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Land swap deal sent to fair board

By Staff | Apr 8, 2013

Now the ball is back in the other court.

Or, at least it is headed over the net.

After another long discussion and a few more changes, the Blue Earth City Council voted last Monday to send a fairgrounds land swap proposal back to the Faribault County Fair Board for their approval.

The fair board is expected to make a decision on the matter at their monthly meeting, Tuesday, April 9.

The City Council has plans to hold a special meeting on the next day, Wednesday, April 10, to vote on an ordinance. A sale of public city land can only be done by a land conveyance city ordinance.

If both parties involved say yes at their respective meetings this week, a year-long ordeal would come to an official end.

The city would become the owners of 1.92 acres of land that comprises Giant Park and the Green Giant statue.

The fair board would take over ownership of 3.161 acres that comprises the area of the Veterans Memorial building, the grandstand and the southern most area of the former go kart track.

The city would retain ownership of the northern portion of the track area, with the possibility of putting in a baseball field there.

The new proposal moved the property line between a possible ball field and the fair board property from 265 feet south of the north edge of the fairgrounds, to 225 feet south.

“This gives the fair board the property that would include the gate entrance to the go kart track,” Mayor Rick Scholtes says.

The council vote to send the proposed swap of land to the fair board was not unanimous, but was a 6-1 split. Councilman John Gartzke cast the no vote.

Gartzke had spoken earlier questioning whether there was a need for another ball field in town.

“And if there is, have other sites for a ball field been explored?” he questioned. “Why does it have to be on the fairgrounds?”

Scholtes told Gartzke that no, other sites had not been explored.

Gartzke suggested that farmland adjacent to the city or inside the city could be purchased and used for a ball field, leaving the fairgrounds for the fair.

He also questioned if the ball field supporters had raised any funds to actually build a field.

“Most cities fund their ball fields as part of their park budgets,” Councilman Glenn Gaylord responded. “I don’t think this is something we won’t be involved with.”

Councilman Dan Brod agreed.

“There was a council resolution passed when the ball field was removed from that area that one would be put back,” he said. “And I don’t think we can afford to take farmland out of production for a ball field.”

Gaylord also pointed out that an agreement on this land swap had been decided at the council meeting two weeks earlier. Gartzke had not attended that meeting.

The other concern at the meeting was what would happen if the fair board turns down the proposal.

City Attorney David Frundt pointed out that the lease for the Giant Park land expired three years ago and would have to be renewed in some way, if the land swap did not occur.