By Linda Dillman
Hartman Farms, once a state-of-the-art agricultural masterpiece on Columbus’ southside at the turn of the 20th century, is up for rezoning after more than a century as farmland.
Nearly 500 acres once covered in crops and neat rows of grape arbors could become home to manufacturing or industrial purposes following a rezoning application filed by PFK Company with the city on Aug. 25.
“I own a house in the neighborhood that is adjacent to the Hartman Farm Historical District and one reason I purchased it is because of the historical value of the land next to mine,” said Korey Whitmore. “Myself and another neighbor just happened to do some research because of the drilling rigs we’ve been seeing on the property and found the application for rezoning.”
Whitmore said he was first made aware of the potential rezoning of Hartman Farms on Sept. 14.
“A post was made on our neighborhood NextDoor page asking if anyone knew why there was so much activity on the Hartman Farmland recently,” said Whitmore. “Being curious, I went to the city of Columbus website and searched for any building permits or rezoning applications for the land. That’s when I discovered the application to rezone the property to industrial/manufacturing.”
Whitmore’s property shares a boundary with the farm, where the rear of his home looks out over a soybean field and onto High Street. One reason he said he purchased the home was because of information he was given about the Hartman Farm, its historical significance and the geological uniqueness of the land.
“My first concern was the destruction of the land,” Whitmore said. “From the application, it sounded like they were going to backfill the kettle pond and level the glacial kame on the property. This development would effectively destroy the last physical remnants of the Hartman Stock Farm. The layout of the land would make for a beautiful park, with the rolling kames, kettle pond and clusters of mature tree growth. Obviously, I know the developer would rather make money on their land, but with it being close to 500 acres in the single parcel, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to see park land on the north end of the property and commercial business on the south end closer to Scioto Downs.”
Attorney Jeff Brown is representing the applicant.
When asked about the project, Brown said, “The rezoning application for this property has been submitted and we look forward to our presentation at the (South Columbus) Area Commission (zoning committee meeting) on Oct 15.
The committee meeting is at 6:30 p.m. and will be held at 3639 Parsons Avenue.
The former 26-building, 5,000-acre Hartman Farm property was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on Oct. 9, 1974 for its significance in the field of agriculture and its historic functions in processing, agricultural outbuildings, animal facilities and institutional housing.
Founded in 1903 by Dr. Samuel Hartman, the farm was once hailed as “the largest intensely cultivated, diversified farm in the world.”
According to the National Register application, the farm frontage along U.S. Route 23 was approximately four miles in length and the west side was frontage all along the Scioto River.
At one time, the property’s inventory included a manager’s house—an original structure still on site—employee row houses built in 1905, a school, an electric power plant, canning factory and cider press, stock and horse barns and foreman’s house.
“The farm was famous not only for its size, but for its livestock and crops as well,” continued the 1974 application. “Hartman bred three champion strains of horses…had the world’s largest herd of Jersey cattle, which easily supplied milk for the entire city of Columbus. Ducks, chickens and other poultry were raised in abundance. Hartman was always careful to select the best registered breeds of any animal he raised…In its centralized management and huge acreage, the Hartman Farm was an early version of the massive farming conglomerates so common today.”
In comparison to acreage at the height of the farm operation, the property of today is approximately one-10th the size but is still partially covered in cropland.
According to a preliminary site plan, there are four proposed access points to the property—one connecting to Rathmell Road, another off of South High Street, the third connecting to Nells Way in a housing subdivision and the fourth off of Parsons Avenue.
The site borders the Scioto Downs Racino to the south.
Whitmore expressed concerns about the impact rezoning the acreage to manufacturing/industrial could have on traffic. He and fellow resident Spencer Williams created the www.savehartmanfarms.com website.
“The infrastructure in the area is already outdated,” alleged Whitmore. “…many accidents already occur at the intersection of Rathmell and High Street and how backed up traffic already gets when turning east onto Rathmell coming South, adding an industrial or manufacturing complex is a recipe for disaster.”