Fairgrounds group's lawyer says legal action just weeks away

Thursday, November 12, 2009 at 1:40am

The local attorney hired by the preservation group dedicated to fighting the decision to close the State Fairgrounds believes he could be ready to move on potential legal action within weeks.

Robert W. Rutherford, a 10-year veteran of Metro's Legal department and now an attorney in private practice, told The City Paper he has been hired by Fairgrounds Heritage Preservation Group to examine the legal basis of their opposition and file a lawsuit should the arguments have a firm foundation.

“These folks are very serious about protecting this historical property,” Rutherford said. “This is a legacy that shouldn't be sloughed off on a different county or just shut down entirely.”

The attorney said he plans to examine whether or not the Mayor's office and Fair Board followed proper procedure when they determined to close down the property. Rutherford is particularly interested in Mayor Karl Dean's October letter to the board, a document the administration claims only contained the mayor's suggestions for the future of the property while others have insisted is worded as a dictum.

“The initial effort looked like it sort of ignored the reality of it, which said this is not the mayor's baby to dictate,” Rutherford said. “Then [the Mayor's office] backed off and said this was just a request or suggestion. I'm still concerned they are not following the necessary requirements.”

The heritage group's other sticking point involves the original 90-year-old legislation passed to start the State Fair, law they claim that states a fair must be permanently held at the site.

“The question is: Is this consistent with that? I'm not sure it is,” Rutherford said. “It will probably take a court finding to find our what the actual legislative intent was. There's a reason the legislature wanted a permanent state fair, and it's that it's an asset to this community, in ways that really aren't measurable in dollars and cents.”

But Dean remains convinced his recommendation to close down the fair (including the racetrack, flea market, Christmas Village and other fairgrounds’ events) and resell the property was a financially prudent choice.

In a conversation with the editorial staff of The City Paper’s parent company, SouthComm, this week, Dean reiterated his reasons for steering the property in a different direction.

“I've watched for the time I've been mayor that every year the amount of funds left in the reserve dwindle because every year we lose money,” he said. “At some point, we had to do something different.”

Feasibility studies conducted before Dean's election found the fair could not be profitable in its current location, the mayor explained. The city's ultimate choice was to close the property or relocate the fair to a new site in Davidson County, a move and rebuild projected to cost $30 million.

“I think the better option is to do something else,” Dean said. “I didn't anticipate that everybody would be necessarily happy with the decision, but I thought a decision had to be made.”

The mayor declined to talk about any specific plans currently in the works for the redevelopment of the site, but did mention that a variety of interested parties have contracted his office. Dean said he would like to see some portion of the land turned into green space and the restoration of a creek that once ran through the property.

“We have the opportunity to sit back and think how we're going to do this,” he said. “This could be a tremendous thing for the city.”


24 Comments on this post:

By: njmccune on 11/12/09 at 7:48

Hiring this attorney is a waste of money. This group is sucked into the nostalgia aspect of this site to the point that they are blinded by the reality that as it stands this property is an eyesore of monstrous proportions...

The reality of this situation is simple:

If this place had been maintained properly and attention had been paid to landscaping and maintenance it would be a local icon and would continue to operate.

If it was making lots of money and still looked as bad as it does it would be a local icon and would continue to operate.

But it is neither... it is simply a hodge-podge collection of dilapidated buildings on un-maintained property that is at the heart of the blight in South Nashville. It looks like an old shuttered industrial complex badly in need of demolition.

Nostalgia aside... it is time for this property to become a symbol of the resurgence of South Nashville.

By: border collie on 11/12/09 at 8:09

Where are you from ??? The grounds are crowded every time there is an event. It is likely the money is not being budgeted correctly. Who is Karl Dean to decide that the 90 year old fairgrounds should be grazed. He wants to revamp the creek....PLEASE STOP LYING! YOU DON'T CARE about the creek!! Explain why you want to razor BELL'S BEND with bagel shops and boutiques and apartments??????? It is one of the largest areas left untouched in Davidson Co. That is the urgency right? Got to cut down those trees and tear up the habitat and way of life that people have known for 100 yrs and CLEAN IT UP for the new-comers in town cause they are feeling lost without their concrete jungles and need some more boutiques!
The fair was here before YOU OUTSIDERS so LEAVE IT ALONE!!!!! What about the people whose families started this city and contributed to it for the past 100yrs...worked the land, raised generations of families here ??? Guess we should step aside because the new-comers want to change everything !!!!!!
If you want to tear something up ......start on Murfreesboro Rd. and get rid of the hooker motels......

