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State House bill provides fee relief for Canfield Fair

CANFIELD — An added provision to a state House bill could mean the Canfield Fair would not have to pay its portion of fees — as much as $17,000 annually — to the ABC Stormwater District.

House Bill 665, which addresses agricultural societies, their funding and other issues, plus amusement-ride safety, came from the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee.

But it has “evolved” to include various items, said Jason Loree, Boardman Township administrator and member of the ABC (Austintown, Boardman, Canfield) district.

Testimony by Bev Fisher, Canfield Fair manager, had a role in shaping a provision to the legislation, Loree said, which would keep the fair board from paying the stormwater fee.

The bill already has passed the House. If it successfully passes the Senate and is signed by the governor, Loree said, the Canfield Fair would be the only entity in the ABC Stormwater District that doesn’t pay its fee.

During testimony on May 28 in Columbus, Fisher said an assessment on real estate taxes was assigned by the stormwater district.

Loree said that the stormwater fee the district submitted in documentation to the state is $17,000 for the fairgrounds.

The district, Loree explained, charges the fees on impervious surfaces, which include parking lots, driveways and buildings.

But Fisher testified that the stormwater flows from the impervious surfaces into the grassy areas in the fairgrounds.

The Canfield Fairgrounds include 2.7 million square feet of impervious surface, Loree said, which equates to 563 houses.

He said Canfield and Boardman are impacted by water runoff in the Indian Run watershed, which ultimately goes into Mill Creek Park.

And, he said that the green space at the fairgrounds does not soak up the stormwater. “It’s not how it works. If that was the case, there wouldn’t be streams or water courses.”

The ABC district has worked with the Army Corps of Engineers, he said.

Loree said there are ways for the fair to reduce the fee, including building retention ponds up to county standards for a 40 percent reduction.

Fisher also argued that fairgrounds are exempt from taxes, according to the Ohio Revised Code.

A section of HB 665 states: “the board of trustees of a regional water and sewer district shall not charge rentals, assessments, or any other fees to real property exempt from taxation under section” under the ORC “that is owned by a county agricultural society.”

This does not apply to real property over 250 acres that is owned by a county agricultural society “until one year after the effective date” of the legislation.

“We are the extreme because we have 353 acres. For most fairs, it is a burden to them,” Fisher said of the taxes and assessments.

“The (Ohio Revised) Code says no taxes,” she testified, adding that a provision to exclude fairs from assessments would ensure that loopholes will not be used to further increase bills.

The ABC district, however, has told the fair board that the assessment is not a tax. Loree said the fee is treated as a utility bill.

For the ABC district, Canfield generates between $240,000 and $260,000 annually, which would include the money from the fairgrounds.

Boardman generates about $1.1 million. In Austintown’s case, it is reimbursed for stormwater improvements completed, Loree explained.

The money each community collects stays within that community.

Loree said the state Senate has yet to put out its schedule for deliberating the House bill.

George Roman, director of grandstand entertainment and concessions of the Canfield Fair, said that whatever the final bill states, the fair will oblige.

“We’ll abide by whatever the state tells us to,” Roman said.

afox@tribtoday.com

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