An old wooden boat that looks as if it’s shipwrecked on a dirt hill near Interstate 29 and Tiffany Springs Parkway has generated a groundswell of mystery — and now a city citation — in the Northland.
Businessman John W. Woodruff apparently docked the battered cabin cruiser along the busy highway last fall to promote a restaurant he plans to open called The Reef, but he has refused to comment.
Woodruff owns the land at 9600 N. Polo where the boat and the building for the restaurant stand, according to city and county records. He filed an application for the restaurant’s business license in June 2013.
Woodruff ran into choppy waters in September when The Missouri Department of Transportation discovered the boat was on part of the state’s right-of-way.
“We’re reconstructing the interchange at I-29 and Tiffany Springs Parkway and a portion of the boat was on our right-of-way,” said Kerri Lewis, senior customer relations specialist with MO-Dot. “We asked the owner on Oct. 2 to move the boat and he did so on Oct. 26. It’s no longer impacting our right-of-way.”
But a month later — in November 2013 — Woodruff hit trouble with Kansas City’s Planning and Development Department.
“We don’t know definitely why the boat is there,” said Wilson Winn, manager of the department’s investigation division. “It could be a sign, some type of advertisement for the restaurant, or it could just be art. We have tried to find out, but the owner has not been forthcoming about what his intentions are with the boat.
“What we do know,” Winn added, “is that we (as a city) don’t have any provisions in that planned zoned development area for a boat.”
In a letter dated Jan. 23, Winn’s office notified Woodruff that he’s in violation of the city’s zoning ordinance because he’s storing a boat in an area not zoned for that purpose.
“This property is being used for the outdoor storage (of a boat),” the letter said.
The city gave Woodruff 15 days to correct the violation or file an appeal.
“We were hoping the owner would be more forthright in telling us what the boat is so we could give him guidance and help him get it approved,” Winn said. “But that obviously did not happen.”
Neither Woodruff nor his attorney returned repeated calls for this story. A man who identified himself only as “security” outside The Reef restaurant declined to comment, too. He did, however, say that the dilapidated cabin cruiser is approximately 20 feet long and called the U.S.S. Reef. He also asked why the boat has attracted so much attention.
The question surprised Cara Galey, director of sales and marketing at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites KCI Airport. The motel is adjacent to The Reef on North Polo Drive and its guests and employees can see the boat — moored along a major, land-locked interstate — out the windows.
“We get calls daily about the boat,” Galey said. “Many people stop in and ask about it. Some think it’s funny. Others think it’s a mystery.
“But that boat certainly has everyone’s interest.”