By: BigPapa on 11/12/09 at 8:11

You nailed it. There is NOTHING special about concrete block buildings and a tired old small asphalt track. It's not an assest, it's a drain on the community.
Just because DE rode around the track a few times is no reason to keep it around. There have to be 1000 better options for that plot of land.

By: timman on 11/12/09 at 9:08

i've only been in nashville area for 2 yrs and never been to the grounds but if there is a law bout the fair then that law should be upheld. I believe this city has too many golf courses for a city of this size also.how bout selling 1 or 2, and using the funds to rehab the fairgrounds.Local governments(all over) lately have sold public lands to private firms -steal private land and then sell it to devolopers to build hotels,shopping malls etc. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. if the fairgrounds must be closed how bout building a campus for the homeless and under employed that would be a great use of the land

By: airvols on 11/12/09 at 9:24

The city is doing the right thing with this area. It should be redeveloped into more usable space and git rid of the race track. There is a track in Wilson County that will work just as well, and noise want kill any development in the area. I do think there should be a place to provide a home for the flee market in another location. This property is not historic in nature and have no value behond the land it sits on. I am a life long Nashville resident and believe it's time to move on to bigger and better things. Just want to congratulate the board and the city for make the hard, but correct decision on this property.

By: njmccune on 11/12/09 at 11:29

Border collie:

Bell's Bend is not a part of this discussion. I don't want development there.

I am part of a group that wants Brown's Creek not only preserved but preserved in such a way that the community can enjoy it's natural habitat.

My statements regarding the fairgrounds are true. It is a rundown eyesore and that fact must be addressed. I have never said that we should not have a fair. I am merely addressing the physical fact that beautiful Brown's Creek is so overgrown that it can not even be seen. A collection of un-maintained, run down, rusting buildings, no matter on which property they exist, is an eyesore.

As this city relies more and more on tourist $$, is this the face of Nashville we want them to see??

Border Collie... if you would stop frothing at the mouth and mixing your metaphors you may be able to have a cogent thought.

By: racer84 on 11/12/09 at 11:32

Wow AIRVOLS, You must be a real genius to be so smart we should all listen to your brilliant ideas.

By the way, when trying to sound intelligent you should probably know that GIT is actually mispelled on your "Git R done" shirt. It's actually GET, and there really is a difference between WON'T and WANT.

The racetrack in wilson county does not work as well, but if you like the idea of sending metro tax revenue to other counties then you would fit in well with the mayor's office. Moron

By: racer84 on 11/12/09 at 11:46

Yes, Let's clean up the creek....

Those of you wishing for redevelopment of the property should note that the entire bottom portion of the property(racetrack and track parking) are part of the 100 year flood plain because of that creek. So much for condo's and office buildings going in there, what revenue is generated by greenspace ?

Soccer fields for the couple thousand illegals living in run down duplexes surrounding the property.....Yay !
That's so much more soothing to the eyes. Why is that everyone who wants to complain about what an eyesore the property never reference the 5 mile radius of run down crap around the property ?
Even the signs are in spanish, and ya'll believe if the track goes away all the sudden all that is going to be nicer / safer ?
Get real !

By: Blanketnazi2 on 11/12/09 at 12:06

The fairgrounds are rundown and crime ridden. The race track had more than enough time and opportunity to work to improve the property. To listen to the racing fans you'd think this eye sore is the Holy freaking Grail. The city is doing the right then. They should have done it years ago.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 11/12/09 at 12:08

soccer fields would only be used by "the couple thousand illegals living in rundown duplexes???? and signs in Spanish are bad? Wow. btw, I happen to live in that neighborhood so don't start in on me about being an elitist.

By: JenT on 11/12/09 at 2:19

Racer84: Insulting the people that live in the neighborhood doesn't make your cause seem any more worthy, it just makes you look like a bumbling, racist jerk. Besides, they may have a say in what happens at the property, so you might want to stay on their good side.

The Mayor is right when he says "this could be a tremendous thing for the city." I'm excited that he sees the potential for that land and remain positive (if a little naive) that something awesome will happen there.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 11/12/09 at 2:34

me too, JenT. there is so much potential for that property. oh, the residents of the neighborhood DO have a lot to say about it. it's our neighborhood afterall. we live there 24/7...we don't just occasionally show up for a race then leave. we care about our community as a whole, including the future of the fairgrounds.

