State changes racetrack redevelopment rules

The guidelines, revised this week, require Warren County and Lebanon to sign a collaborative agreement before receiving any of up to $3 million available for redevelopment of the county fairgrounds and the area around it.

“We will work out a deal with the city,” Warren County Commissioner Dave Young said. “If we don’t work it out, nobody gets anything.”

Toledo and Grove City, south of Columbus, also qualify for up to $3 million set aside by state laws legalizing the opening of racinos in Ohio. North Randall, east of Cleveland, would also qualify if the ThistleDown Racino there moves outside city limits.

The other three sites are all privately held, while the 97-acre fairgrounds in Lebanon is owned by Warren County.

County officials traveled late last month to Columbus for a meeting with David Goodman, director of the Ohio Department of Development Services, Sen. Shannon Jones, R-Clearcreek Twp. and state staffers. No Lebanon officials attended the meeting.

The changes were made after “input from various interested parties,” including Lebanon and Warren County, according to Stephanie Gostomski, public information officer for the Ohio Development Services Agency.

The county wants to spend most, if not all, the state money on the fairgrounds, while the city has focused more on the area outside the fairgrounds, but within a mile radius, as permitted in the guidelines.

The original guidelines put the city in charge of the process almost a year after the county began a process designed to identify redevelopment options for the fairgrounds once the racino opened outside Lebanon.

The county appealed, claiming the fairgrounds redevelopment could suffer if the city prevailed in directing the funds to projects beyond the fairgrounds limits.

Lebanon City Council is expected to discuss the changes during a work session next week, Lebanon City Manager Pat Clements said.

Earlier this week, Lebanon Councilman Steve Kaiser said he was in favor of the county getting state funds to renovate the fairgrounds. “It depends on how they are going to use it, of course,” he said.

The county has proposed developing an exposition center, using the state funds and $3 million committed by the operators of Miami Valley Gaming, the racino southwest of Lebanon in Turtlecreek Twp.

“All of the taxpayers of Warren County have a vested interest in what we do with the fairgrounds,” he said. “We voiced our concerns trying to protect the interests of everybody.”

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