Despite Huber’s letter to land fair, Trotwood still trying

Montgomery County leaders have tried to relocate fairgrounds for years.

If Montgomery County Fair officials successfully negotiate the transfer of 80 acres of municipal-owned land in Huber Heights, the signing of the deal would end a years-long relocation odyssey.

Montgomery County Agricultural Society officials have long expressed interest in moving the Montgomery County Fair from its current home adjacent to Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, with hopes of redeveloping the real estate. Companies have expressed interested in developing the current site, but the effort to land a new home for the fair has found challenges.

Officials in Brookville indicated the deal to move the fair to private-owned land in their city fell apart last January for reasons still not entirely clear to them. And Trotwood officials, despite this newspaper’s reporting Monday that the fair board signed a letter of intent to negotiate for city-owned land in Huber Heights, still think the fair could eventually land in their town.

“I was aware there were other entities in the running,” Trotwood Mayor Mary McDonald said, “but we haven’t heard anything, and I’m holding out hope that Trotwood would be an excellent opportunity.”

Trotwood officials expressed interest in the fair for months, arguing the city’s 70 percent rural and 30 percent urban mix would offer an ideal location for the fair. In April, this newspaper reported representatives of the Montgomery County Agricultural Society visited at least three sites in Trotwood.

At that time, McDonald said the properties included Hara Arena, but would not identify the other sites. Meanwhile, Hara Arena officials were fending off rumors about the potential closure of the legendary-turned-crumbling complex.

Since then, though, rumors became reality with the announcement last week that Hara would close.

“We’ve had our challenges this week,” McDonald said. “Our economic development department is going to keep its doors open. We’re going to do everything we can to help the Hara issue, and we’re excited about moving forward.”

But even with the announcement of Hara’s closure, fair board officials do not seem intrigued by the property. Montgomery County Agricultural Society Executive Director Greg Wallace said Monday the impending closure of the arena does not change the current position of fair board officials.

Brookville officials said they’ve already moved on from hopes of hosting the fair. In 2014, the city rezoned 70 acres of land to host the fair, and negotiations with a private landowner and developer Miller-Valentine Group soon began.

But in January, Miller-Valentine officials indicated they would step away from the property in Brookville. At that time, fair President John Fredline gave little specifics of the problems, said to be financial, other than to say “it was just a little bit of everything.”

Brookville City Manager Gary Burkholder said the city did not have a hand in the unsuccessful negotiations, and acknowledged he did not have the clearest understanding, either, of why the deal collapsed.

“I don’t think it’s worth anyone’s time to speculate what would have happened when we don’t have all the details,” Burkholder said. “We’ve said all along we wish the fair board nothing but the best. We hope wherever they go it’s a great project and a great success.”

The Montgomery County Fair will remain at its historic South Main Street location in Dayton through the 2017 fair season, despite prior goals to leave the location before then. The 2016 fair will be Aug. 31-Sept. 5, and the 2017 fair will be July 10-15.

Staff Writer Tom Gnau contributed reporting.

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