- Last Updated on 08:01 AM 02/06/13
- BY Paula I. Bryant
Confusion surrounding a master plan for the Halifax County Fairgrounds was cleared up Monday evening when Dewberry of Danville presented its total four-scheme proposal the firm had developed for the county which includes future economic development suggestions.
Last month, Halifax County Supervisors expressed disappointment over fairground master plans for the almost 250-acre fairgrounds property that Dewberry unveiled during the board’s strategic planning session held at Riverstone.
Calling for $18.3 million in 11 proposed phases, that master plan “priority proposal” envisioned costly expansions and redevelopment of the fairgrounds property with its primary purpose being to host concerts, festivals, conferences, weddings and other special events.
In addition to water and sewer upgrades, the plan also included the addition of an automotive museum, new entrance gates, entry sign, food pavilions, a Heritage Center, History Village, a circle plaza with center stage, new ticket pavilions, first aid station, public toilets, expansion of the equestrian show area, relocation of the midway and improved parking.
Instead of making the property an expensive state-of-the-art fairgrounds, supervisors said they were expecting the plan to focus on how it could be used to promote economic and industrial development by attracting jobs to the county.
During the Halifax County Board of Supervisor’s meeting Monday night, County Administrator Jim Halasz shouldered part of the blame for the confusion arising after the presentation at the retreat.
“By the time I arrived in July, they were awaiting the final revision of that report, and a group of stakeholders had been selected as a cross-section of folks representing both industrial, regional tourism, county staff as well as the board of supervisors. As part of their work, they were to present four different alternatives for uses on the fairground site,” Halasz said.
After coming to the county as administrator, Halasz said he had believed the group was acting as a “steering committee.” However, looking back on the process, the county administrator said he realizes these people were stakeholders that accounts for the difference in the master plan that was presented last month and the master plan envisioned by the board.
Stakeholders on that committee had recommended certain proposals, and these were included in the plan presented at the retreat as the “priority proposal,” Halasz further explained.
“Dewberry asked me whether all four proposals should be presented or whether just the priority proposal. I did not go back and look at the RFP at the time and did not realize it was the board’s intent to see all four proposals, and they had done the work on all four proposals.
“Knowing that the stakeholder committee had selected one proposal as the top priority, I told them to focus just on the top priority. So that’s why you saw only one proposal at the planning meeting, and I apologize for that,” the county administrator said, adding, “I made some assumptions, and they weren’t the correct assumptions.”
Brian Bradner of Dewberry unveiled the four prepared proposals saying, “The good news is we have a lot we want to share with you on this plan.”
He explained the plan shown at the retreat reflected the work within the steering committee that participated in the process.
“We’re not saying you need to spend $18 million for anything,” Bradner told board members.
Under Scheme A, the fairgrounds would stay in place, and eight lots would be available for development as light industry or business along Plywood Trail. Three undeveloped lots could be developed on the eastern side of the fairground property in 29.2 acre, 21.8 acre and 15.7 acre tracts. A campground area also could be added.
However, Bradner noted the undeveloped lots are located on a “topographically challenged” landscape.
Under Scheme B, the west part of the park along Plywood Trail could be a 35.1 acre development, the transfer station would be relocated providing a 15.5 acre pad with access to rail, the fairgrounds would remain in place and on the eastern side would be the same three undeveloped tracts as in Scheme A.
Under Scheme C, the west part of the park along Plywood Trail could be expanded to 59.5 acres by relocating the current fairgrounds. The transfer station would remain in place, and three undeveloped lots could be developed on the eastern side as in Schemes A and B.
Under Scheme D, the west part of the park would contain a 59.5 acre tract for economic development with the fairgrounds being relocated and the transfer station being moved and three undeveloped lots available for development on the eastern side as in Scheme A, B and C.
“You have a nice asset here,” he told supervisors concluding his presentation of proposals.
In each of the proposals, spending $1.2 million to run water and sewer infrastructure to the property would be necessary.
“Getting water and sewer to the property is critical for any of these scenarios proposed,” Bradner stressed to supervisors.
ED-4 Supervisor and Finance Committee Chairman Doug Bowman agreed with Bradner saying, “I do think getting water and sewer there is critical. That gives an immediate benefit to the county. The best $1.2 million we could spend right away is to get water and sewer in that park.”
Concerning fairground improvements, Bradner said the plan unveiled at the retreat called for spending up to $18 million, but he pointed out supervisors could decide which improvements, renovations and additions they deem necessary and can afford.
Creation of a campground area would cost $201,700.
Relocating the transfer station bears a cost of $2.3 million.
Developing internal roads has an estimated cost of $520,000.
Pad development cost for the west part of the fairgrounds would cost $41,700 per developed acre, and development of the three pads on the eastern side would cost $87,300 per developed acre.
Bradner compared the cost for grading and developing acreage at the fairgrounds for economic or industrial prospects as more expensive than land preparation at Riverstone Technology Park that cost $35,000 per developed acre.
Shawn Harding of Dewberry told supervisors of all the land in the 250-acre fairgrounds property, the best piece of land for economic, industrial or business development is located on the west part of the site along Plywood Trail.
Supervisor Bowman said the board now needs to make a decision on what specifically to tell the Halifax County Industrial Development Authority they can list as marketable tracts on the authority’s website.
The other important decision looming before supervisors is whether to spend $1.2 million on water and sewer infrastructure currently lacking at the fairgrounds.
Supervisors took no action Monday evening after listening to the proposals.