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Thursday, December 27, 2018

Variance Requested: To build sidewalk to what exists OR to build to what is ideal?

Unfortunately, there are many variance requests to not build the recommended sidewalk AND also to not pay the in-lieu fee.  This happens ALL.THE.TIME.  And, they are not infrequently granted by our Board of Zoning (use link, scroll down, look for Related Documents, Results). 

These are frequently requested by developers.  To that, I typically say, ‘Oh, please’!   If a developer’s margins are so slim they cannot afford to build the sidewalk, he/she is the wrong business. 

This variance request below, for the corner of Richland and Bowling, is interesting & a bit different.  They are essentially asking to tear out the current sidewalk BUT replace it with what is already there on the remainder of the block. 

This may seem trivial but it highlights a very important question:  does Nashville keep building sidewalks as they exist (same foot print, not ideal) OR do we build a new sidewalk to the ideal proportions for pedestrians?

Ideal proportions based on road type


Welch College with view of corner and sidewalk in question

The big question is when to we start to build to the ideal specifications?

I wrote to the BZA and asked for the specifics.  The request is available on the BZA tracker, too.  

The sidewalk is very wide - 7'6" with no curb at this location.  The prior owners of the property was Welch College who used this site as a bus stop.  The existing sidewalk is across 5 properties & the developers are requesting to tear it out and replace it with some changes BUT NOT to current recommended standards. 

The importance of this is once a sidewalk foot print is in place, it is VERY DIFFICULT to change.  This COULD be the FIRST STEP to IMPROVING the sidewalk design to known best practices for pedestrians (ie a grass buffer, where shade trees can be planted, and allow pedestrians to be away from the roadway - much safer and more pleasant design). 

This is also a corner lot and so could change the dimensions for 2 important roads, both Richland and Bowling.

So, if this is approved, expect this arrangement to be in place forever essentially. If this is denied, then the sidewalk network starts to move towards the ideal. 
I'll try to summarize the variance request:

- the properties have an existing sidewalk on the Richland side and the Bowling side that do NOT meet current requirements:  they are not the proper width, do not have the grass strip and do not have curbing.
- the Richland side:  supposed to have a 4' grass strip buffer and a 5' sidewalk, with a 6" curb.  Currently, it has no curb and 7' 6' sidewalk without grass strip.  This does match the rest of the street.  BUT since this is 5 properties long, if a grass strip does not get started here - it probably will never be implemented
- the Bowling side:  supposed to have 4' grass strip buffer and 5' sidewalk with 6" curb.  Currently has 7' 6" sidewalk only.  They would like to match the remainder of Bowling despite it not being the recommended dimensions.  They want to put in a 2'6" grass strip buffer and 5' sidewalk with curb.

The green strip buffer, of the proper dimension for the road, is a huge benefit in providing comfort, safety and shade.  I would argue that these properties should be the START of BETTER PEDESTRIAN INFRASTRUCUTRE rather than a continuation of what is. 

If you have an opinion PLEASE write a quick email to:


I have emailed the builder, Mike Ford Builders of Franklin, and feel it is important to note that they have many projects in the neighborhood: 

If you have any questions regarding Richland Hall, lots 6, 7, 15, 17 or 11, please contact David West at or at (615) 815-4486.


If you have any questions regarding Richland Hall, lots 12, 13, 14, 16, or 105-108, please contact Justin Hill at or at (615) 290-6253.


So, this does, again draw into question why a large developer would need a variance...

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