Nashville airport expansion plan comes weeks after new state board is granted eminent domain power
Nashville Airport CEO Doug Kreulen pushed for the state to take over BNA’s board, a move that included the eminent domain provision
The Tennessee General Assembly took control of the Metro Nashville Airport Authority from the city in 2023. (Photo: John Partipilo)
Six weeks after the state took majority control of the Nashville Airport board under a newly enacted state law, BNA leaders announced they would start a multidecade process to build a second terminal.
Inklings of airport leadership wanting to build a second terminal have floated around for years, as Nashville’s airport passenger traffic skyrocketed over the past decade and it eyed direct flights to Asia.
But, added to the new state law was a provision granting the authority sweeping eminent domain and zoning powers to buy property around its facility, which no other airport in Tennessee can do.
If the state has made it easier for the airport to start stacking up property left and right, then what happens to the people who live out here who have built their lives and community out there. We've lost any ability to have any kind of voice in the process.
– Metro Nashville Councilmember Russ Bradford
Previously, the airport had to go through Metro Nashville Council to activate the eminent domain process. Now, the airport board can bypass input from Nashville’s local representatives giving it government-like authority to seize land deemed necessary for its expansion.
This is why on Aug. 11, council members Russ Bradford and Mary Carolyn Roberts, and two Nashville residents filed a complaint to join Metro Nashville’s lawsuit against the state airport board takeover law.
The newly filed 10-page complaint mainly focuses on the eminent domain provision in the law, stating that those who live around the airport have the potential to be “victimized by the state-controlled” appointments on it.
“If the state has made it easier for the airport to start stacking up property left and right, then what happens to the people who live out here who have built their lives and community out there,” Bradford said. “We’ve lost any ability to have any kind of voice in the process.”
The changes at the airport are one of six pieces of legislation passed by state Republican lawmakers targeting Nashville during this year’s legislative session. These moves included eliminating Nashville’s version of a police oversight board; cutting the size of the Metro Council in half; overruling a Nashville charter rule related to renovations at the fairgrounds racetrack; and taking seats on the city’s sports authority.
Metro Nashville sued the state over the council size, racetrack and airport board takeover law because, unlike the sports board, the state leaders took a majority of the appointments. State leaders now control six of the eight seats on the airport overseeing board.
The Federal Aviation Administration issued guidance that they would only recognize the non-state-controlled board until the lawsuit was settled.
But, a three-judge state panel ruled in August that the state board would remain in control as the lawsuit proceeded, with the disclaimer that their ruling was only based on the Metro government not filing for injunction fast enough.
The case is ongoing, with the judges expected to rule later this year.
Representatives from the Nashville Airport declined to comment for this story, stating the ongoing litigation prevented them from answering questions related to eminent domain.
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