Fairground Vendors Will Get Their Day in Court

Cars parked for the big October Flea Market where Metro wants to build new Expo buildings. That will reduce parking even more than the 20 acres of parking converted into playing fields alongside Brown’s Creek and Craighead St. Photo by Shane Smiley.

 

NASHVILLE, TN –Construction was scheduled to begin on the State Fairgrounds in early November. But late Friday afternoon, October 27, Chancellor Ellen Hobbes Lyle threw a monkey wrench in that plan and the bulldozers will remain silent at least until the Flea Market vendors have their day in court.

“If we prove our case at trial we can hopefully stop the rape of Nashville caused by the MLS Stadium and the giveaway of 10 acres of prime real estate for mixed-use development,” said Save Our Fairgrounds attorney Jim Roberts.

It was not a slam dunk for the Flea Market vendors. Lyle denied their request for a writ of mandamus, which orders an official to do something required in their job description which they have not done.

Lyle ruled that Metro officials have lots of discretion when it comes to dealing with a scenario as complicated as the Fairgrounds soccer deal. In short, Lyle ruled a writ of mandamus does not apply to the facts and violations of law alleged by the vendors. She did not rule on the merits of the vendors’ complaints. That will come later.

But Lyle did rule that a legal conflict exists and that the plaintiffs have standing to present evidence on two other claims. Those have to do with Metro’s plans to develop the Fairgrounds in ways that vendors claim violates the City Charter, harm their businesses, and impede other traditional uses at the Fairgrounds.

The plaintiffs want injunctive relief, that is, a court order to stop Metro from destroying current parking spaces and giving away 10 acres to MLS team owner, John Ingram. If they prove their case, they will get a court order and that will likely send the MLS stadium deal back to the drawing board.

As the Tribune has previously reported, building a stadium at the Fairgrounds was not John Ingram’s idea. He said former mayor Megan Barry insisted on a MLS stadium at the Fairgrounds. Current Mayor David Briley backed Barry’s plan and the City Council has since approved it. But Metro officials and the City Council will have a lot of egg on their faces if Lyle decides the deal was unlawful in the first place and orders it scrapped.

In order for City Hall to prevail now, it has to prove that a MLS stadium at the Fairgrounds will not kill off the vendors, the State Fair, and other Expo events. Scott Jones, long-standing operator of the State Fair, told the Tribune that there just wouldn’t be enough room for the State Fair with all the exhibits, animal pens, and midway attractions if a soccer stadium and 10 acres of private development were built at the Fairgrounds. He also said traffic and parking for a crowd of fair-goers isn’t like traffic and parking for something like a soccer game.

People come and go all during a day at the state fair. MLS matches and NFL football games would have heavy traffic two times a day, coming and going to the games.

October 27, 2018 at the Nashville Flea Market. The three-day event in late October is the biggest and busiest Flea Market all year. Photo by Shane Smiley.

“Parking is going to be their downfall,” said former Councilman Duane Dominy. He said the city now has to show the additional uses will not interfere with protected uses and the city’s plan eliminates 5-8 thousand parking spaces. The city has already taken away 20 acres of Fairgrounds parking and built playing fields. Even without 10 acres of development or a 30,000 seat stadium, parking has become an issue at the Fairgrounds. (see photo)

“None of the existing uses nor the soccer stadium can be successful with what they have  proposed,” Dominy said.

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