By: everloyal on 11/12/09 at 3:00

A couple of points here. First Brown's Creek. The reason why it is overgrown is that the Corps of Engineers will not allow any "man made" improvements for fear of causing flooding downstream. So, doesn't matter who "owns" the property, the "owner" will not be allow to cut the brush/overgrown vegetation full stop. Second, most of Nashville like any large metropolitan area is a "crime scene", but don't hear any outrage on what happens downtown Nashville. Double standard. And finally, if Metro hadn't pursue a policy of bleeding the Fairgrounds over the last 5 years Thur its Internal Service Fees, etc., the Fairgrounds reserve fund would have another two million dollars in its account. And while we are on the subject of double standards and dealing, why is Metro providing a subsidy to the Farmer's Market (another supposedly enterprise entity) and not the Fairground? And of course, there is the big sink hole called the Convention Center. If the Mayor wants to stick to his premise that saving the Fairgrounds would cost tax payer monies, then lets close the Farmer's Market, the Convention Center, and sell the asset of Parks and Recreations to private entities. That would save a bundle of tax dollars.

By: airvols on 11/12/09 at 3:04

Racer 84 thanks for pointing out the typo now you can go back to drinking beer and going fast in circles.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 11/12/09 at 3:19

everloyal, two wrongs doesn't make a right. and there is a lot of outrage regarding the crime downtown. haven't you read the paper or watched the news?

By: racer84 on 11/12/09 at 3:33

Call me racist if you want, But there is a reason they are called "illegals".

It's funny, You all consider the racetrack to be the issue dragging down the neighborhood while ignoring the larger issues which plague the area. Look around you at the changes in the last 10 years. How many businesses have gone under that were owned by hard working american citizens, your friends and neighbors who took pride in the area ?
They've been overun with mexican markets, junk stores, and car lots catering to illegals. And the residents haven't mentioned it at all, Why is that ?

"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye."

To complain about the race track while totally ignoring all the other issues in the area which are much worse for the residents is a good example of that.

AirVols- The amount of beer I have consumed in the last 5 years would not equal a six pack. But I do go fast in circles, and I do it better than most.

When someone makes uneducated remarks (the track in wilson county will work just as well") to take away your source of income and enjoyment while not understanding the first part of it, You will understand my position.

By: some1else on 11/12/09 at 4:05

I can't help but agree on how the property looks-- i've often
referred to it publically as either a '2nd rate industrial area" or
like 'something designed by the county maintenance barn.'

but i just don't think that tossing it out is the way to go...

one of the goals of preservation is the "restoration" of the fairgrounds,
including landscaping, tree planting, greenways, a clean creek and
grassy meadow areas (that could still be used for parking if needed).

check out the proposal sent the fair board last year:

contrary to what's been said by metro, the fairgrounds *does* make
money-- in the past 5 years, it's had one year that sustained a loss,
and 4 that made a profit-- more profit than the loss! but it's always
been that way-- some good years and some bad. it is meant to be self-
sustaining, not a profit-center-- so profits are never high. just
enough usually. that's why they've been saving profits in a reserve
fund- which currently is over $2million. metro has never paid a dime
into supporting the fairgrounds.

there are also businesses and organizations who would be willing to
chip in goods and services to help off-set costs of the 'fix-up.'

other than the historical and 'nostalgia' aspects of the fairgrounds,
they also furnish jobs for thousands of people, contribute
substiantial tax dollars from sales at the events (fleamarket, State
Fair, and other events), bring hundreds of thousands of visitors to
the area, many of whom use motels, restaurants, gas stations, and
other local businesses.

besides... i just can't buy into the idea that another condo, strip
mall, or office complex should symbolize 'the resurgence of south

By: Blanketnazi2 on 11/12/09 at 4:37

racer, assuming that everyone is illegal is racist. and the people who live in that area DO care about what goes on. have you ever spoken to Anna Page or the people in the neighborhood groups that volunteer their time and money to help improve the neighborhood? no one is totally ignoring the other issues. you've greatly insulted the people in my community with your uninformed comments.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 11/12/09 at 4:39

also, there are plenty of vibrant businesses that are owned by immigrants who are here legally and contribute much to the community. oh yeah, if they're not "from around these parts" then they must just be "illegals" who live in "rundown duplexes."


