Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Council Gives Racetrack an Extra Lap at Packed Public Hearing

Posted By on Wed, Jan 19, 2011 at 8:26 AM

Forget the fight against V's alien invaders. The battle royal on TV last night was on Channel 3, between supporters of the Tennessee State Fairgrounds racetrack and neighbors who want it muffled for good.

An estimated 1,000 people — and to viewers at home, it seemed as if every single one spoke on camera — packed the Metro Courthouse for the meeting where the Metro Council was to vote whether to demolish the racetrack. In the end, the council ditched Councilwoman Sandra Moore's amendment, which would effectively have ended racing for good, in favor of Councilman Jason Holleman's version, which removed the direct call for demolishing the racetrack. Joey Garrison in the CP:

In the end, following a three-hour-plus public hearing, the council voted to approve an amendment introduced by Councilman Jason Holleman, which takes the language “demolition of racetrack” completely out of the bill, calls for the state fair to stay at the Nolensville Pike property through 2012, retains the expo center until a new location is landed and paves the way for the master plan to determine the best use of the property. A 40-acre park is already in store for fairgrounds land that falls within the city’s floodplain.

With the amendment approved, the revised bill found undivided support, clearing the council’s second of three votes by a unanimous 37-0 vote, setting off a few cheers from racing fans in the gallery. The ordinance is up for third and final reading next month.

One thing made visible by last night's televised public hearing was the hard feelings between the two racetrack factions. It's one thing to read conflicting quotes in the paper or online: it's quite another to see the two sides literally lined up in opposition — costumed, like the Jets and the Sharks, sniping back and forth at "those folks over there in the red shirts" or "those fellas in the yellow shirts."

The racetrack supporters may have passion and volume on their side, but the neighbors' dissatisfaction clearly predates the recent flare-up of the issue. Had their concerns about volume and upkeep ever been addressed over the years, racing fans might not be in this pickle. (The entity that came in for the most abuse, from council members and citizens alike, was the fair board.) If any room exists for a workable compromise, it's narrowing to a sliver.

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