Nashville Think Tank Files Lawsuit Against Metro Nashville Over Sidewalks


Members of the Nashville-based Beacon Center of Tennessee this week filed a lawsuit against the city of Nashville on behalf of two homeowners that Metro officials forced to pay for public sidewalks.

Beacon is a right-of-center think tank.

Beacon officials said in an emailed press release that they are filing the case to prevent Metro officials from holding building permits hostage until individual property owners agree to pay for public infrastructure like sidewalks.

Beacon officials said in an emailed press release that Metro Nashville cannot afford to pay for new sidewalks “due to years of runaway spending and no fiscal restraint.”

Beacon Vice President of Legal Affairs Braden Boucek told The Tennessee Star Wednesday that these policies “contribute to the rising costs of housing in Nashville.”

“This is also evidence of Nashville’s rickety fiscal structure. They cannot even afford to pay for basic infrastructure like sidewalks because of all the other stuff they are paying for,” Boucek said.

“To put it into perspective if my clients were J.W. Marriott they would be getting preferential tax treatment, but because they are regular old Nashvillians the city is making them pay for public infrastructure. It’s the exact opposite of giving them tax breaks.”

Beacon officials, on their website, published an article citing how Metro Nashville’s policy has hurt two city residents.

“Jim Knight bought a piece of property on Acklen Park Drive, which lacks sidewalks. In Jim’s case, building sidewalks on Jim’s property would cause problems for the city. Metro Public Works and the Stormwater Department determined that building a sidewalk there would cause drainage issues for the neighborhood,” according to Beacon.

“Nashville told him that he could build a modified sidewalk or pay a sizable fee to get out of the condition altogether. Jim has thus far refused to pay, which is holding up his building project.”

Beacon also cited the case of Jason Mayes, who has a lot on McCall Street next to his parents.

“Out of a desire to remain close, Jason and his wife planned to build their family home on that lot. When he applied for a building permit, Nashville demanded he build a sidewalk even though there are no sidewalks on his side of the street,” Beacon said.

“There are no sidewalks anywhere around the property. Jason pleaded with the city to be relieved of this obligation. The City made him comply anyway. Jason wound up having to pay Nashville an $8,800 ‘in lieu’ fee before he could proceed with building his family’s home.”

Beacon officials said it makes no sense to demand sidewalks in exchange for a building permit. They also said it is also unconstitutional.

“According to the U.S. Supreme Court, local governments cannot use their permitting authority to exact financial concessions unrelated to the intended use of the land from property owners,” Beacon wrote.

“But that’s exactly what Nashville is doing with sidewalks.”

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]




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