of Gans Road and the Philips farm, and it is adjacent to Rock Bridge Memorial State Park.

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Owner and attorney Sue Crane confirmed on Monday that an agreement has been reached and that the city will buy the family’s farm. She declined to comment on the property’s price but said it has remained the same throughout the family’s lengthy negotiations with the city.

Crane said that the farm has been in the family for 130 years. The property

has slowly become surrounded by development, she said, making it impossible to farm. Crane added that it is difficult to perform necessary farm operations when surrounded by development.

The family considered selling the land piece by piece, Crane said, but decided against it. Crane said the property will make a beautiful park.

“It just makes sense (to sell to the city),” Crane said.

At $25,000 per acre, the price is far less than the city paid for Stephens Lake Park in 2001. The city bought 116 acres of Stephens Lake Park for $7 million, or about $60,000 per acre.

Asked if $8 million was a good price, Fourth Ward Councilman Jim Loveless said he obviously thought so because he approved the purchase.

“It is not a bargain basement price, but the council thought it was a reasonable price because of the access,” Loveless said.

The city plans to announce the deal at a news conference at 9 a.m. today.

Finance Director Lori Fleming declined to reveal the source of funding for the park Monday but said she would explain it in detail at the conference.

Loveless said the city will finance the purchase primarily through a one-eighth-cent capital improvement sales tax approved by voters in November 2005.

The Crane property might have been tempting to developers, given its proximity to a planned new interchange at Gans Road and U.S. 63. That interchange will be surrounded by key developments such as the Philips tract and the MU research park, Discovery Ridge, planned for the east side of the highway.

Don Stamper of the Central Missouri Development Council said the price is not out of reason.

“It’s quite frankly of the parameters we’ve seen in the rest of the community. Land values have really increased in the last couple of years.”

Over the years, the Cranes have grown a number of different crops. Crane said the family’s desire to live in a rural area contributed to their decision to sell.

Sue Crane said her mother, Muriel Crane, 83, fears some Columbia residents will feel that “the family just took the city for its money.” She said her mother is already making plans to give back to the community once closing on the property occurs.

“This family gives back to the community,” Crane said. “And we plan to continue to do that.”

“This is very, very hard for us,” Crane said. “But we’re so happy that it’s going to be a park. The vision that the city has for this is just fantastic.”


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