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Relocation of county fair angers residents

By Tess Gee
On April 8, 2014

The Monroe County Fair will still be taking place at Northampton Park in Ogden this summer, despite residents' concerns and the recent sale of the Dome Arena falling through.
For years, the county fair took place at the Dome Arena in Henrietta. In 2013, the Monroe County Fair Association, a non-profit group not affiliated with the county, aimed to sell the Dome and use the funds from the sale to build a fair site at Northampton Park. The Rochester RazorSharks were set to purchase the Dome, but withdrew their offer this past January.
Some residents are wondering why the fair is still taking place at Northampton, given the fact the sale of the Dome was the driving force behind relocating the fair.
In a 2013 Monroe County Legislature meeting, Legislator John Howland stated that if there is no sale of the Dome, the relocation of the fair will not happen.
Citizen watchdog group, the Friends of Northampton, have more concerns than just the sale of the Dome.
The group has a pending lawsuit against Monroe County and the Monroe County Fair Association, set to be heard before the New York State Supreme Court this May.  
Friends of Northampton cite environmental and traffic concerns, in addition to claims that the decision to relocate the fair was made in a backroom deal months before the Monroe County Legislature voted in favor of it.
The park is situated between Ogden and Brockport along Route 31 and Colby Street.
When the park was originally constructed in the 60s, it was designated as an area that had to remain rural with no commercial development, as outlined in the Town of Ogden's comprehensive plan which was approved by Monroe County and New York State.
This is in addition to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's conclusion that Northampton Park is unsuitable for building any structures due to its poor draining soil.
Dennis Kindred, president of Friends of Northampton, has been working to reverse the decision to move the fair to Northampton Park. The group attempted to go before a county judge with their lawsuit, but were told they were not affected enough to have any standing in court, which prompted them to prepare to go before the State Supreme Court.
"We've got standing, because we're affected by all of this," Kindred said. "Traffic, noise, pollution, all of it affects us. Why is a private company allowed to take over land that was set aside for everybody's use."
Kindred and Friends of Northampton believe the Monroe County Fair Association and Monroe County entered into a backroom deal to have the fair take place at Northampton Park, without seeking feedback or approval from residents. Monroe County Legislator Robert Colby, represents the 20th district, which encompasses Greece, Ogden and Sweden.
Colby is also the treasurer of the Monroe County Fair Association and the owner of Colby Farms, located close to Northampton.
In the lawsuit, Friends of Northampton gave grounds for the belief of the backroom deal relating to Colby.
 According to the lawsuit, in September 2012 Colby stated the "fair could move to Monroe County's Springdale Farm or stay at the Dome Arena under the new owner."
Colby is the manager of the new cow milking facility at Springdale Farm. In December, the Fair Association announced the 2013 fair would be held August 1 through 4.
In January 2013 the Fair Association passed the resolution to relocate the fair to Northampton and in February the Fair Association reported to its board members the Monroe County had no opposition to its plan.
The Monroe County Legislature then voted in favor of moving the fair to Northampton in June 2013. Colby could not be reached for comment.
Friends of Northampton said it were upset about the fact no one tried to inform residents close to the park what plans were in motion in relation to the fair, thus never giving it a chance to voice any concerns before any major decisions were made.
According to the lawsuit, Monroe County Parks Director Larry Staub gave a statement about this, saying "the number of residents that would be impacted by the fair would be very few ... In this area there's probably more cows than residents."
Nancy Murphy is a frequent visitor of the park and does not agree with the decision to move the fair to Northampton.   
"I think it is a terrible idea to relocate the fair there," Murphy said. "The roads near the park are not designed to handle large amounts of traffic. The fair management claims that it only needs a small portion of the park, but the portion they are destroying includes the trail system and the ski hill, which are the most used parts of the park."
Kindred said his motivation behind fighting back against the fair's relocation has evolved over time.  
"My initial involvement with this was that it was all done as a backroom deal," Kindred said. "But now after seeing the lies, the misdirection, the cover-ups, it's more about doing what's right."
Friends of Northampton will be holding an event at Quaker Steak and Lube May 3 to raise funds for their legal fees. Oral arguments are scheduled to be heard by a State Supreme Court judge May 21.

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