COLUMBIA, Mo. - A gift of 47 acres in west Columbia could help the city build a new interchange on Interstate 70.
The Columbia City Council agreed to take the land at 840 Strawn Road from Larry and Brenda Potterfield. The couple offered the land with "no strings attached," deputy city manager John Glascock said Monday, but a report given to the council on it said the Potterfields hoped they kept the road system, arts and tourism in mind.
Larry Potterfield told ABC 17 News he and his wife bought the land in 2013 as an investment, and maintained the property since then. Property records show a 12,000-square-foot home, with seven bedrooms and five bathrooms sits on a hill there. Glascock said a water pipe leaked recently and destroyed much of the first floor, unbeknownst to the property owners.
The land is critical to developing an interchange at I-70 and Sorrels Overpass, Glascock said. Buying the right-of-way for the project, including a connection to Stadium Boulevard to the north, would cost $9 million. Glascock said the property allows them to complete some of the project south of I-70 without a cost for land. The project is aimed to reduce traffic at the Stadium Boulevard interchange, and create another connection to I-70.
There are six exits from I-70 into Columbia, but only two of them, Providence Road and Highway 63, run from the interstate to the city's southern edge. City spokesman Steve Sapp said Columbia has had the same number of overpasses and underpasses since I-70's construction in the 1950s.
Some people questioned the motives behind the donation Monday night. The city council has punted several times on an extension of the Henderson sewer branch to the area around mile marker 121, where Potterfield would connect his business to the line. Resident Traci Wilson-Kleekamp, who opposed the sewer line at a hearing last summer, found it odd that Potterfield would donate a piece of land the city was not previously interested in owning.
Sapp said the city and Potterfield sat down last year to discuss ways he could develop Sorrels Overpass, and later his land commercially. Potterfield said after seeing the park built across the street and seeing the need to reduce traffic at Stadium Boulevard., "it was at that time we understood this would be a great addition to the city."
City council members had different ideas for the property. Mayor Brian Treece agreed the donation was "curious," but felt accepting it wouldn't affect his decision on the Henderson Branch project. With the property, the city could save space for a new fire station in west Columbia and sell the rest of the land. This would let them use the money made for other "strategic" real estate decisions.
Councilwoman Laura Nauser said a new animal shelter was needed in town, and the city could partner with Boone County on a facility there.