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Possible land sale poses fair parking problem

"The Island County Fair could be hurting for parking next August if Ernie Noble sells his property.Noble's 2.8 acres directly across the road from the fair's main gate was put on the market last weekend, Noble said Monday. There has been a for sale sign on the land for some time, but now the retired banker is getting serious about the sale. The sooner the better, he said.The Island County Fair Board has known for some time that Noble planned to sell the property. In fact, he offered to sell it to the fair. But Ruth Turner, board president, said the fair doesn't have the money. Besides, the fair's nonprofit articles of incorporation preclude the purchase or sale of real property.Noble said his property, which is zoned neighborhood business, is on the market for $450,000. The zoning precludes many commercial uses. I had an application for an upholsterer but they (the city) kicked him out, Noble said. The upholsterer wanted to set up shop in the old Langley State Bank structure, the little red building alongside the road.The Fair Board wrote a letter to various elected officials asking their help in purchasing Noble's property, perhaps for a park and ride lot. The Port of South Whidbey considered the idea last week but not for long. All three port commissioners didn't want to get involved.Noble's property provides parking for hundreds of cars during the fair weekend each August. Noble said it can still be used for parking this year if he still owns the property. But the new owner, if he finds one, will likely have other ideas for the land. It's going to be a bad deal for the fair, he said. In recent years, Noble has been sharing fair parking revenues with the South Whidbey Historical Society.Turner said Monday that the fair is making alternative plans in case Noble's parking lot disappears this year or next. Plans are to park cars at South Whidbey High School and operate shuttle buses between there and the two miles to the fairgrounds.Turner said the 12-acre Langley fairgrounds site isn't likely to grow due to the high cost of property in the area. We aren't going to be growing any, there's nothing we can do as far as expanding, she said.There is some talk of moving the fair to Greenbank, which is a something Turner thinks is worth looking into. But again, the cost seems prohibitive, she said. "

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