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Commissioners vote to negotiate fairgrounds sale terms

By Karissa Minn
kminn@salisburypost.com
SALISBURY — The Rowan County Board of Commissioners voted Monday to hammer out terms for the sale of the county fairgrounds.
The county has received an offer from the Rowan County Fair Association to purchase the fairgrounds for $1 million, to be paid over 40 years.
The fair association is requesting that the county postpone the first payment of $25,000 for one year. This would allow the fair association to complete planned capital improvements to the roughly 40-acre property on Julian Road.
The board voted 3-2 to move forward with negotiating a contract with the fair association. Commissioners Jim Sides and Carl Ford dissented.
Tina Hall, a former county commissioner, spoke about the offer during the public comment period.
“I believe the fair association is paying $25,000 now in its lease, and $25,000 over 40 years is exactly $1 million,” Hall said. “What is the advantage there to the county?”
Commissioner Raymond Coltrain said he thinks the county should move forward with the sale so it doesn’t have to worry about maintaining the land at $10,000 a year.
But Sides said there is too little information in the offer. It doesn’t specify clawback provisions or any other restrictions, he said, such as those on alcohol sales.
“I’m perfectly satisfied with arrangement that we have that allows the fair to continue every year,” Sides said.
Chairman Chad Mitchell said commissioners could approve or deny terms of the contract brought back by the county attorney and Smith.
Doug Smith, attorney for the fair association, said there would be a clawback provision that would benefit the county.
If the fair 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.
If the fair association ceases to exist during that 40 year period, the property will go back to the county.
Previously, the fair association offered to buy the property for $500,000, but County Manager Gary Page said the offer was too low for a parcel assessed at $1.3 million.
The fair association has put about $300,000 worth of capital improvements into the fairgrounds.
Commissioner Jon Barber said the county has approved creative terms in other recent land sales.
For example, it sold its share of the Fieldcrest-Cannon stadium for $3 million, financed over 60 years at no interest, and alcohol sales are allowed there.
“We’ve lost quite a bit of sales tax base in the four years we’ve managed the property, and we’ve incurred costs that we were not incurring before,” Barber said. “Let’s let them take it over and do some things that we as a county government are just not going to do.“
Ford said this isn’t comparable to the stadium offer, which is better described as one business partner buying out the other.
He said he’s concerned that Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, which is adjacent to the property, may need additional land in the future.
Mitchell said he would recommend that the county manager speak with college officials to see what their future needs might be.
In other business
Rowan County Commissioners also:
• Approved a resolution opposing the state’s proposed consolidation of Rowan County’s judicial and prosecutorial districts with any others.
• Approved an architect’s rendering by Stewart Cooper Newell Architects for the new 911 center.
• Decided not to ask the planning department to research the types of firearm ordinances that other counties have and share them with the board. Commissioner Raymond Coltrain’s motion failed without a second.
• Set a public hearing for Nov. 7 for the financing of the communications project.
• Set a public hearing for Nov. 7 for the proposed road name of Shadow Creek Trail for a road south off the 2200 block of Daugherty Road.
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.
Twitter: twitter.com/postcopolitics
Facebook: facebook.com/Karissa.SalisburyPost

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