New zoning may change fairgrounds

When the fair comes to town for a few days every August, Langley is in a state of upheaval — mostly in a good way.

Residents living close to the fairgrounds have to deal with some extra traffic and noise.

“It’s kind of a nightmare, but not unbearable,” said Charleen Sanders, who lives on Manchester Way.

The Sanders put up parking signs keeping non-residents off the property and enjoy the fair.

But that’s just once a year. That could change if fairground zoning changes become reality.

The Island County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Monday to support zoning changes for the county fairgrounds in Langley. The city is expected to review the proposed zoning change later this year.

The Island County Fair Association, the entity responsible for producing the annual county fair, has been promoting non-fair uses of the property. Those events could include concerts, flea markets but also car shows and motorcycle races and much more.

The fair board asked county commissioners to submit a request to Langley officials to create a “Fair Zone” for the county-owned property on behalf of the fair association, said Dan Olis, chairman of the Island County Fair Association Board.

“We believe this to be a simple request with mutual benefit to both the city and the fair,” Olis said.

However, under current city of Langley municipal code, the property can’t be used for much more than the fair in August. The property is vacant for most of the year.

“The fair board has been through several different hurdles since Langley annexed the fairgrounds and, as it stands today, we have challenges using the fairgrounds to host antique shows, dog shows, tool sales — even our boat and R/V storage has come into question, as well as the campgrounds,” Olis said.

The Island County Fair Board wants to comply with the city’s rules and regulations along with maintaining the fair’s responsibilities, Olis said.

“When the fairgrounds were half in the city and half in the county, we didn’t have the confusion on compliance that we now face,” he said.

The alternative zoning would support community activities, commercial events, trade and consumer shows, special events and destination attractions for Langley residents as well as other islanders.

Under the proposed zoning change, a variety of new structures could also be built on the property.

Utilizing the property more would have significant economic impact, supporters say.

Besides making the fairgrounds more profitable as a location, more jobs could be created to support the expanded use of the fairgrounds property.

If the city agrees to change the zoning, it could mean:

• Conferences, picnics, weddings and receptions, equestrian programs and other activities;

• Commercial activities such as boat shows, livestock shows, gun shows, auctions and trade shows;

• Special events such as concerts, circus performances, carnivals, festivals, rodeos and motor sports racing;

• New structures such as offices, lounges and hotels, ATM facilities, campgrounds, exposition buildings, racing facilities, and more may be developed, maintained , altered, expanded or erected without any permits except for building and grading permits.

The next step toward the zoning change would be the start of discussions with city of Langley officials. Eventually, the city council would vote on an ordinance to change the zoning for the fairgrounds.

With the new zoning, the fair board could then continue its planning to make necessary improvements that are desperately needed, Olis said.

It’s still early in the process, however.

“This is working its way toward the city. We have not received a formal application,” said city administrator Walt Blackford.

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