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Who should pay for sidewalks? A legal battle between private property owners, the city

Building sidewalks on public land (WZTV)
Building sidewalks on public land (WZTV)
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Property owners are paying up, forced to cover the costs of building sidewalks on public land.

One "sidewalk to nowhere" cost a man $7,700, which is why two Nashvillians are taking Metro to court.

In hopes of making Nashville a more walkable city, Metro Council approved a legislation in 2017, requiring developers or home builders to pay for sidewalks to obtain a building permit.

It’s either that or pay an "in lieu" fee to the city.

Braden Boucek with Southeastern Legal Foundation said, “It’s public infrastructure, which means the public needs to pay for it. One of the principal concerns of the fifth amendment was that certain individuals would not have to pay for public goods alone. They couldn’t be singled out.“

That’s why Boucek is representing two Nashvillians, Jim Knight and Jason Mayes, in a lawsuit against the city. Arguments were heard last week in front of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, after a judge ruled against his clients in district court.

“As for Jim and Jason, they just want their permits free and clear without having to agree to an unconstitutional condition, Boucek said. “And Jason in particular, who already paid the city his fee of $8,800, wants his fee back. So that’s it. They just want their property back, so that’s it. “

Boucek said both men were told they’d need to build sidewalks or pay the city thousands of dollars in fees to proceed with a building permit. However, both men live on properties that would lead to a sidewalk to nowhere.

“In fact, Mr. Knight was told by Metro Storm Water that building a sidewalk would’ve resulted in flooding for his neighbor,” Boucek said. “Mr. Mayes paid the city the money, and the city used it to build a sidewalk three miles away on somebody else’s property.”

FOX 17 News reached out to Metro Legal, who stand strong on their stance.

Defending their ordinance last week, Metro Legal shared a statement with FOX 17 News saying in part: “We are hopeful that the court of appeals will affirm the trial court’s decision to uphold our sidewalk ordinance.”

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