Montgomery County Fair officials are considering moving the fairgrounds to Huber Heights and are negotiating with the city to acquire an 80-acre lot near Interstate 70.
The negotiations — first reported Monday on DaytonDailyNews.com — are ongoing and have not been finalized, said Greg Wallace, executive director of the Montgomery County Agricultural Society.
“We have signed a letter of intent with Huber Heights, and we are awaiting some terms,” Wallace said. “Obviously, the site is a great site because of its location with the interstate.”
The land is near Gander Mountain — fronting I-70 — and goes north, along the back of the Northpark Shopping Center, which includes Kohl’s, Elder-Beerman, Marshalls and and Lowe’s.
According to city documents reviewed by this newspaper, Huber Heights officials described the project in the letter of intent as a “state-of-the-art recreational and event complex comprised of a variety of buildings.”
The letter of intent refers to a “purchase or transfer” of approximately 75.3 acres of land, although fair officials said the negotiation could include all 80 acres available.
Fair officials declined to say whether they would pay for the site, which Mayor Tom McMasters last week said could appraise for “as much as $2 million.” Nor would fair officials say if they would pay taxes to occupy the site.
The city acquired the land in 2015 through its land re-utilization program, which allows the transition of vacant, property tax-delinquent properties. The cost for Huber Heights to go through the process to acquire the land was $12,545, for court costs and legal fees.
In 2015, a listing found online listed the property at $225,000 an acre. It had been designed for Phase II of the Northpark Shopping Center.
The last payment on the property came in 2006. According to the Montgomery County Auditor’s website, the previous owner, Wildcat Development, was behind nearly $360,000 in property taxes.
Councilman Glenn Otto said he is not concerned that the fairgrounds might not sell for the “millions” others say the site is worth.
“If people get the perception this is a muli-million dollar property that we’re just throwing away, it’s going to upset them,” Otto said, noting the site has had no development to date. “I’m a firm believer in the free market, and things are only worth what people are willing to pay.”
On his blog, HuberResidents.org, McMasters expressed concern about how he anticipates the city will approve the land deal.
“Right now I’m concerned that once the negotiations are complete, council is going to get word that the prospective land owner is in a rush and would like to ink the deal immediately,” McMasters wrote.
Fair officials have sought for years to sell the current 37-acre grounds near the University of Dayton and Miami Valley Hospital. Potential sites for the fairgrounds have included land in Brookville and Trotwood.
For two years they worked with developer Miller-Valentine, which planned a project dubbed “Midtown,” which would redevelop the fairgrounds into a commercial property with offices, restaurants, entertainment, apartments and condominiums. But a deal did not materialize, and Miller-Valentine’s option expired in January.
Councilman Mark Campbell noted the city of Huber Heights would be helping fair officials sell their current property and spur redevelopment in Dayton, if the fairgrounds moved to Huber Heights.
“I would hope since Huber Heights is considering helping the county revitalize the area where the fairgrounds currently exist that it will include some tax sharing on the part of the county to Huber Heights,” Campbell said.
Staff Writers Natalie Jovonovich and Steven Matthews contributed reporting.
Staying with the story
The Dayton Daily News has followed the possible sale and development of the Montgomery County Fairgrounds for years and is the first news source to report about this potential move to Huber Heights. Depend on us for continuing coverage of this story.