Metro will hire an outside engineering or planning firm to create a new master plan by year’s end to dictate the much-disputed future of the 117-acre city-owned fairgrounds, the Board of Fair Commissioners decided Tuesday morning.
The unanimous vote of a two-page motion written and typed up by fair board chair James Weaver fleshed out new details for a previously vague master plan process, which the Metro council assigned the board to oversee last month after opting against demolishing the Fairgrounds Speedway. The board also voted Tuesday to authorize fairgrounds staff to negotiate a contract with the Tennessee State Fair Association to conduct a 2011 and 2012 state fair, language taken out of the same council bill.
Weaver said the idea of the master plan process is to begin with “no assumptions,” adding that the firm is to “work towards a recommendation” based on the board’s parameters.
The board’s vote stipulates that a recommendation for the site, which could include keeping existing uses, be made by Dec. 31. Among other factors, the master plan is to consider the “highest and best long-term use” of the property. It is still unclear whether Metro or the fair board specifically will be charged with paying the firm. The actual implementation of the master plan is contingent on a future Metro Council vote.
Buck Dozier, executive director of the Tennessee State Fair, is to work with the Metro Planning Department and Metro Parks and Recreation Department in helping guide the study.
Other factors to help steer the plan are “historic, recreational, community or cultural importance of the current uses” of the property. There is also to be a “detailed analysis of the economic and market viability and likely economic impact” of potential uses beyond the status quo. Additional mandates are an analysis of a new 40-acre park to go on the property’s floodplain, recommendations for the removal of existing facilities and an examination of potential future development.
The master plan is to take into account several existing plans that have already looked at the area.
Metro Councilman Duane Dominy, who supports the preservation of the fairgrounds and racetrack, asked Weaver about ensuring public input be a part of the master plan. Weaver said public input is up to the discretion of Dozier and the directors of the planning and parks departments.
While the master plan started to take form Tuesday, the future fairgrounds’ racing for the upcoming season remains in doubt.
Racing promoter Tony Formosa thought he had attended Tuesday’s meeting to watch the board vote on his proposal to hold as many as 16 races at the speedway for the coming season. But Weaver informed Formosa that he had failed to properly present his plan in a way for it to go on the board’s agenda. The board will take up the matter in April.
Formosa expressed a sense of urgency that a plan for racing at the fairgrounds be decided shortly.
“The longer we wait, the more handicapped we are,” Formosa said.
Formosa, who held five racing events at the track last year, said he would like to organize at least eight this year. He has asked that Metro improve lighting along the track and make necessary repairs and upgrades to the scoreboard. In addition, he has requested a curfew exemption in order to race until midnight for one night to accommodate the “All-American 400” in the fall.
Formosa also discussed conducting sound tests in an attempt to ease the noise heard by neighbors.