COLUMBIA — Larry and Brenda Potterfield are offering to donate 47 acres on the east side of Strawn Road to the city. The property includes an 11,800-square-foot vacant house appraised at more than $1 million.
Larry Potterfield, CEO and owner of MidwayUSA, and his wife are offering the property with no restrictions.
"...their vision is that the City will keep the community in mind and consider the arts, tourism and completion of the Major Roadway Plan," according to a staff report to the Columbia City Council.
The council is scheduled to vote on whether to accept the gift next Monday at its regular meeting.
Larry Potterfield said the donation was an "idea that came up over time." He said he has witnessed traffic congestion near the Stadium Boulevard intersection with Interstate 70 and was aware of long-range city plans to create a new interchange near the current Sorrell's Overpass, immediately north of the property.
The city's Major Roadway Plan reflects plans for a freeway that would mostly run along the corridor of Strawn Road, also known as Route ZZ. It would connect Broadway with I-70 and extend through the Potterfield land.
City Community Relations Director Steven Sapp said the freeway would cost about $68 million, and there is no money to build it anytime soon.
Potterfield also noted that the land is directly across the street from Strawn Road Park. "We saw the park develop across Strawn Road and thought the city might be able to make the best use of it," he said.
The proposed donation comes as the City Council continues to debate whether and when to build a 1.6-mile, $4.3 million Henderson Branch sewer line that would serve MidwayUSA and the entire Midway area.
A motion to move forward with designs for the sewer died in a 3-3 council vote in November, and the council instead voted to have City Manager Mike Matthes continue negotiations. Council members at the time suggested Potterfield could sweeten the deal by offering to donate land to the city.
Potterfield said in an email to the Missourian that there is no connection between the sewer line and the donation.
"From our perspective, as the donors, there is absolutely no relationship between the donated property and the sewer project," Potterfield said.
"I know it might seem a little old-fashion, but this truly is a gift from my wife and I to help improve the community," he added.
Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala, however, took a different view: "It seems that Mr. Potterfield doesn't want to link the donation of land to the Henderson sewer, but I do," he said.
Potterfield has said that MidwayUSA, which manufactures and sells ammunition and firearm accessories, will be unable to meet ammonia treatment requirements from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources that will take effect in 2018 for the sewage treatment plant that now serves the Midway area.
Without the new sewer line, he told the city in 2014, he might be forced to take his company and its 450 jobs elsewhere, according to previous Missourian reporting.
If the sewer line is extended, the city would annex MidwayUSA, the Midway Auto Truck Plaza and surrounding properties. That would enable to city to collect sales, property and gross receipts taxes that city staff has estimated would total about $478,000 per year.
The Boone County Regional Sewer District has agreed to chip in more than $600,000 for the sewer line.
Critics of the project have said extending the sewer would prompt further development of the Midway area and create a burden on the city to provide additional street maintenance and fire and police protection. A November staff report to the council, however, said those costs would be minimal.
The Henderson branch sewer was among the projects listed as part of a $32 million bond issue that voters approved in 2013, but the estimated cost has risen from $2.6 million to $4.3 million.
Skala said there are pros and cons to the annexation. "Whether the benefits of them annexing in outweighs the cost of the sewer is to be determined," he said.
Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser, who has consistently supported the sewer project, said she sees many possibilities for the Potterfield property. The city plans to hold a series of public meetings to gather input on the best uses for the land.
"You know, there are no strings attached," Nauser said, adding that the site might be a good place for a fire station.
The house that sits on the property was last occupied by urologist Winston Harrison, Potterfield said. The Potterfields bought the property, which is outside the city limits, in 2013.
The house, which was built in 1993, has seven bedrooms, five full baths and two half baths, according to records of the Boone County assessor. The Potterfields paid $15,397 in property taxes on the house and land in 2016, according to records of the Boone County collector.
The council has yet to discuss how it would use the house. Nauser thinks it would make a great community center.
"I would hate to see a house of that size torn down," she said. "People could rent it to use for weddings, business meetings, etc."
The county assessor's records show the land is actually owned by John and Julia Martin, LLC, a Potterfield entity. Potterfield said he got the name for the limited liability corporation from the story of Giovanni Martino*, who was Gen. George A. Custer's bugler at the Battle of Little Bighorn.
Custer sent Martin to fetch Capt. Frederick Benteen before the battle started. As a result, Martini was the Custer company's lone survivor of the battle.
Shortly before enlisting with the U.S. Cavalry in 1874*, he changed his name to John Martin, and he married a girl named Julia, Potterfield said.
"Great name for an LLC, don't you think?"
Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.