Fairgrounds purchase option is open until 2016
Summit County leaders have one year to determine whether they want to pull the trigger on one of the county’s largest facilities investments in recent years.
The purchase option on the 80-acre property in Hoytsville that the county is considering as a potential site for the Summit County Fair and a community event center expires Dec. 31, 2016.
Summit County Manager Tom Fisher said he emphasized this timeline at a meeting Tuesday to dispel any rumors that the county had already purchased the property. Nearly 100 attended and about two citizens dozen provided input both in favor of and against the purchase.
"We really wanted people to understand where we were in the process because we didn’t want to surprise anyone and we were hearing some comments that ‘they have already bought the property and have already made their decision,’" Fisher said. "We wanted to back up a bit about what it is that we have to do to go through this process."
Last month, the county signed a $2.2 million purchase option for the property, located between Judd’s Lane and Hoytsville Road. The land is privately owned and the seller is listed as Judd Dairy Farm, Inc.
County leaders announced that they want to develop the site for the new fairgrounds and a large event center. All of the fair activities would be moved to the site.
The county fair has been held in Coalville for more than 50 years and there is a great amount of sentiment attached to the event, Fisher said.
"There is a lot of history and we want to honor that and make sure that we capitalize on that as we contemplate a facility that has the potential to be used several more times a year," Fisher said.
The purchase option holds the property while officials perform due diligence and begin applying for the necessary permits, Fisher said. Several studies on the property have already been performed, including a water rights analysis.
The $2.2 million will be paid for by Transient Room Tax and Restaurant Tax revenues. The Transient Room Tax is a .1 percent sales tax on all overnight stays. The county annually receives 10 percent of these revenues. The restaurant tax is collected from one percent of prepared food sales, according to information provided by the county. In order to tie up the property, the county will compensate the owner during the option period.
"There is a dollar amount that we pay over time during that year that if we don’t exercise the option they get to keep those dollars," Fisher said. "If we do, then the money goes toward the purchase.
"I think there are probably some folks that don’t trust that we are going to do the right thing and there is a leap of faith that is involved here on both sides," Fisher said. "I hope the community feels like we are being honest through the process. The county is putting itself out there by contemplating something rather large as an investment in this community that hasn’t been seen in a really long time."
County leaders have been contemplating moving the fair for several years because of the limited space and honed in on the Hoytsville property a year ago.
The design phase on the multi-million project will begin early next year, Fisher said adding that the process will be transparent and the public will be included. No additional meetings have been scheduled yet.
If the county moves forward with the option, the 14-acre parcel that the fair is currently held on would become the property of Coalville City. Mayor Trever Johnson said he has reluctantly warmed up to the idea as he’s contemplated future uses for the current site.
"I really feel like a nice park would be beneficial to the community," Johnson said. "It would service the residents and those out of town for many months throughout the season."
At the meeting Tuesday, Johnson raised the possibility of turning the property into a multi-use recreation site that would include softball fields, a park, a splash pad and outdoor pavilions. Johnson said the reaction from residents has been mixed, but is overwhelmingly positive.
"It is the tradition and it’s the sentiment that they grew up going to the fair so there is some hurt associated with that," Johnson said. "I am certainly sensitive to the sentiment and tradition that come with the county fair, but the reality is that the county wants to take it out so, if that’s what they are going to do, we are left with the site. But there is a lot of potential and excitement there about all of the different things that we can do. There is a larger demographic and pool of people we can benefit and I cannot stress this enough."
Meredith Reed was elected to a two-year term as chair of the Summit County Democratic Party and said she sees an opportunity to ride the so-called blue wave that saw a Democratic surge nationally and within the state.