NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WZTV) — The second highest court in America will decide whether the city of Nashville is violating the constitutional rights of homeowners. The issue is forcing new homeowners to pay for their own city sidewalks.
People like Jason Mayes, who really isn’t a builder. He is a dad, a family man and taxpayer who built a home on McCall Street and got a $9,000 bill for his sidewalk.
“It’s been frustrating. This was something that we didn’t plan for in our construction budget. It came right off of our money to finish our house," Mayes said. "We actually have an unfinished space in our house. Obviously we don’t have landscaping partly due to this."
There’s more. The city really doesn’t want Jason to build a sidewalk in front of his home. There is a culvert at the front end of his property that collects run-off. If he built a sidewalk here, it could cause terrible flooding in the neighborhood.
Nevertheless, the city is still charging him for the sidewalk they don’t want to build, they will just put it somewhere else in the city.
“I’m a taxpayer. I’ve paid my taxes on time every year and it just seems like its not my problem that turned into my problem,” said Mayes.
Braden Boucek is a lawyer for the Southeastern Legal Foundation. He is suing Metro on behalf of Jason's family.
“The city wants to build public infrastructure, but it has no idea how to pay for it and so it's putting that cost on Nashville area homeowners, essentially Nashville is using its permit authority as a license to steal,” said Boucek.
Jim Knight is also suing the city. He says they told him to pay $9,000 for a sidewalk on his lot in Sylvan Park. He said absolutely not and so his vacant lot stays vacant.
“In doing so, we will enhance the neighborhood and also bring in a lot more property taxes. I’m paying property taxes and getting nothing for it, and this truly would be a sidewalk to nowhere, unless you want to go in the ditch!” said Knight.
These unconnected sidewalks can be seen all over Nashville, wherever you see new construction next to older homes. It sure doesn’t look right and for many it just isn’t right.
"This came out of city council and I think they had honest intentions of beautifying the city and making it walkable, but it goes too far," Knight said. "It is extorting me to build a sidewalk for someone else."
How does Metro justify charging its residents for sidewalks? Councilwoman Angie Emery Henderson of Forest Hills championed the legislation.
“Nashvillians should be proud of our city’s sidewalk requirement legislation, which has already withstood several rounds of legal challenge. Nashville invests significantly in sidewalks through our capital construction and repair program. Private development interests benefit the property owner through increased property value, safety and connection to community resources.” said Angie Emery Henderson, Councilwoman, District 34.
The lawsuit is going all the way to the United States Court of Appeals. It will be argued that it is a violation of the constitution.
“This is the taking of property and the Fifth Amendment prohibits the government from taking people’s property without paying for it. What Nashville has done here is a constitutional end around. Right, if they tried to take this property directly they would have to pay for it. What Nashville has done instead is said you can’t have your building permit unless you waive your right and give us money,” said Boucek.
This could be a landmark case. FOX 17 News will be watching closely.