Renaissance Fest over first hurdle on property lease

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By Cindy Simpson

Darkhorse Designs’ Lars Paulson is anxious to get started with work on the land he hopes to make a permanent renaissance festival in Harriman.
Lars and wife Barrie Paulson got approval last week of a non-binding letter of intent regarding 86 acres in what is called the Harriman industrial park property off Fiske Road.
The couple plan to bring a contract for a 10-year lease of the property with an option to buy it to a coming Harriman City Council meeting.
The Paulsons have financial backers and hope to have a festival up and going by next May.
“I hope you guys succeed, because it could be what we are known for,” said Harriman Mayor Chris Mason.
“This is becoming really big, really popular,” said Barrie Paulson.
The lease for the 10-year period is $1 a year.
The Paulsons upped the amount they were willing to pay per acre from $1,500 to $2,200 when it came time to purchase.
“We feel this price is a fair and reasonable offer, considering we are bringing in our investors’ seed money of $400,000 (which will be at risk to support this endeavor) and the expected benefit of  cultural tourism for the community. Plus, the festival will enhance economic activity, which we believe everyone recognizes will be an aspect of this venture,” the pair wrote in a letter to the city.
The Paulsons said they plan to exercise their purchase power as soon as they are able, rather than sitting on the lease.
“My intent is by the fourth show, I want to start making a payment right after the show,” Lars Paulson said.
“I’m not going to run the strings out on this lease.”
The letter of intent said the Paulsons must have successfully put on the festival for two years before an option to buy can be exercised.
The city will also widen and maintain the gravel road off Fiske Road and provide utilities, including an 800 amp service panel and 2-inch or larger primary water supply to a designated location on the property by December.
Harriman Councilman Kenyon Mee hopes some things get clarified between the letter and the contract.
His main concern is what happens if the Paulsons later sell the property and what a new property owner may intend to use it for.
He is also concerned whether the city had the funds to assist with some of the work requested in the letter, from widening the gravel road to assisting with the creation of other gravel roadways to ease traverse through the property.
One concern that will have to be answered almost immediately is what the city will do with its large brush supply that sits where the Paulsons envision their fair entry.
Mason said the property will have to go through the Harriman Industrial Development Board to be sold.
Mason said attorney Sandy McPherson, who represents the industrial board, can maybe answer whether the lease-purchase contract between the city and the Paulsons would be legitimate and transferable to the industrial board.