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Stark County fairgrounds talk tabled again

The Stark County Fair Association hit another snag in its attempt to build a fairgrounds Tuesday when the Park Board tabled a request for a nearly 35-acre parcel of property for a fairgrounds.

The request for an easement that would have given the Fair Board access to the property was also denied at the board meeting at the Stark County Courthouse.

Frank Klein, a member of the Stark County Fair Association, said he hopes that with time to examine the discussion and additional information received, the vote will be more favorable later this month.

"I told the fair board not to have the meeting (Tuesday) because we needed more information and more to be done before the meeting with the Park Board," Klein said.

But, if the Park Board does not at least grant the fair board access to the property after Dec. 27, Brian Hymel, partner with Five Diamond Fund Managers LLC of Draper, Utah, which is the developer of the property, said the proposal would be dropped.

The property the fair board is seeking is east of its current 56-acre property on the west side of Dickinson.

Hymel told board members it was unclear if the entire acreage would be needed until the property is developed, but the fair board's issue now is access to the property.

After the meeting, Hymel said Five Diamond and the fair board are still excited at the opportunity to provide a fairgrounds for the county.

"It would be a completely free facility because we would pay for it and build it," he said. "I know all that the association and us have gone through to meet the Park Board's request, but we didn't realize that they didn't have all the information before the meeting, so if they need more time, they need more time. Having the meeting on Dec. 27 will give them the time to review the information and we look forward to moving forward with the project after that."

Commissioner Pete Kuntz was the only county commissioner Tuesday to vote against tabling the discussion and bringing it back, saying, "We've tabled this so many times, I say no."

The proposed fairgrounds would include an outdoor rodeo arena with up to 4,000 seats, an indoor riding area, ticket and concession facilities, a warm-up area and storage for future growth, according Five Diamond Fund Managers LLC.

Commissioner Ken Zander said he was not opposed to the fairgrounds, but questioned how the land would be given to the association.

"I think we need to offer the entire area up to the public and have a public auction," he said. "The community expects us to act responsibly in the sale of their property. I think by adding this 34 acres to this fairgrounds property changes the entire scope of things and we're going to have to start over. What about any other developer who wants a chance at this now? We've changed the whole scope of this by adding the 34 acres to it."

Commissioner Russ Hoff said he has received numerous questions from skeptics of the project, including questions about if it would include an increase in property taxes and who would maintain the facility.

"I have more people tell me this is crazy," Hoff said. "I am not opposed to a fairgrounds but I don't want to see a government entity doing a side deal on a property as valuable as this. I also don't want to saddle the next generation with a facility that can't be maintained."

Klein said the association has been approached by approximately 30 to 40 companies wanting to put up buildings free of charge.

"We are in the process of getting our 501(c)3 and, if approved, we will be soliciting funds from these companies, 30 to 40 companies who are waiting in line to put buildings up and identify their business as players in this community," he said. "We are sitting here with a free fairgrounds and we're wondering if we should do it or not."

Dickinson City Administrator Shawn Kessel said that while there are still zoning and other issues to be determined, conceptually, it seems like "a decent project."

Kessel added that if the land was annexed into the city, there would be potential that the city's infrastructure funds could be used for the project.

Attorney Sandra Kuntz, who represents the association, said the association has completed a business plan and budget, contacted developers and community members, and gained support to use, manage and operate a fairground facility from groups, like rodeo associations and 4-H.

"It's the ability to make sure that once our population gets here, we want the people busy, we want our youth busy," she said. "We want to keep them interested in our community."

She said the Roughrider Commission was also asked if the concept fits into its plan and the fair board is working with them to establish an agreement.

The Roughrider Commission has not taken a position on the facility though, said member Duane Wolf.

"Our committee has said there are some good things with it and there are some things we have concerns with, and at this point we're not supporting it and we're not against it," he said. "Our event is a spectator event and what we need is a place to put our spectators in where they have a favorable place to go to and a place to go to and place they can use and want to come back to."