After a year in which Mayor Karl Dean led an unsuccessful push to turn the Tennessee State Fairgrounds into a corporate campus, Davidson County citizens delivered a statement Tuesday, voting to amend the Metro Charter to keep the fairgrounds’ existing uses.
Voters approved the referendum by a vote of 43,168 vote "for" (71 percent) and 17,663 "against" (29 percent).
The referendum passed with 69 percent for ratification and 31 percent against.
With the ratification, Nashvillians have decided to insert language into the Metro Charter that explicitly says to continue conducting the property’s activities as of Dec. 31, 2010: a state fair, expo center, flea market and auto racing.
More significantly, the amendment has created a new threshold to ever redevelop the fairgrounds, as the charter now calls for 27 of 40 Metro Council votes to pursue the demolition of facilities. The requirement had been a simple majority.
Outgoing District 5 Metro Councilman Jamie Hollin, leader of the group Save My Fairgrounds, said the vote — particularly the overwhelming total — is vindication.
"I guess it's abundantly clear to everyone that the supporters of the fairgrounds were real, legitimate and expect more transparency in the process," said Hollin.
Passage of the referendum is also a loss for Dean, who declined to campaign against it. Although the mayor won re-election handily, his biggest loss during his first term was the failure of his fairgrounds redevelopment plan.
After his re-election party at the Adventure Science Center Thursday night, the mayor shrugged off passage of the referendum.
“That was expected,” Dean said. “I think all that means is that if something is going to be done there, it takes 27 votes. I think from the experience we all went through earlier this year, that sort of consensus would be necessary.
“I have absolutely no plans for the fairgrounds right now,” he said. “The council said it wants to do long-range planning. We’ll just see what happens.”