Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Report on Land's Value Stalls Deal Missouri's Conservation Department Seeks Columbia Bottoms for a Wildlife Area but Balks at City's Price

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Report on Land's Value Stalls Deal Missouri's Conservation Department Seeks Columbia Bottoms for a Wildlife Area but Balks at City's Price

Article excerpt

Efforts by the Missouri Department of Conservation to buy the 4,668-acre Columbia Bottoms for an urban wildlife area are bogged down over a new report on the land's value.

Department officials flew to St. Louis Friday for a meeting with representatives of the mayor and city comptroller on the land. The 90-minute closed session ended with both sides declining to offer details.

"There's a lot of work to be done," said Gerald Ross, assistant director of the conservation department. "Let's leave it at that." Said Paul Thompson, the mayor's administrative assistant: "From the city point of view, we're cautious." The focus of the meeting was a report by Black & Veatch, a consulting engineer, commissioned by the comptroller's office. The report looked at various potential uses of the land, which is in St. Louis County on the city's northern boundary, and came up with a value of $15 million to $19 million. That's nearly twice what the Conservation Department believes the land is worth. In 1981, the Board of Aldermen fell one vote short of selling the land to the Conservation Department for $7.8 million. The department's commissioners have said they would be willing to pay fair market value for the land. "From current land use, values haven't changed that much," Ross said. Columbia Bottoms currently is leased to farmers, who pay the city an average of $175,000 a year, depending on the crops the land produces. Only the farmers, and a few city employees with hunting privileges, are allowed on the property. The Conservation Department has argued that the city could make more money by selling the land and investing the money than it currently makes from the farming operation. In addition, city residents would have a new recreational area nearly four times the size of Forest Park. Twelve environmental groups recently wrote Mayor Freeman Bosley Jr. …

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