NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — It is more than a simple mix of concrete — the fight over sidewalks and who should pay for them is complex.

Ongoing litigation accuses Metro of holding building permits hostage until private property owners agree to foot the bill for publicly owned infrastructure, specifically sidewalks, and it’s leading to unintended consequences, like zig-zag walkways that lead to nowhere.

These are all statements the city says are false.

Sidewalks are required based upon the land use, location within the county, extent of improvements
and condition or design of existing sidewalks, but essentially, the existing ordinance requires people to build a sidewalk in front of their home if one isn’t already there.

“It really is fundamentally for safety,” said Angie Henderson — the lead sponsor of the Sidewalk Bill. “The city does build sidewalks with taxpayer money. Those are capital projects, of which, we have 28 of them in progress now and we are behind as a city.”

Braden Boucek, Litigation Director at Southeastern Legal Foundation, said it’s robbing homeowners of their constitutional rights and is nothing short of a funding scheme.

One of his clients, Jason Mayes, a regular Nashvillian, spend almost $9,000 more for his family home, due to Metro’s sidewalk law, which is not only increasing the price of homeownership but forcing people to fix problems they didn’t make. In turn, Boucek said, it’s creating other problems, like wonky walkways. Now, they’re challenging the Metro ordinance in court.

“It’s sporadic, so it’s only going to apply when someone acquires a permit for a new home so you’ll find sidewalks in one yard but not the next yard, and that’s absurd because naturally, you’re not going to be addressing pedestrian traffic when its a sidewalk to nowhere,” Boucek said.

But Henderson said, in cases as such, the developer or homeowner should have applied for a waiver, saying, “‘a sidewalk to nowhere and the city is forcing us to do this’ — I really think those are false narratives.”

Boucek disagreed and added that he is concerned about the effect this rule has on new home construction, which Nashville desperately needs.

Boucek said the permits for those homes are being “held hostage” from homeowners who don’t want to build sidewalks.

“The city won’t issue your permit unless you agree to address a sidewalk problem you had no role in creating,” he said. “This is a funding scheme by the city that’s out of money.”

Henderson said permits are not being held hostage and there are options when it comes to the law. You can either choose to build a sidewalk, contribute in lieu or seek a waiver.

“This is a volume and staffing issue and an in-progress study of Metro Development Services will no doubt be recommending increased staffing in the upcoming operational budget to meet the demand. Almost all cities in the USA require developers to build sidewalks and those that no longer require them currently, used to. The historical record of urban design and land use is very clear. The assertion that sidewalk requirements are making housing less affordable is false,” Henderson said.

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Boucek said they took their case to the district court, where Metro’s law was upheld. He appealed. They have filed a notice of appeal to the Court of Appeals.