The Times - Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

By Ken Graham
The Times 

Public Weighs In on Fairgrounds Improvement Plan

Horse owners, RV park operators share concerns regarding Columbia County facilities

 

September 14, 2017

Courtesy Image

An artists rendering of the Columbia County Fairgrounds in the draft facilities plan.

DAYTON – More than 50 people showed up Monday evening for a public hearing held by the Columbia County Planning Commission on the final draft of Columbia County Fairgrounds Facilities Improvement Plan.

About a dozen people spoke to the commission and the audience, conveying their hopes and concerns about potential improvements to the fairgrounds facility and Touchet Valley Golf Course near Dayton's west end.

Many expressed concerns about horse stall rentals becoming too expensive, and taxpayer funding being needed to maintain expanded facilities. There was also concern about expanded RV facilities competing with private RV parks in the county.

No further oral comment will be taken on the plan, but written comments will be accepted by the Columbia County Planning Dept. at their office through Sept. 25.

Columbia County Planner Meagan Bailey has led a facilities improvement committee which has spent ten months working on defining needs and priorities for improvements at the fairgrounds. Based on the findings of the committee, Bailey completed a final draft of the Facilities Improvement Plan earlier this month.

The plan, which can be viewed on the Columbia County website under the Planning and Building tab, lays out potential improvements in four phases:

Phase One – Upgrades to the pavilion, youth building and the golf course, and removal of the race track

Phase Two – Construction of a new community center, upgrades to the equine facilities and expansion of RV facilities.

Phase Three – Improvement or replacement of the main grandstands, and improvements to the indoor arena and livestock barn and show ring.

Phase Four – Improvements to accessory buildings, including jockey office, fair office and agriculture education office.

Several of the commenters Monday night expressed concern that the improvements would make the cost of use of the equine facilities unaffordable. Three of the speakers said they had children with disabilities who relied on the fairgrounds facilities as a place to do rehabilitation work with their horses. LeAnn Literal, who provides rehabilitation services, also spoke about the importance of making the facilities affordable.

Skip and Julia Mead, who own the Tucannon River RV Park, near Starbuck, both spoke about their concern that expanded RV facilities at the fairgrounds would unfairly compete with their business.

Several other speakers expressed the desire that historic structures at the fairgrounds be preserved. Others stressed that even though grants are expected to cover much of the cost of improvements, ongoing maintenance and management of the expanded facilities would be a burden on local taxpayers.

Bailey told The Times that, after all written comments are received, all comments will be compiled by planning department staff, and then reviewed by the planning commission during their next meeting on October 9. The commission is expected to vote then either to recommend adoption of the plan, or to return the plan to the facilities committee for revision. If the commission recommends adoption, then the plan will be forwarded to the Board of Commissioners for a final decision, expected in November.

Once the plan is adopted, Bailey said that the next step will be for the county to seek grant funding for individual improvement projects. A grant committee has been established, which includes Bailey, Columbia County Parks and Recreation Manager Roger Trump, and Port of Columbia Manager Jennie Dickinson.

Bailey stressed that after final adoption of the facilities plan, and after funding is received for individual projects, additional public input will be sought on each project prior to final go-ahead.

Timing of the completion of projects in the coming months and years will depend on availability of funding.

 

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