The Sonoma-Marin Fair Board of Directors will hold a special meeting this Wednesday to discuss the future of the fairgrounds, including whether to open the property to new development in an attempt to generate more revenue for the city, which owns the parcel.
Currently, the Fourth District Agricultural Association, whose board is appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown, leases the 60-acre property for just $1 a year. That’s the same price the organization has been paying the city since 1937, when it was considered the eastern edge of town.
Today, it’s prime real estate and many, including City Manager John Brown and Mayor David Glass, say the city should make a lot more money off the parcel that a mere buck. And even if the fair board continues the day-to-day operations, they want a lot more control over how the property gets used.
In addition to the fair, held every June, the fairgrounds is used for car and wine shows, circuses, quinceñeras and an antiques auction. There is also a preschool and charter school onsite along with Java Hut, Petaluma Speedway and Airport Express. But all revenues currently go to the fair board, not the city.
“We shouldn’t be paupers and be begging for land that is ours from a discretionary board,” Glass said. “This is city property and the community needs to be able to enjoy it.”
A lease agreement between the fair board and the city expires in 2024, giving Petaluma chance to explore new uses for the area, such as a park, ball fields and even new housing.
The fair board has pushed the city to renew the lease in order to secure bank loans to carry out improvements such as installing solar panels and fixing aging barns. Supporters argue that keeping the fair at its current location is an important part of maintaining Petaluma’s ag roots.
An email message sent to Fair Board President Jim Burleson was not immediately returned.
Others say there may be a way to keep the fair at the fairgrounds while rewriting the lease to give the city access to revenues.
“Many area hotels don’t have room for large conferences, so with upgrades to the halls (at the fairgrounds) we could be drawing people year-round,” said Councilman Gabe Kearney.
Wednesday’s meeting starts at 10am and will be held at the Fairgrounds office at 175 Fairgrounds Drive. Public comment is welcome.
How would you like the fairgrounds property to be utilized?