The people who live along one Ozark street aren’t sure they want tourists driving through their neighborhood.
The Ozark Board of Aldermen will consider a request for a planned united development for 40 acres of land on the west side of the Finley River, commonly known as the Ozark Mill property. Now owned by Ozark Mill, LLC, and the Morris family, the founders and owners of Bass Pro Shops, the property is slated to become Finley Farms. Developments announced the multipurpose project Aug. 1.
The development plan calls for a restaurant, a speakeasy-style bar, agricultural farm development, river access and nature trails and a multi-purpose building that can house educational classes and seminars.
At an Ozark Board of Aldermen meeting Nov. 5, Megan Morris offered some previously undisclosed features of the development. They included an outdoor chapel, a “distillery or small craft brewery,” a day spa and a small “boutique hotel,” using a house at the corner of McCracken Road and North Fourth Street as the check-in point. Drawings also showed a series of rental cabins connected by golf cart paths to the north of McCracken Road.
“We feel this would give our guests a nice, quaint, private experience out there,” Morris said.
Morris is the daughter of Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris.
A proposed boathouse, currently a small home overlooking the Finley River near the McCracken Street bridge, drew opposition and complaints from neighboring property owners.
A quiet, little street
Andy Robinson, a resident of North Fourth Street, presented a letter signed by 30 people who live near the development. The letter notes some of their concerns.
“The development on Fourth Street will cause a loss of property values, increase congestion at the intersection of North Fourth and McCracken, increase vehicular and pedestrian traffic in general along Fourth Street, and undermine the neighborhood including loss of quiet enjoyment of our property,” Robinson said.
Robinson said he does not oppose the development, he is simply against any commercial development occurring north of McCracken Road on Fourth Street.
“It is our request that conditions be imposed to mitigate the negative consequences to the neighborhood,” Robinson said.
Dwight McNiel shared a positive view toward the overall project.
“We share some of the same excitement and enthusiasm that you and other city leaders have shown,” McNiel said.
The plan to convert a single green house into a boathouse with a floating dock for canoe and kayak rental, however, is a problem for McNiel.
“This one tiny area has potential to create big problems, not only for my neighbors on Fourth Street, but for the city as well,” McNiel said.
Tourism has already begun on Fourth Street, McNiel said, with curious people traveling through the area to look at the Mill project in progress.
“You’ll have a lot of people just traveling down to see what the draw is. Those people, once they have no place to turn around, are forced into our driveways,” McNiel said. “My neighbors are having 25 to 30 cars a day pulling in and turning around.”
McNiel, a former law enforcement agent who once served as the interim sheriff of Christian County, is also concerned that the intersection of Fourth Street and McCracken Road will become increasingly dangerous. McNiel called the intersection, “the lynchpin for the quality of life,” for people who own property on North Fourth Street.
Another Fourth Street resident, Larry Lee, said he has seen an increase in traffic since the Finley Farms project was announced.
“This is generating a lot of gawkers,” Lee said. “It’s infringing on our quiet, little street.”
Great River Engineering Principal Engineer Spencer Jones, representing Bass Pro Shops, referred to a traffic study conducted on the roads surrounding the Ozark Mill, including Fourth Street. He said the study determined that the intersection of Fourth and McCracken attained a “level of service ‘B’” grade, meaning that the average driver has to wait 10-15 seconds to safely travel through the intersection. Jones said the grade is expected to stay the same after the development is complete.
A third party engineer employed by the city of Ozark and the Missouri Department of Transportation have also reviewed the traffic studies provided by Great River Engineering through the Bass Pro group. City Administrator Steve Childers stressed to the board of alderman that the study is preliminary in nature.
“All of the engineering work is still yet to be done, as well as architectural work too,” Childers said. “(Ozark city) Staff still has the control. This (PUD) is a guiding document.”
Selling the Finley River lifestyle
“The idea behind this is to allow everyone to get on the river and enjoy that paddler’s lifestyle that we have here in the Ozarks,” Morris said.
Morris said the green house near the bridge is an ideal spot for Finley Farms guests to access the river.
“We felt that the placement of this property, or this component of the property, is be suited for this location because it is on the mill pond which has a slower flow there and it is more friendly for beginner paddlers to be able to get out there and experience the Finley River,” Morris said.
Morris said she is aware of some rumored “misinformation” circulating through the Fourth Street neighborhood, such as a rumor that Bass Pro Shops planned to build a boat ramp on the Finley River or that Bass Pro planned to build a retail shopping building north of McCracken Road.
“The traffic generated by the boathouse would only be walking, except the two handicapped stalls,” Morris said.
Morris said Bass Pro owners want to be good to their neighbors.
“We don’t intend to change their way of life. However, we can’t deny the nature that our development will be the change, but we believe the plan we present to you is respectful of our neighbors and we are doing what we feel is right to minimize any negative impact while maximizing the experience that our guests would have at Finley Farms. Our plan we are presenting to you is the lowest impact, lowest-density development that has a chance for success here,” Morris said.
Upcoming vote Nov. 19
At its next meeting, the Ozark Board of Aldermen will consider rezoning 40 acres of land set to become Finley Farms as a planned unit development (PUD).
A planned unit development, under state law, is a method by which developers may depart from typical zoning and land use restrictions found in the definitions of any one zoning category. Local governments, through PUD agreements, may define what a developer is allowed and not allowed to do with their land, based on the terms of the agreement. PUD agreements are often utilized in multipurpose developments, such as what the Morris family has planned for Finley Farms.
Under terms of the PUD, the 40 acres of Finley Farms would drop from six different zoning classifications to three: agriculture, historic commercial and multi-family residential with medium density.
Because of the opposition to the development agreement, the Ozark Board of Aldermen will consider a final vote on the Finley Farms agreement on Monday, Nov. 19, at City Hall.
Prior development announcement
The mill has been in Ozark since the town was settled in the 1830s. It became known as Hoover’s Mill. Bass Pro Shops developers say are working to preserve as much of the history as they can as the building is revitalized.
The existing Ozark Mill structure has been shifted to stand on a new foundation.
In July, Bass Pro Shops announced plans for a new ice cream and coffee shop inspired by the Ozark area’s rich history. The shop, called “The Post,” will sit to the north of the intersection of West Jackson Street and Third Street, to the south of the Finley River Park and Finley River Bridge.
The shop will be modeled after a small post office that occupied space within the original 1800s-era mill, which was located along a delivery corridor called the Ozark Trace Route.
The Post is anticipated to open in 2019 as the first phase of the Ozark Mill site development.