Attorney checking timing for fairgrounds challenge

COSTA MESA — The Orange County Fair Board on Thursday instructed its attorney to explore legal options for challenging the state's sale of the fairgrounds.

"We have a claim to the title of the property in our research," said Roger Grable, the Fair Board's legal counsel. "We can have that resolved by the courts."

Grable will see whether the Fair Board, which governs the 150-acre center, has enough time to challenge the state's sale process.

A 1949 Los Angeles Times newspaper clipping and a title document found by fairgrounds staff last month suggest that the 32nd District Agricultural Assn., also known as the Orange County Fair & Event Center, paid half of the money — $65,000 — to buy the 150-acre property from the federal government.

The other half was paid by California's fair and exposition fund, money generated from horseracing.

Officials from the California Department of General Services, which is in charge of selling the fairgrounds, have said that the state is the property's rightful owner and is moving ahead with the sale to Newport Beach-based Facilities Management West.

The Fair Board also formed a taskforce made up of Chairman David Ellis and board member Dale Dykema to meet with representatives from Facilities Management to learn about their plans for next year's county fair, in case the sale does go through.

Facilities Management offered $100 million for the fairgrounds and the state is now finalizing an agreement to enter into escrow. The goal is to complete the sale by December.

The state put the fairgrounds up for sale as part of a plan to sell high-valued properties to shore up funds and help close California's budget deficit.

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