Crawford: Sale of OC Fairgrounds ‘encouraging’
Del Mar still interested in taking over local property
In a deal that Del Mar Councilwoman Crystal Crawford called “very encouraging,” Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s office agreed to sell the Orange County Fairgrounds to the city of Costa Mesa for $96 million, pending approval from the state Legislature.
The city of Del Mar has been in contact with Schwarzenegger’s office to discuss a potential purchase of the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Crawford said the OC Fairgrounds sale signified the governor’s stance that the state should get out of the business of running fairgrounds, and instead that California should “let local governments take over, and here’s an example.”
Crawford declined to elaborate on the status of her city’s talks since the City Council’s discussions about the fairgrounds are closed session items. Crawford and Carl Hilliard are council liaisons to the Fairgrounds Master Plan Ad Hoc Advisory Committee.
In a voice mail, 22nd District Agricultural Association Chief Executive Officer Tim Fennell said he is skeptical about Del Mar’s ability to buy the fairgrounds for a variety of reasons. For one, the OC Fairgrounds board, the 32nd DAA, supported the sale as long as the property remained a fairgrounds. Fennell said Del Mar’s fair board has not taken that stance.
Secondly, Fennell said unlike the Del Mar Fairgrounds, there is no bond debt to pay off on the Orange County property. He said that means Del Mar would have to pay off that debt at several million dollars annually, as well as any mortgage payments.
“That’s a big hurdle,” Fennell said. “I’m not sure how the city of Del Mar would pay for the debt service. If they bought it for $100 million, similar to what they did up in OC, OC is going to have roughly a $4.8 million debt service after putting down
$20 million. We already have a $4.8 million debt service with our outstanding bonds. So if you add another $4.8 million debt service on top of that, you’re at $9.6 million. Unfortunately, the business doesn’t support that here.”
The Associated Press reported that Costa Mesa bought the OC Fairgrounds with a Joint Powers Authority that includes the Costa Mesa Public Finance Authority. If the deal is approved, the state of California will receive $19.2 million down, with the rest being financed over 40 years at 5 percent interest, according to the AP’s report.
The negotiations between Del Mar and the governor’s office were listed on the June 21 City Council’s closed session agenda. That night, the public portion of the City Council meeting, scheduled for 6 p.m., started roughly 20 minutes late.
Crawford, however, said there were four closed-session items to take care of and that the delay could not be attributed to fairgrounds discussions.
“We’ve just had a lot of business to conduct,” she said.
While Crawford said she could not comment on the ongoing negotiations, she did say she hopes to someday be able to discuss it in a public forum.
“Boy, I’m looking forward to having this on an open-session agenda,” she said.
The bordering city of Solana Beach has expressed interest in joining Del Mar in buying the fairgrounds. Mayor Tom Campbell has suggested the idea of a JPA.
California is currently seeking ways to eliminate a $19.1 billion deficit. The state had previously rejected a private bid of $56.6 million to buy the OC Fairgrounds.
- Crawford encouraged by sale of Orange County Fairgrounds
- City, state discuss fairgrounds sale
- Del Mar Fairgrounds sale nixed
- Del Mar to explore buying fairgrounds
- Fairgrounds’ top executive may get 29 percent pay increase
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