NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Earlier this year, the new Nashville Airport Authority sent a letter and map to Wilson and Williamson counties, informing them that the new board will have a say in building and zoning in their counties.
“They’re so close to these counties, a flight starts their descent well over, probably Cookeville in Cumberland County and Putnam County, as they approach the airport,” Rep. Johnny Garrett (R-Goodlettsville) said.
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Garrett sponsored the law when it was a bill last legislative session.
The news comes about a week after the Tennessee Journal broke a story showing that the airport authority board sent a similar letter to Davidson County Codes Department, saying its say in the area has increased significantly (see video below).
“This law was designed to punish Nashville for previous political activities,” Rep. Caleb Hemmer (D-Nashville) said. “It was not designed to help the Nashville Airport or the Nashville economy in any way.”
Democrats point to two specific clauses, saying they give the new board overbearing power.
The first says that just about anything related to the airport – including things like ‘the acquisition of any land,’ ‘development,’ construction’ and ‘the acquisition or elimination of airport hazards’ – ‘are declared to be public and governmental functions, exercised for a public purpose, and matters of public necessity.’
The second reads the authority ‘may regulate aircraft hazards, compatible land use, or other factors impacting the safe and efficient operation of the airport,’ as long as it submits a map to a county it’s affecting.’
“It’s a very poorly written bill, and those guardrails aren’t in there,” Hemmer said. “Truth to the fact, we could have a judicial decision where it applies statewide.”
But Republicans point to another clause toward the end, one that reads, ‘this chapter does not limit any power of a municipality to regulate airport hazards by zoning.’
“They’ve just got to make sure they consider the overlay of the Nashville Airport to make sure they don’t obstruct a flight plan coming in that’s already existing under that overlay,” Garrett said.
Democrats pushed back on that, saying the language is incredibly vague.
“This could have a very chilling effect on economic development,” Hemmer said. “If I’m a large real estate developer, and I’m doing due diligence, just the fact that the state could have this unintended effect on my business that goes outside the normal process, it could be very chilling.”
News 2 did reach out to both Wilson County and the airport authority to receive the additional letter and map.
The Wilson County Codes Department said they did not receive such a letter while the airport pointed us toward an official public records request.
News 2 submitted that and has subsequently not heard back.