Judge Rules in State Fair Case - KXNet.com - Bismarck/Minot/Williston/Dickinson-KXNEWS,ND

Judge Rules in State Fair Case

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Pioneer Village will stay on the North Dakota State Fairgrounds.

But a court ruling putting an eviction effort on hold does not settle the matter.

Jim Olson explains what a judge's decision handed down today means.

The North Dakota State Fair Association had filed suit to evict the Ward County Historical Society from the Fairgrounds.

Today, Northwest District Judge William McLees issued a seven-page decision, ordering a stay of that eviction.

Deb Hoffarth, attorney for the Historical Society says she is happy with the stay, saying she always felt the Historical Society had a right to be at the Fairgrounds.

In the past several months, fair officials have proposed helping to move the historic buildings known as Pioneer Village to a new location, such as adjacent to the existing Dakota Territory Air Museum north of the Minot Airport.

But Historical Society members have balked at the idea of moving, saying nearly all of the attendance at Pioneer Village comes in the nine days of the State Fair each July.

After failing to come to an agreement about moving Pioneer Village off the Fairgrounds, the State Fair Association filed suit in district court, saying a lease agreed to decades ago with the Ward County Historical Society allowed only one building, not a collection of buildings and materials.

The two sides made their oral arguments in front of Judge McLees in early February.

The Fair Association maintained there is a lease-tenant relationship between the parties and the Fair can terminate the lease and force the Historical Society to leave.

But the Historical Society argued it has been advertised as an added attraction at the Fair for decades, and has expanded its presence there without any opposition from Fair officials.

Judge McLees says, while the evidence seems to lead to a conclusion that there is no lease in place, he is unwilling to go so far as to dismiss the Fair's eviction claim.

Pete Hankla, the attorney for the State Fair Association, says he is disappointed but not wholly surprised by the ruling. He says he will take it under advisement and likely proceed as the judge has recommended - to another lawsuit called a declaratory action.

That's a new legal proceeding where the court would sort out the rights and legal positions of both sides regarding this situation.

Hankla says today's decision means there has been no change in the rights of either the State Fair or the Historical Society.

It also means there'll be no change for now in the Pioneer Village - it will continue to be located on the southwest edge of the State Fairgrounds.

Jim Olson, KX News.

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