St. Louis Zoo proposes buying Grant’s Farm; pending taxpayer approval

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) - Grant's Farm could be a part of the St. Louis Zoo if voters approve a tax to fund $3.5 - $8.5 million in operating costs.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the St. Louis Zoo wants to buy the animal park. The deal would triple the Zoo's acreage and add a breeding facility for endangered animals.

“The Zoo’s purchase of this regional asset provides a way to make the Zoo even stronger,” said St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger in a statement to the media. “Ownership and operation of Grant’s Farm by one of the world’s great zoos is the best way to ensure both the growth of the Saint Louis Zoo and Grant’s Farm.”

August Busch, Jr.'s six heirs currently own Grant's Farm. A judge would need to agree with four of the six heirs and release the land from a trust. Voters would also have to agree to a new tax before the deal is final.

Statement is on behalf of the 4 Busch siblings supporting sale of Grant's Farm to the Zoo:

”We are excited about the opportunity for the Zoo to acquire Grant’s Farm. Acquisition of Grant’s Farm by the Zoo will fulfill our father’s strong desire that this beloved institution be maintained intact for benefit of the community as a free animal attraction open to the public. Ownership and operation of Grant’s Farm by one of the world’s best zoos would assure that families will be able to enjoy a great outing at Grant’s Farm for many generations to come.”

The cost to purchase the property from the Busch Family Real Estate Trust is anticipated to be approximately $30 million. This is expected to be largely funded by $27 million donation from Anheuser‑Busch if the transaction moves forward. The site would be paid for by this donation—not by taxpayer revenue.

The issue may be on the ballot next November. Zoo leaders will ask for voter approval in St. Louis, Jefferson, Franklin and St. Charles Counties.

AB-Inbev currently operates the farm. They lease the land from the Busch family.  Not all heirs are onboard with the deal.

A petition filed with the St. Louis Circuit Court  was sealed until Wednesday afternoon, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.  They say Billy Busch has made a competing offer.  He wants to keep Grant’s Farm in the family.  This goes against the wishes of his siblings.

William K Busch has released this statement about the possible sale:

Regarding the St. Louis’s Zoo’s announcement today that it wants to acquire Grant’s Farm, I have been advised by my attorneys not to discuss this matter because it is in litigation.

But, I have a couple of things that I must say. Maintaining continued Busch Family ownership of historic Grant’s Farm is something that was very important to my dad, Gussie Busch, who said so in his will, and it’s extremely important to me and my family. I grew up at Grant’s Farm, it was my home, and it still feels like home to me.

So, I too have recently made an offer to purchase Grant’s Farm from our family trust at a comparable price. If I am fortunate enough to become the sole owner, my goal is to continue Grant’s Farm as a major family and tourist destination, just as my father did for generations for all St. Louisans, their families and friends.

We could possibly also move our company offices there, add a small brewery, and make other enhancements for everyone’s enjoyment. It would be privately owned -- Busch Family-owned -- and would not have to be purchased or supported with any hard-earned taxpayer dollars from the public.

As I stated earlier, this is a complex issue, but it is in litigation. So, we have to see how it develops. I appreciate your interest.

It is not clear what will happen to the complimentary beer if the sale is approved. Anheuser-Busch will open Grant’s Farm for the 2016 season this April.

Read more from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

 

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