Belmont scores win in Rose Park dispute

Appeals court affirms trial court's decision to build athletic facilities

Belmont’s plan to use a park near its campus for athletic fields cleared an important legal hurdle last week.

The Tennessee Court of Appeals affirmed a trial court judgment allowing the school to enter into a lease agreement with Metro Parks to build baseball, softball and soccer fields at Rose Park.

Residents of the nearby Edgehill neighborhood sued in the fall of 2007 to stop the contract, claiming a variety of infractions ranging from violations of open-meeting laws to zoning-ordinance infractions.

The neighborhood group even employed a strategy centered around the difference in “recreation centers” and “stadiums,” prompting the court to cite lengthy Oxford and Webster’s definitions of the word “stadium.” Under Metro zoning law, a stadium is not permitted in residential areas, while recreation areas are.

Ultimately, the court deferred to a determination by the Board of Zoning Appeals saying Belmont’s facilities are, in fact, recreation areas.

"The trial court was correct to conclude that the BZA's decision was not arbitrary, capricious or unlawful, but rather was founded on a course of reasoning applied to material evidence in the record," the judges wrote in the opinion.

The university will pay $50,000 annually for use of the 25-acre park – $40,000 to Metro and $10,000 to the PTAs at two local middle schools. The renovations, originally intended to be complete in January 2009, will total $7 million.