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Fairgrounds campground expansion takes small step forward

Some residents argue expansion would create increase in drugs and human trafficking

Red River Valley Fair Campground.
An aeriel photo of the current Red River Valley Fair Campground. File photo
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WEST FARGO — Neighbors are concerned that an expansion to the Red River Valley Fairgrounds will bring "drug trafficking" and "human trafficking," to the area.

A campground is currently operated by the Red River Fair on its grounds, but the fair association would like to add an additional 130 sites for campers in what is currently a vacant lot.

Earlier this year, Fair Association Chief Executive Officer Cody Cashman asked the Cass County commissioners in June for help financing a $3.5 million project that would add to the current 71 sites, citing the fair turns away 25 to 40 campers per week.

Cashman said the campground is "very profitable" and that it brings in about $270,000 in revenue each year with expenses of about $40,000 and the profit helps with fairground operations. He estimated that the expansion of camping spots could add $450,000 to $600,000 in revenue per season which runs from about May 1 to Nov. 1.

Monday, Sept. 19, the West Fargo City Commission considered an ordinance change that would open the door for the Red River Valley Fairgrounds to expand its campground. The campgrounds were grandfathered into the city under current ordinances that would prevent an RV Park and campground in that area.

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The Red River Valley Fair Association has held two public meetings regarding the expansion. Two residents who live near the Fairgrounds spoke against the expansion Monday.

Resident Mike Schommer, said that while he is "very supportive of the fairgrounds and everything they host," the proposed location of the expansion will bring more noise, light and blight to an established residential neighborhood.

He said the campground would be a "man camp" that will increase drug trafficking and human trafficking in the city of West Fargo. Heidi Wolf, another resident nearby seconded the idea of increased drug and human trafficking through the campground.

However, Cashman disagreed, calling those who live at the campground are "salt of the earth" people who are looking for a place to live while they work in the area. He added that with the current labor shortage in this area, additional workers should not be turned away.
Cashman said the existing campground has not had reports of drug or sex crimes. He said there have been some domestic incidents but that calls to police were not higher in the campground than in any other neighborhood.

The Red River Valley Fairgrounds and Bonanzaville are not part of the city of West Fargo. Therefore, West Fargo Police and Fire do not respond to calls on the property. However, the Red River Valley Fairgrounds does allow the West Fargo Police and other area law enforcement to host training on its property at no charge.

Mayor Bernie Dardis said the Red River Valley Fair has been a "asset" to the city of West Fargo and noted that it has bolstered economic activity in the city by its numerous events.

Even if the ordinance change is approved completely, the fair would need to apply for a conditional use permit from the city of West Fargo to build the expansion. The CUP can place restrictions on the fairgrounds. Monday, Cashman said the fair could consider moving the campground to the north, which would put it adjacent to undeveloped Cass County owned property and farther away from the residential neighborhood.

The City Commission approved the first reading of the ordinance change by a vote of 3-2, with Commissioners Mandy George and Mark Simmons voting against.
"They've done so much over the years, but our citizens come first," Simmons said.

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change that would open the door for the Red River Valley Fairgrounds to expand its campground. The campgrounds were grandfathered into the city under current ordinances that would prevent an RV Park and campground in that area.

READ MORE FROM WEST FARGO EDITOR WENDY REUER

Readers can reach West Fargo editor Wendy Reuer at wreuer@forumcomm.com or 701-241-5530 . Follow her on Twitter @ForumWendy .

Related Topics: WEST FARGO
As the West Fargo editor, Wendy Reuer covers all things West Fargo for The Forum and oversees the production of the weekly Pioneer.
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