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Monday, April 4, 2016

Developers in Nashville Refuse to Pay the Sidewalk In-Lieu Fee?

Nashville is!  Recently, I heard that cities essentially rebuild every 50-60 years.  There is no doubt we are doing this now.  

We also did this after WWII when rapid development lead to sprawl...we expanded quickly past the 440 loop in a rolling and expansive manner.  At that time, the car was king so sidewalks were believed to be not needed & therefore not built.  

Now, the cyclic tide of desire has again shifted.  The car has lost its shine and the young (and more and more, the old - AARP is a big supporter of Complete Streets!) want to live in walkable dense cities.  As the years since the rapid growth after WWII passed, we kept kicking the can of sidewalk construction down the road year after year.  Now, we are left with the huge project of retrofitting sidewalks into well established neighborhoods.  

The complaint that sidewalks are very expensive is a big one making delay a notably poor decision.   I would argue that now is the time to capitalize on the rapid growth and desire to live in beautiful and fun Nashville by ridding ourselves of a little known loophole:  The In-Lieu Fee that allows developers to pay a very small fee rather than build the sidewalk required when creating density.  


'If you wonder just how much construction is going on in Nashville, here’s a dollar figure: The city is on pace for $3.7 billion in new homes, high rises, and hotels this year.

That’s based on one way to measure growth — through the building permits approved by the Metro Codes department. Just before the recession, they topped out at $1.8 billion in value.

Last year was 33 percent above that.

And Codes is working this year on $3.7 billion in projects — another 50 percent jump in just one year, Codes Director Terry Cobb said in his recent budget hearing', per a report by Tony Gonzalez for NPR this morning entitled Nashville Keeps Obliterating Records for Construction Projects (link below).


Regrettably, the Sidewalk In-Lieu Fee charges 8% of the cost of sidewalk production.  So, you can pay and install a sidewalk (100% of cost plus the work entailed) or pay 8%.  Is crystal clear that it is cheaper and easier to pay the Fee rather than build the sidewalk.

A shameful fact is that the fee has been around for 15 years and raised just under 1 million dollars (or the equivalent of 1 mile of sidewalk).  We are literally subsidizing the redevelopment of Nashville to NOT include sidewalks.  

We have made that mistake once and we are now, inexplicably, doing it again.  Doing it at a time when walkable cities are 'the thing' and the rate of outside development is unprecedented...  


On the flip side, every 6th city in the world is shrinking ( see link below).   Nashville does NOT have this problem.  

A generous gift to the city, by the development community, would be to put in the sidewalk and refuse to pay the Sidewalk In-Lieu Fee.  If we can rally, as citizens, to ask developers for this...I think we could make quick progress.  Better yet, if Mayor Barry would create an executive order to eliminate the Sidewalk In-Lieu Fee - that would allow for the rapid knitting together of the many, sometimes huge, gaps in our sidewalk infrastructure.  


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