COUNTY MAY LEASE PROPERTY TO PRIVATE NON-PROFIT FAIR ASSOCIATION FOR THIRTY-FIVE YEARS
A fair is an agricultural purpose under county lease statute.
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April 26, 1950
Honorable Hugh H. Evans
Spokane County Court House
Spokane, Washington Cite as: AGO 49-51 No. 261
Attention: Mr. Earl W. Foster, Deputy
This is in answer to your letter of March 27, 1950, in which you request our opinion on the following question:
"Where land is purchased by a Board of County Commissioners expressly for purposes of operating a county fair thereon, but is not used therefor, may a later and differently constituted Board, by resolution, declare the land no longer needed for purposes of a county-operated fair, and thereafter, lease the same land to a private non-profit corporation which will operate a public county fair in accordance with covenants in the lease?"
Our conclusion is:
The Commissioners may lease county land to a private corporation if the applicable statutes are complied with.
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Leasing of county property is controlled by chapter 87, Laws of 1901 (Rem. Rev. Stat. 4019-4025), as amended by chapter 110, Laws of 1941.
No particular problem is raised by the fact that the land was acquired for the county fair purposes as the commissioners have determined that the land is no longer needed for such use. Section 4019 authorizes the commissioners to lease any county-owned real property when they deem it for the best interests of the county and its citizens.
It is understood that the county wishes to make this lease for a period of thirty-five years. Section 4022 provides that lease of county property may be for a period of ten years except for certain specific purposes, where a thirty-five year lease is authorized. Leases for requirements incidental to agricultural purposes are among those for which the longer period is permitted.
The question appears never to have been raised under our statutes, but there is authority that holding a fair falls within the definition of "agricultural purposes." InFairview Inv. Co. v. Lamberson (Idaho), 136 Pac. 606, it was stated:
"A fair, conducted for making an agricultural exhibit, the exhibiting of horses and cattle and giving exhibitions of the speed of horses, has been frequently and quite generally recognized as a proper exercise of a corporation for agricultural purposes." (Citing cases)
We believe this proposition is sound and that the proposed lease may be made for a period of thirty-five years as it is for an agricultural purpose within the meaning of the statute.
We understand the lessee proposes to operate strictly a private fair, and that no financial support from the county is contemplated. For your information, however, we are enclosing a copy of an opinion written to the Division of Municipal Corporations, dated October 15, 1946, generally covering this problem.
Very truly yours,
JAMES M. MORRIS
Assistant Attorney General