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Lake County Developments

Lake County to negotiate sale of fairgrounds property back to donor Eustis

As Lake County works on plans to relocate its fairgrounds, the City of Eustis is requesting the county sell the existing fairgrounds to the city since it originally donated the land in 1967.

During a county commission meeting on April 26, the board informally agreed to work with the city to negotiate an asking price for the 28-acre site. County Chairman Sean Parks is working with County Manager Jennifer Barker and Eustis Interim City Manager Tom Carrino on the negotiations and said he expects to bring the conversation back to the county commission within a few weeks.

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Eustis Mayor Michael Holland penned a letter to Parks on April 18 informing him that the city remains interested in purchasing the property, located at 2101 County Road 452, from the county.

There are two appraisals on the land, one conducted in 2018, which puts the land at about $1.6 million, and one completed recently that estimates the land value at nearly $2.9 million. Parks and Carrino agreed to look at a price in between the two appraisals.

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The Lake County Fair Association has reportedly been asking for years for a new fairground site. The current location does not provide air-conditioned buildings and lacks space for more events, such as boat or car shows, mini-conferences, and festivals. At present, the fairground is used only a few times a year. There has been discussion that a new fairground could attract more interest and possibly pay for itself.

The existing fairground does have improvements added since Eustis donated the property, including a pavilion and several other buildings, but Carrino said he does not believe they were included as part of the appraisal since the land is more valuable as a redevelopment site.

Eustis Public Relations Coordinator Kristina Rosenburg said the city has not come up with any concrete plans for the property. “The city and county are at a preliminary stage. Not a whole lot has been discussed yet with plans or intentions.”

Barker said that the county had hired a construction manager to begin work on the new fairgrounds site in Tavares. The main plan at the moment is to build an expo hall on the site, either as a hardened structure that can also be used as an emergency shelter and for training or simply built to house agricultural displays during the fair. There is a big price difference, depending on which way the county goes, she said.

If the county decides to go with a hardened structure that could be used as a hurricane shelter, it could also seek funding from the Federal Emergency Management Administration.

Barker said the county had requested funding from the state legislature but still needs Gov. Ron DeSantis to sign off. She said the county is also requesting federal funding and other funding opportunities. She did not specify how much had been requested.

“We have a feasibility study going on right now and have a meeting Tuesday with a consultant, and they will present options,” Barker said. “A lot of the expense is tied to the expo center.”

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