FERRIER FILES: East Nashville musician fights the city to re-build his fire-damaged home

(Fox 17 News)

A popular East Nashville musician has done the improbable; he fought the city and won.

Todd “Toddzilla” Austin has overcome a Metro Nashville historical recommendation and been permitted to raze and rebuild his Forrest Avenue home.

Austin is the kind of free-spirited musician who makes East Nashville. He wears a mullet/dread hairstyle and plays a wonderful funk guitar in several Music City bands.

Austin’s spirit was tested when his home of 22 years was devastated by fire in June. Austin’s insurance company paid him for a “total loss,” but the historical commission has recommended he rehab the home.

Rehab would cost $100,000 dollars more. Austin doesn’t have it.

“ I would love to wave a magic wand and rebuild my home, but this home is ruined," Austin said. "The damage is overwhelming, and I can’t afford to do what they are trying to make me do."

The Metro Historical Commission can actually tell homeowners what they can and can’t do with their property.

"I understand historic overlays, but I matter too," Austin said.

Austin’s lawyer Adam Dread said the area is already compromised.

“Look around Forrest Avenue,” Dread said. "Plastic doors, skylights, even Todd’s house has been updated over the years.”

Wednesday was Toddzilla’s last chance to get the historic zoning commission to approve his demolition. A room full of musicians and friends argued for Austin, and 10,000 people signed an online petition for the popular musician.

The commission hesitated, debated, waffled, questioned, and in the end failed to come up with a majority vote. It was so confusing they had to ask their lawyer what they just did.

What they did was approve Austin’s demolition by default.

“That was the biggest roller coaster ride of my life,” Austin said. “Now I get to build my house!”

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