Fair Association puts $500,000 offer back on table for site

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 19, 2011

By Karissa Minn
SALISBURY — The Rowan County Fair Association is again offering to buy the fairgrounds on Julian Road from the county, in the hopes of creating an event center there.
Fair Manager Johnny Love said Friday that the association made an offer of $500,000 for the roughly 40-acre property on Monday.
It proposes paying $25,000 per year for 20 years, which is the same rate it currently pays in rent to the county.
The Rowan County Agricultural and Industrial Fair Association wants to create an air-conditioned event center and new bathrooms on the property, Love said, either by renovating the current facilities or building new ones.
“We’d like to start improving the fairgrounds so it can be used year-round,” Love said. “But we can’t afford to spend a couple hundred thousand dollars on buildings if we don’t own the property.”
County Commissioner Jon Barber said he’s always wanted to ensure a permanent location for the fair, and this may be a way to do that.
“We creatively found ways to sell Rowan Museum the building they are in and Fieldcrest Cannon Stadium to the city of Kannapolis,” he said. “I hope we can do the same with this offer.”
The county sold its share of the stadium this year for $3 million, financed over 50 years with deferred payments for two years. Barber said it sold Rowan Museum its current building for $1 and continues to pay for exterior maintenance of the building.
Love said the offer amounts to about $12,500 per acre — the same price the association pitched to the county two years ago.
In November 2009, commissioners considered the prior offer but said the price was too low.
The 68-acre tract that includes the fairgrounds is valued on the county’s books at $2.5 million. That incudes $1.1 million for the building and $1.4 million for land, or about $20,000 per acre.
County officials said in 2007 — before the latest economic recession — that the land is best suited for a major retail or industrial site, estimating it could bring $100,000 to $200,000 an acre.
Love said the county sold nearby land to Cold Storage LLC, located on Heilig Road in Granite Quarry, for about $15,000 per acre this year.
Chad Mitchell, chairman of the Rowan County Board of Commissioners, said he’s willing to consider the offer but said the price still looks low.
“Cold Storage was economic incentive where we were looking at creating significant tax base and jobs as well,” Mitchell said. “I would have to see … if, in my mind, it qualifies at a lower price per acre than the assessed value.”
Commissioner Carl Ford also said he’s not sure about the price and needs more information.
“It’s something we can look into and talk about,” Ford said. “We’ve got to look into the value of the land … and see if we’re going to need any future expansion there.”
The offer proposes that if the association sells the property while it still owes money to the county, the county will receive all profits from the sale — minus the association’s annual payments to date and its expenditures on repair and improvements.
The fair association already has invested a lot of money in the buildings on the property, said Commissioner Raymond Coltrain.
While the association is responsible for much of the maintenance of those buildings and the grounds, Coltrain said, the county still spends some money maintaining the property.
“I think this would be a good proposition for the community, especially in the long term, because I think having the fair is extremely beneficial for the quality of life we have for our citizens,” he said.
Commissioner Jim Sides did not return a call from the Post on Friday.
The 60th annual Rowan County Agricultural and Industrial Fair will be held this year from Sept. 19 through Sept. 24 at the fairgrounds, located at 1560 Julian Road.
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.
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