Supporters of the Tennessee State Fairgrounds have the law on their side. The city's own attorneys now caution that nothing can be developed at the site, unless voters say it's OK.
It's the latest chapter in the battle of what to do with a piece of land, that has only grown more valuable, and it could be a roadblock for leaders, who want to overhaul the site.
The interpretation by the Metro attorney's office, is that everything at the fairgrounds, including the speedway, has to stay as is, unless the voters say otherwise.
"It's been a good day," said Metro Councilman Duane Dominy.
This is a big victory for Dominy, and others like racing advocate Tony Formosa, who have fought to keep the fairgrounds and racetrack open.
"I guess this is the class A example of, 'We the people,'" said Formosa, president of the Fairgrounds Speedway. "This is part of our heritage. This is the common-man convention center."
Metro's lawyers say when the council voted to keep the fairgrounds as is in 2010, that means the racetrack, flea market and even the annual state fair continue, unless voters go to the polls.
"We can add to that. We can improve upon what's there, but we can't take any of that away," Dominy said.
It's a potential death knell to the administration's hopes of redeveloping the site for another use. The ruling surprised some council members, who thought they only need 27 votes to close the fairgrounds.
Metro finance director Rich Reibeling says the matter is pretty simple.
"It's what the charter vote said. I wasn't surprised by it. People just didn't bother to read it, I guess," he said.
The next step, Dominy said, is to get on with the process of improving the property.
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