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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Is the In-Lieu Fee For Sidewalks a Failed Policy?

Do you sense that there is a sensitive and delicate balance currently between developers and Nashville?  Is the climate here so fragile that even one extra requirement would sour all deals going forward?  

Look familiar?

First look: $100M+ project starts behind Mall at Green Hills
207-room Hilton and a 116-room Marriott Residence Inn. Notably, the project also includes about 30,000 square feet of top-floor office space, as well as retail space at street level.



I think it is time to very seriously consider that Nashville is making a big mistake in regards to sidewalks.  When a developer creates density (taking a single home and building 2+ homes on the same site) they are to factor in the building of walkways in front of the property.  These pieces would eventually be knitted together to form a cohesive sidewalk network.

Now, this makes sense.  You add density (more people, more cars) but you gift back to the neighborhood enhanced walkability.      

But, instead, developers can pay a fee (the In-Lieu Fee) at a fraction of the cost of building the sidewalk ($92 per linear foot or $250 per linear foot AND build the, you see why developers pay the fee!).  In essence, Nashville is subsidizing the non-building of sidewalks.  

Some have argued that these pieces would be 'sidewalks to nowhere' but what we currently have going on is just NO sidewalks.    In October of 2014, an increase in the In-Lieu fee from $15 per linear foot to $96 went into effect - a step in the right direction.   Even still, the In-Lieu fee, which was started in 2001, has accumulated just under 1 million dollars - enough to build 1/2 mile of sidewalk.  

I ask you, is this a failed policy?    


Now, this is not our 1st time making this mistake.  After WWII, Nashville built fast without consideration of sidewalks as we were in the midst of car culture and the trolleys were being eliminated.   



Nashville is red hot in regards to re-development.  Whole blocks seem to disappear overnight to be quickly replaced by larger or more numerous homes and mixed use developments.  And,  Nashville has been really kind to this increase in size and density - developers know that it is pretty easy here.  

There has been a careful considering of keeping the costs and restrictions minimal in order not to curb expediency.  So careful has  this consideration been in favor of development that we are now facing the prospect of, once again, building a city that has little to no walkability.  I argue that this is a HUGE mistake.  NOW is the time to build sidewalks.  It will NOT get easier or cheaper in the future.

1 comment:

  1. For full disclosure, I am a big city girl living in the small city of Nashville. I love density (people watching, window shopping, plazas, walking everywhere - love it) but it has to come with walkability...otherwise, what's the point?