A bill that at least momentarily preserves the Fairgrounds Speedway awaits the signature of Mayor Karl Dean, as the Metro Council Tuesday night took its final vote to call for a new master plan to dictate the future of the hotly debated fairgrounds property.
The legislation, which the council cleared on the final of three votes Tuesday, also keeps the Tennessee State Fair at the Nolensville Pike property through 2012, and retains the property’s expo center until a new location is found.
Two weeks ago, the council drastically altered the legislation from a bill that would have demolished the racetrack to one that preserves the racetrack until the creation of the master plan concludes. The master plan, to be piloted by the fair board, Metro Planning Department and Metro Parks and Recreation Department, would seemingly call for racing to either continue or end.
The racetrack’s preservation is a setback to Dean’s intentions to redevelop the fairgrounds.
Metro Councilman Jason Holleman, who proposed the amendment that transformed the legislation, said it’s important to engage all stakeholders during the master-planning process.
“We have to engage a professional planning consultant that understands how to go about a master plan for this site,” Holleman said. “And we need to be sure that we thoughtfully include all of the various interest groups that have voiced their opinions.”
The master plan is to address the construction of an already-approved fairgrounds park, the restoration of nearby Browns Creek, the future of existing facilities including the racetrack, the possible addition of mixed-used development and necessary zoning changes. There is no set timeline for the creation of the plan, which will face a council vote once finalized.
Earlier Tuesday, the five-member fair board discussed both the 2011 and 2012 state fairs, as well as the next year of expo center events at the fairgrounds property.
Racing promoter Tony Formosa presented a letter to the board expressing interest in leasing the racetrack for the 2011 and 2012 season. The fair board hasn’t indicated whether it’s interested in hosting races for another year.
In another order of business and as expected, the council voted to defer an ordinance that would require businesses that contract with Metro to adopt a non-discrimination policy that protects gay, lesbian and transgender citizens.
The deferral came at the request of Metro Councilman Mike Jameson, one of the bill’s three lead sponsors. The bill was up for a second reading.
Of note, Jameson explained his motion to defer by suggesting that most opponents are fueled by the belief that people choose to be gay or lesbian.