City, fair want to extend lease that expires in 14 years, but new negotiations haven't begun

But almost a year ago, the 60-acre fairgrounds was the subject of a controversial Petaluma City Council hearing that re-volved around whether to extend the fair?s lease of the city-owned site.

A split City Council voted to discuss an item not scheduled on the agenda but brought forward by three of its members, to hear the fair?s request for a 36-year extension on its lease of the site.

In exchange, fair and city officials would talk about related issues, including the use of fairgrounds turf areas as ballfields for Petaluma?s youth and whether a new police station might be built somewhere on the property.

In the wake of the controversy that July night, a lease extension wasn?t granted, but the council agreed that its staff would meet with fair staff, abandoning its initial approach of having a subcommittee of three council members meet with two fair directors.

But city and fair officials said this week that more pressing issues came up over the past 11 months, which required putting the lease issue on the back burner.

?We haven?t really had any discussions? since that council meeting, fair CEO Pat Conklin said.

Following that meeting, she did meet with City Manager John Brown last summer to talk about the fair?s need for a lease extension, but officials have been in ?fair mode? recently getting ready for the annual event, Conklin said.

?We?re working on the fair right now and they?re working on their budget,? she said of the city.

Fair board member Brian Sobel, who sits on a subcommittee charged with examining the fair?s long-range goals, said the fair hasn?t been pushing the city for another lease discussion, but is ready and willing to discuss the issue when city officials are available.

?It?s just not been a priority, given everything that?s been going on,? he said. ?We do expect we?ll sit down eventually.?

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