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O.C. supervisors, in reversal, ask governor to cancel fairgrounds sale

November 24, 2009 |  3:43 pm

The Orange County Board of Supervisors approved a resolution today asking Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to "immediately cancel the proposed sale of the Orange County Fairgrounds."

The 4-0 vote marks a reversal from July, when the board approved a resolution in favor of selling the fairgrounds to a local government agency or nonprofit. Supervisor Chris Norby was absent for today's action.

The governor earlier this year proposed liquidating half a dozen state properties to raise funds to help ease California's budget crisis, and the state put the 150-acre Costa Mesa site on the auction block last month, giving bidders a deadline of Jan. 8.

Supervisor John Moorlach said the board initially supported the sale because they thought the terms would allow it to be sold to a local nonprofit or government.

But since then, state officials have indicated through auction documents and letters that they want to maximize profit, possibly by selling the land as something other than a fairgrounds, and that has fueled speculation that it could be sold into private hands and developed.

"It's creating so much aggravation that the easiest way to keep the fairgrounds a fairgrounds — which was our overarching goal — is just to cancel the sale," Moorlach said.

But that doesn't mean the county doesn't have a Plan B: Like the city of Costa Mesa and a nonprofit formed by the governor-appointed fair board, the county is exploring making a bid of its own for the property.

After all, quipped Moorlach, "The governor doesn't always do what we ask."

--Tony Barboza in Orange County