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Let’s keep the fairgrounds relocation idea on target

By: Carol Feineman, Editor Lincoln News Messenger
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I wish government, especially on the local level, could work faster on new ideas.

Of course, that usually doesn’t happen. Most ideas take time to develop for many reasons, including older projects having priority and newer proposals needing extra time for the necessary agencies to buy in.

For those reasons alone, many potentially good projects are discarded without any serious thought.

So I’m glad that moving the Placer County Fairgrounds from Roseville to Lincoln is gaining steam with at least two Lincoln City Councilmen.

And Lincoln Mayor Stan Nader said this week he is “not opposed to the concept of the fairgrounds in Lincoln” but wants noise concerns voiced by several residents to be addressed.

“Their concern is for the noise that would be generated by the race track so location and buffering will be critical,” Nader said.

I first heard of Lincoln trying to acquire the fairgrounds last May 22 when then Mayor Spencer Short told City Council that the fairgrounds relocation could bring significant revenue into Lincoln’s city coffers and increase commercial development.

Short presented that idea as a possible new revenue stream during the council-initiated portion of the May 22 meeting. A few days prior, Roseville officials had asked county supervisors to consider moving the Placer County Fairgrounds from Roseville to Sheridan because of its racetrack’s noise issues.

But Short wanted the fairgrounds and its All-American Speedway racetrack, along with the Lincoln Riders Association’s rodeo and possibly Bay Meadows Horse Racing, to move instead to Lincoln east of the bypass and west of the airport. He said then that the airport and bypass would serve as buffers.

“If the Placer County Fairgrounds relocated to Lincoln, we could make it a multi-use facility active year round. In addition, it would drive the need for utilities, which would assist in jump-starting commercial development in the northwest quadrant of town along the bypass,” Short said this week. “This would lead to serious sales tax capture to the city of Lincoln and would draw from Placer County, Sutter and Yuba counties.”

Last June, Lincoln City Council directed city staff to write a letter to the Placer County Board of Supervisors indicating the city’s interest in becoming the fairgrounds’ new home.

The subject has been fairly quiet since then at the Lincoln City Council level as the county board of supervisors studies the issue.

“What the county is currently doing is doing a fairgrounds study, which will result in a template of what a fairgrounds in today’s world would look like,” said Placer County Supervisor Robert Weygandt, who represents Lincoln. “We will basically have what a map of the fairgrounds should be. We can then take that template and plop it into different sites.”

It could take up to a year for this study to be completed, according to Weygandt.

So I was surprised to hear Lincoln City Councilman Paul Joiner talk about the fairgrounds during council-initiated business at last Tuesday’s council meeting. Joiner said that he met with the Placer County CEO, county Supervisor Jack Duran and a developer about moving the fairgrounds and speedway to Lincoln.

Joiner said that a developer was “potentially willing” to donate land near the casino to the city. This property, Joiner said at last week’s meeting, would serve as a buffer between the landfill and casino in the Sunset industrial area in Lincoln’s sphere of influence.

Short responded to Joiner’s announcement with two points: this discussion should be held at a council meeting and city staff should be present at the next meeting with county officials.

Joiner agreed and said the next step would be to meet with the county, along with city staff and Short.

On Friday, Short indicated that the fairgrounds relocating here could happen.

“The location near the airport is the best option because it has the most benefits for the community,” Short said, “with easy access, which minimizes traffic through Lincoln, it’s easy to get to with sewer and water services, has spin-off benefits of providing a kick-start for commercial/retail development, which is sorely needed in the community.”

Weygandt said the fairgrounds relocation has been a county priority for 15 years.

“It kind of gets louder and then quieter, based on the desire of everyone to find a better location. It’s become a complaint driver in Roseville, with 99 percent of it from noise specifically from the racetrack,” Weygandt said. “If Lincoln had a site they thought was viable and the county thought fit our needs … and we could make sure the fairgrounds looked positioned for financial success, I’d be ecstatic.”

Moving an approximately 67-acre venue is not an easy proposition. It would take plenty of negotiations between Placer County and the cities of Roseville and Lincoln.

“The next steps would be to negotiate with the county and establish an appropriate site location.  Since having the fairgrounds locate in Lincoln was Councilman Short’s suggestion and Councilman Joiner has follow-up with it,” Nader said, “I believe it would a natural for them to continue the review of the matter and report back to the council as to the viability of this project.”

Having the fairgrounds in Lincoln would be a huge economic, cultural and entertainment boost.

I’ve seen this first-hand when I lived near the Nevada County Fairgrounds. Residents there are treated to events every week, from music performances, plays, 4-H events, art shows, home shows, car racing shows, horse shows to farmer markets. And fair visitors spend money at the nearby gas stations, restaurants and stores.

Considering the benefits associated with having a thriving fairgrounds located within a city, Lincoln officials should work toward acquiring the venue.