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FERRIER FILES: Zigzagging sidewalks more common with conflicting Metro construction

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Everybody loves sidewalks but who should pay for them, the city or builders? It's a fight.

A zigzagging sidewalk doesn't look right, does it? It's a sidewalk but where's it going?

The truth is, right now, it isn't going anywhere -- and who would know better than the woman who built it?

"We have the sidewalk that goes to nowhere," Rhonda Freeman of MRB Builders said. "It was really disgusting when I had to write the check."

Rhonda Freeman is a home builder, MRB Home Builders, and she will tell you that not only does Metro make you build a sidewalk when you build a new home, they will make you rebuild an existing sidewalk as well and to different specifications.

"We ended up having to rip out 75 feet of sidewalk that had been approved by the city to years earlier and move it 12 inches," Freeman said.

That sidewalk cost $20,000, the sidewalk ordinance passed Metro Council unanimously in 2017. It was updated with more variances last month.

Vice Mayor Jim Shulman says don't feel sorry for the builders, they're making lot's of money and they can afford to help with sidewalks.

"So we're all in this together," Shulman said. "As we look at all these issues going on in the city, we all have responsibilities in this."

The Beacon Center of Tennessee, a not-for-profit think tank that defends free market ideas is suing Metro over this.

"The City of Nashville is using its building permits to steal," said Beacon Center of Tennessee attorney Braden Boucek.

Boucek says sidewalks, gutters and curbs are the responsibility of the city, not builders or residents.

"Making it even more absurd is the sidewalks they make you rebuild are different in specifications from the existing ones," Boucek said. "So you've got these zigzag sidewalks that are now notorious in Nashville."

Sidewalks like one on California Avenue where you walk on an old Metro sidewalk and boom, you hit construction to a new sidewalk zoning.

You see the zigzag, it goes down to the end of the new two homes and you're back on Metro sidewalks.

This is really hard to defend.

Vice Mayor Shulman does not defend the zigzag sidewalks, he just believes they're better than nothing.

But he does believe the sidewalks to nowhere have a very short lifespan.

"Those sidewalks to nowhere are going to be sidewalks to somewhere very soon," Shulman said. "I know that looks a little strange when you have a sidewalk just by itself, but it's a start."

Meanwhile, Rhonda Freeman says she has two options: pass the cost on to her customers or drastically reduce the profit margin of a home.

She has decided on a third option that she says she does not prefer.

"Build fewer, larger, more expensive homes to compensate for the cost," Freeman said.

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Metro will allow you to pay a variance fine and not build a sidewalk, but Freeman says those fees are high, up to $50,000.

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