AUBURN — The Cayuga County Agricultural Society has proposed erecting at least two buildings on the eastern side of Emerson Park for its annual fair, but local officials are concerned that they could impact current recreation and other proposals.
The agricultural society moved its fair from Weedsport to Emerson Park last year, and expects to host the summer event at the Owasco Lake location again in 2018 in combination with the Remember the Big 6 Picnic and 4-H Youth Country Fair.
But two avenues of state funding are butting heads at Emerson Park — about $96,000 from the Agricultural Fairgrounds Infrastructure Improvement Program, and about $486,000 awarded from the state's Regional Economic Development Council awards toward items in the Emerson Park Master Plan. The agricultural society would like to use the improvement program funds to build at least two permanent open-air structures for housing animals during the three-day event, with the potential for more in future years.
Cayuga County Planning Director Steve Lynch told county legislators Tuesday night that he questioned whether the agricultural society's plans coincided with the Emerson Park Master Plan, a guideline document passed by the body in 2015. That plan highlights multiple improvements to the park including a pedestrian walkway and bike path, more programming opportunities and a new playground.
"I'm not trying to knock them for what they're trying to do," Lynch said about the agricultural society at a Planning Committee meeting. "They really only can do a concept plan right now ... but it really makes it difficult to determine what the impact of it would be on the park."
The proposed buildings would be on the eastern side near the Ward W. O'Hara Agricultural and Country Living Museum. Lynch said the buildings could impact the park's disc golf course, soccer field, trees and potentially affect views of Owasco Lake.
He also questioned erecting buildings that would only be used a few times a year. The agricultural society had suggested the structures could be rented out, he said.
"Simply put, if it's done on a shoe-string budget, it's not likely going to produce the kinds of buildings that would upgrade the whole look of the park," Lynch said about that suggestion.
Legislator Tim Lattimore said he did not feel Emerson Park was the place for the agricultural society's buildings. He said the temporary aspect of the fair with its tents put up, are just as much a part of the event as the event itself.
Legislature Chairman Patrick Mahunik said he discussed the matter with County Administrator J. Justin Woods. He said its important to consider that the county invested a lot of time and money into the master plan, and it should consider whether the new buildings would fit into that plan.
Lynch added that the discussion is not about whether the fair should or should not be held at Emerson Park. He said it's a policy decision about capital improvements.
Planning Committee Chair Paul Pinckney said the proposal would go through the Public Works Committee and others to get the "flavor" of how legislators were feeling.