Feb 22, 2024 - News

Proposal would amend Metro Nashville charter to protect affordable housing at fairgrounds

Illustration of a repeating pattern of houses made out of hundred dollar bills.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A new proposal would change the Metro charter by swapping out auto racing for affordable housing on the list of required programming at the fairgrounds property.

Why it matters: The proposal tests the popularity of auto racing at the fairgrounds and bets that voters would prefer the city focus on the hot-button issue of affordable housing.

What's happening: The Metro charter revision commission will consider the charter amendment at its meeting today.

Between the lines: As it stands now, when the fairgrounds' future is discussed, racetrack supporters often say the speedway must be fixed up because the charter says so. Changing the charter would flip the issue so that affordable housing becomes the cornerstone of the 117-acre property.

  • There is already some affordable housing at the fairgrounds in the mixed-use development next to Geodis Park.

Yes, but: Even if the charter is amended, it doesn't mean auto racing would be banished from the fairgrounds. It also wouldn't prevent Mayor Freddie O'Connell from reviving a racetrack improvement plan, which fell by the wayside at the end of predecessor John Cooper's term.

Flashback: In 2011, Davidson County voters overwhelmingly supported a charter amendment preserving auto racing and other events at the fairgrounds. That referendum came on the heels of a failed city plan to demolish the racetrack.

The other side: Racetrack backers have fought hard to save the speedway and advance an improvement plan including NASCAR. After more than a decade of work, they are certain to oppose such a charter amendment.

What's next: The charter revision commission is required to consider the legality of potential amendments.

  • If it signs off on the proposal, one of two things would have to happen for it to appear on the ballot: Either Metro Council could vote to put it on the ballot or Byrd could gather enough signatures to trigger a referendum.
  • Regardless, any change would require signoff from Nashville voters.
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