VANDALIA — It appears that the Montgomery County Fairgrounds will not be relocating to Vandalia. During a City Council work session on Saturday morning, the council unanimously indicated they could not support the $12 million proposed Event Center and Fairgrounds.
For the relocation to go forward, council would need to re-zone the 80 acre parcel on Webster St. No application for a zoning change has been made.
Members said that last week’s presentation by the Montgomery County Agricultural Society was very well done and did make them take a second look but ultimately, they don’t believe it is a good fit for the city.
“They made a good presentation, but I’ve had several people contact me and I have not heard one positive,” said Council Member Bob Ahlers. “I have not changed my position – it isn’t a good fit for Vandalia. It will be a nice venue in the right area, in a rural setting it would be a nice place, just not here.”
Council Member Dave Lewis agreed.
“Most of the comments made to me have not been positive,” said Lewis, “and in some respects it has not gotten a fair shake, but I don’t see it as a good fit. It is an income versus expense decision and a quality of life issue.”
Greg Wallace, Executive Director of the Society, told council that the Society would consider revenue sharing of 1.5 – 2.5 percent of gross revenue with the city to offset those costs. He said that the board recognizes that with only four employees and being property tax-exempt, some see the fairgrounds as “bringing nothing to the community.”
On Thursday, the Ohio State University Extension Office sent a letter to the council saying it would relocate to the site as well boosting the project’s total payroll to around $500,000. This was new information – something noted by City Manager Jon Crusey.
“Every time we talk to them we get new information – this is the first we had heard of that,” Crusey said.
“One of the things that concern me is the changing of this (proposal) here,” said Mayor Arlene Setzer. “There is nothing solid to go on.”
The Society first approached Vandalia about the site on Webster street in December. At that time, council members directed City Manager Jon Crusey to inform the fair board that the city had no interest in the project citing the lack of tax revenue and anticipated costs for fire, police, and other city services.
Council Member Candice Farst indicated if the proposal were scaled back to just be a fairgrounds and not an year-round event center she would be interested in hearing that proposal, but it appeared other members of council were cool to that idea.
Reach Darrell Wacker at 937-684-8983 or on Twitter @VandaliaDrummer.