Langley council approves new regulations for fairgrounds

LANGLEY — The city council has approved new restrictions on the use of the county fairgrounds in Langley, a key part of the settlement package that put an end to the fight between the city and the fair over Fairgrounds Road.

The council unanimously approved a new "overlay district" for the fairgrounds on Monday, new restrictions that set out how the public property can be used by the fair and Island County, the owners of the land.

Beyond the annual fair, the list of allowable uses of the property in the new regulations include trade and consumer shows, circuses, rodeos, bazaars and flea markets, camping, conferences, live entertainment shows, political events and other activities.

Langley planning chief Larry Cort said the city had been working on the overlay district for months, and added the Planning Advisory Board had been reviewing the proposal with Dan Ollis, chairman of the county fair board.

“It was a very fruitful and productive collaboration,” Cort said.

The Planning Advisory Board has unanimously signed off on the new regulations. The overlay district would add new rules to how the county fairgrounds in Langley could be used; existing provisions of the property’s zoning for “public use” would remain in effect.

“I am excited,” Ollis said. “I think we’re getting ready to cross into the end zone.”

Fair officials have long talked about the future of the county’s big event each August, and how the fair needs to generate revenue beyond the four days of the fair with off-season events. But there has been some question about whether all of the activities held on the fairgrounds fit with existing rules.

Ollis said the proposal would make it clear what could be done on the property.

“It basically validates what we have been doing,” he said.

The overlay zone sets out allowable uses of the fairgrounds. Some of the language seen in earlier versions of the regulations are gone, such as the suggestion that the fairgrounds could be used for motorized races.

Councilman Jim Recupero, who lives near the fairgrounds, said he liked that change.

“That was a good deal,” he said.

Live entertainment events that are not part of the annual fair will require a special permit. Commercial sales on the property will be limited to five events a year, and circuses will be limited to three events for a maximum of three days. Child-care services will also be allowed on the property, but must be operated by a nonprofit group or a public agency.

The push to revisit rules covering the fairgrounds came during the dispute over the proposal to build Fairgrounds Road. Langley sought an easement across the fairgrounds to build the new city street, which led to a condemnation lawsuit in superior court between the city, Island County and fair officials.

As part of a settlement package to resolve the lawsuit, the city agreed to review its regulations that cover the use of the the fairgrounds.

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