In a marathon meeting Tuesday night, the Metro Council approved the soccer stadium ordinances, paving the way for the $27 million project. The votes marked the first major win for the Briley administration that thanked the council for their support.
“I applaud the Council for its final approval of legislation to bring Major League Soccer to Nashville,” the mayor said in a statement released following the vote. “This project will have a positive and lasting impact on our entire community. It embraces growth and new opportunities while ensuring every resident benefits and thrives along with it.
“This project will improve the Fairgrounds facilities but it will not change our customs or the activities we cherish. I pledge to all of those engaged in these discussions over the past months that I am listening. Together we will build on the years of community tradition at our Fairgrounds and I look forward to continuing to work closely with you as this project moves forward.”
The votes were not just an affirmation for Nashville soccer, but also signaled a new way of doing things with Metro Government capital improvement projects, involving not just the community, but also particularly the African American community.
Prior to the votes, a community benefits agreement was signed with Stand Up Nashville and Nashville Soccer Holdings guaranteeing minority business opportunities, affordable housing, and wages and safety protections for stadium workers.
“It is the right thing to do for Nashville, and it will have a lasting impact ensuring our entire community will benefit from the MLS stadium development,” said Briley about the agreement.
Opponents attempted to hold a referendum on the stadium that would place it on the November ballot-similar to what the city of Miami did for its new MLS stadium.
At-large Councilman John Cooper commented that Stadium supporters seem to be afraid of what might happen if the people of Nashville got to decide whether or not to issue the bonds for the stadium, “If you are going to have a massive investment go to a private party, you should put it on a referendum and get permission to do that,” he said.
District 12 council member Steve Glover echoed Cooper’s sentiment, commenting that Nashville was not able to give city workers their promised cost of living raise but that “we seem to be flush with money to do these deals.”
“We don’t hurt ourselves by letting the public decide,” he said. “[Let] voters tell us what they want, not a few of us telling them what they are gonna have.”
Despite their misgivings, the council approved ordinances for the demolition of fairground buildings; a $1.75 ticket tax at the stadium that will increase over time; zoning for a 10-acre mixed-use development with housing, retail and a hotel; a 99-year ground lease between the city and the team for private development, and the authorization of $50 million in bonds for the rebuilding of fairground buildings and the improvement of infrastructure.
The Metro Council also voted for a non-binding resolution to encourage the Metropolitan Sports Authority, Nashville Soccer Holdings Development LLC, and the mayor to designate Metropolitan Council District 1 as the location for the practice facility for use by the Major League Soccer team.
“Why not Bordeaux, why not come to North Nashville. We have lots of land,” said North Nashville councilman Jonathan Hall. “I want to encourage those individuals who make that decision to come into our committee. We’re working hard to redevelop our community and we want this.”
Earlier in the evening, the council also approved legislation that clears the way for the relocation of a non-hazardous waste recycling facility to be moved from Baptist World Center Drive to Whites Creek Pike in the Haynes-Trinity neighborhood.
Onsite Environmental, a company that operates an environmental services company that focuses on the treatment of waste as fuel, needs to relocate to comply with new regulations that require the facility to move its operations indoors to eliminate odors and improve environmental standards.
Some residents expressed concerns about moving the facility to their neighborhood fearing a negative impact property values, the environment, and traffic.
Despite those misgivings, District 1 councilman DeCosta Hastings moved forward with the legislation saying that moving the facility will be better for the community.
“We also received many signatures in support for a change in our community,” he said. “The Onsite Environmental facility is actually an environmental place that helps with the city’s water and sewer system.
“Going to a new site will be beneficial because it will move the facility out of the neighborhood to an industrial zoned site that will have everything done indoors,” said Hastings. “Right now everything is treated [in the] open air at the current site. The new facility will be in a closed area and more closely regulated by the state.”
According to Hastings, the facility is currently a nonconforming open-air site that is close to the water that allows odors to escape and move onto surrounding properties.
“Currently it is in a residential neighborhood, with kids, through traffic and school buses,” said the councilman. “We can help that, and that’s the reason I am coming aboard. If it wasn’t to better our community, we would not be moving forward.
Where they are going to, there is nothing else there but a rock quarry. There will be a buffer zone, and it will also be in an enclosed building where you will not smell it and you will not even see it.”
Hastings also pointed out that the new site is already properly zoned for the facility due to rezoning by the council before he took office, and that the council has no right to prevent the facility from moving.
Councilman Jeremy Elrod agreed with Hastings. “I’m for it because swapping one bad location to a good location will help North Nashville,” he said.