By: shef2 on 11/12/09 at 8:18

Lionel and I live in this neighborhood. Thanks to some1else, and Blanketnazi2. Our neighborhood group does volunteer to help with clean-ups, recycling, gardening, and other worthwhile projects. We would like nothing more than to see the Fairgrounds be "spiffed up" rather than closed down by the "almighty" Mayor Karl Dean. We actually do know our neighbors here. Do you know yours? What a shame that it rained throughout the week of the State Fair. Don't blame the Fairgrounds for that... I enjoy walking to the Flea Market, and have made a number of friends that have their booths there. I hope the Fairgrounds stays. Speaking of "Mr. almighty", Dean, he needs to comprehend that Nashville doesn't have the money to start the EXPENSIVE projects - Like the New "Billion-Dollar-Baby" Convention Center... Eeek!

By: lisaleeds2008 on 11/12/09 at 8:29

I am going to cut to the chase. I think that Mayor Dean is going to try to bank on the funding for the MCC on the sell of the Fairgrounds.

By: racin71 on 11/13/09 at 1:03

all the cryin dweebs around the fairgrounds need to wisen up! there are millions of dollars spent to get those loud roaring engines and those rockets on wheels to the track each week and there are millions of dollars still to be spent, see mr dean is livin on the fact of shutting the fairgrounds down and developing the land . well i am in the industrial construction business and i will guarantee that the fairgrounds will cost the city millions to get a soil approval. it will be a 80' deep hole in the ground before there will be approval, and then they have to worry about the flood zone in the area. that's not the real reason for dean, i ask this and i will contact mr. dean and ask, how much to lease the track for 10 years paid up front and the city sits back and collect a check, they don't have to spend a dime 10 years will give a comfort zone for car owners, sponsors, and advertisment. we'll put t.v ads on, on thursday and friday nights and we'll pay the radio stations for advertisment, there will be so many fans back at nashville and car counts will be back up, people won't build cars not knowing they can race. this year was a fluke, and mr. dean knows it. throw us a quote mr. dean and see whom steps up. see if this happens i know mr.dean won't have anything to do with it in 10 years cause his 30 supporters wont be enough to get him back in office.

By: racin71 on 11/13/09 at 1:19

ough, by the way just in case nobody's noticed. i would personally like to say thank you to channel 4 news for supporting the fairgrounds, seems they kinda lean toward saving the fairgrounds. but i think i know why, alot of channel 4's employees have raced at the fairgrounds, remember back in the 80's on ralph emory's show, they run the out-house races. i think old rudy's won some of them. on news channel 5 thursday night i saw 3 of my employees call open line w/ mr. dean each were on different cell phones and were all disconnected, jeff, clay, and thomas. all were disconnected and were not let through to discuss the fairgrounds. i applaud channel 4 and hope they keep up on supporting fairgrounds we'll keep fighting even after the war

By: MemoriesMatter on 11/16/09 at 11:33

I agree with everloyal. I have been a part of the State Fair, Flea Market, and Christmas Village over many years, but this was my first year to have an opportunity to work at the State Fair. There is a video which every Davidson County person needs to see-- The Smiles of Fair employees!--put together by emloyees this year even after the announcement of loosing their job--tears shed--but went on because they cared. Mayor Dean arrived to receive an award opening night, but did not thank the people who deserved it (they were all the workers sitting to his left foot--that had worked night and day to get things going because they had pride in their State Fair--not just a job). The next day we got word he was closing the Fair. WHAT about all the jobs he is taking away by closing every function that takes place at the Fairgrounds all year. These are everyday people depending on these jobs. Obviously everything is POLITICAL. When we were told all jobs would be lost, Fairgrounds DIrector, Buck Dozier said he knew nothing about it, so we called The Mayors office--they said call Buck Dozier..who said call the Mayors office--so we called the Governors office--they said call the Mayor because he is over the Fair Board--which is selected by the Mayor. THEN the Mayors office said they had no comment. FINALLY, we realized once again...the SYSTEM appears to be political and all the voting, petition signing or whatever the blue-collar working people want will not matter. I talked with people 12 hours a day during the fair and not one person was happy with this decision. IF MAYOR DEAN wants to Really do something good for Nashvillians, then why doesn't he focus on bettering this area (like Wilson County) and still keep it a FAIRGROUNDS. Lots of major cities have a Fairgrounds. Nashville is not only about big convention centers, townhouses, and money makers for the big businesses. Real Nashvillians love to keep areas that make memories that will matter in our children and grandchildrens future.