June 18 09:37 PM

Deal is off

Land swap between fairgrounds, bank falls through

February 10, 2010
IMLAY CITY — A proposed land exchange between the Eastern Michigan Fairgrounds and Tri-County Bank has been dissolved.

Fair Manager Ian Kempf said they were notified in late January that the bank would no longer be pursuing the deal and that they had accepted another offer for the 59.94 acres at Almont Ave. and Borland Rd.

In the swap, the fairgrounds was to receive the nearly 60 acres of vacant land in exchange for 3.62 acres of fairgrounds property at Borland and M-53. Members of the Lapeer County Ag Society voted to approve the deal in November.

Kempf said both parties had signed a non-binding letter of agreement that either party could back out of at anytime. There are no hard feelings from either party.

A proposed land swap between Tri-County Bank and the fairgrounds has been called off.

"These types of things are never as simple as they appeared at first," Kempf said.

"It became obvious to both of us that this wasn't going to work out."

Recently, the fair board began to have their own doubts about the original proposal exchange when they began to pencil out the costs associated with establishing infrastructure at the site, had additional appraisals done and considered what implications to their non-profit status, among other things.

Original appraisals had the 3.62 acres along M-53 valued at $420,000 and the 59.94 parcel valued at $310,000. Tri-County Bank had agreed to also give the society a $35,000 donation as part of the swap.

At the urging of their attorney, the fair board returned to Tri-County Bank to discuss possible changes to the agreement.

"We went back to the bank and were working with the bank, but ultimately, the bank had the interest of their stockholders to look out for and we had the interest of the society to look out for," Kempf said.

"When it was advised to us to not move forward with the exchange we started to look at a straight cash purchase of property but...we were just limited in being fiscally responsible to our members in how much we could spend."

Tri-County Bank has plans to construct a new branch office on the M-53 site and the fairgrounds was looking to initially use the vacant land for parking with an eye toward future development of fairground facilities. The actual exchange wasn't going to happen until after the fairgrounds' 2010 season.

Now that the proposal has been nullified, the fairgrounds' 'footprint' will remain unchanged.

"We have no interest in selling any property. We're ready to move forward and operate just like we've done in the past," Kempf said.

"We want to thank Tri-County Bank for being community-minded and thinking outside of the box."

Kudos should also go to city officials, he added. They worked closely with both parties and "did what they could to help out the process."

Tri-County Bank President Ric Bucklew said it was an "unfortunate situation."

He said Tri-County understood how badly the ag society wanted and needed the extra acreage but believed the bank worked with them the best they could. During negotiations, Bucklew said that both parties came to the table with comparable appraisal figures for both parcels of land.

Bucklew said the bank was excited about their own plans with the three acres and a new branch building.

"We saw a lot of great things happening for the city," he said of the proposed deal.

He said Tri-County officials are still open to the possibility of finding another site in Imlay City to build on.

Maria Brown joined the Tri-City Times staff in 2003, the same year she earned a bachelor's degree in English from Calvin College. Born and raised in Imlay City, she now resides north of Capac where she enjoys working on the farm, gardening and reading.
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