I know I'm not the first person to say this, but it's time to bring it up again. Why can't we just trade Jack May his Bells Bend land for the Fairground land? Straight up trade.
We could stipulate that the racetrack remain and be preserved as a historic landmark and as part of a park, thus satisfying the preservationists and the folks who are tired of the noise. Otherwise, let May stick walkable housing and businesses and retail outlets there, in the city, where it makes sense, where it's close to downtown and compliments it instead of away from downtown where it competes. He'd have easy interstate access and no need for a bridge.
Meanwhile, we take the land May has so far been blocked from doing anything with out in the Bend, we upgrade Old Hickory Boulevard, and we stick a fairground complete with racetrack down there while preserving as much green space and rural character as possible. The state fair certainly is a part of our rural heritage and the racetrack is a nice nod to the moonshining reputation of that part of the county.
It's hard for me to believe it'd be much noisier than the interstate, so the complaints from across the river would be limited and everyone who lives in the Bend, with the exception of a handful of farmers, is buffered from that land by a series of hills. And, if we came to feel like we needed a bridge in, a bridge to a fairground from Centennial Boulevard makes fine sense. The considerations that would deter people from taking it to their upscale housing — i.e. the prisons — aren't as much of a concern to people going out to the flea market or the race or the fair or the park.
Plus, since we'd be putting infrastructure out there for the fairgrounds, we could help May honor his gift to TSU by facilitating the research buildings they need out there.
TSU gets its land in a workable way. Bells Bend keeps its rural character. The fair and racing at the fairgrounds live on. The historic racetrack is preserved. And May gets to take his good idea and put it in a place that would really benefit from it.
It seems like a solution that serves everyone. Someone go tell Mayor Dean to make it happen.