Ordinance Creates Sideways Sidewalks

Posted at 8:17 PM, May 31, 2018

One of Nashville's biggest growth issues has been problems with sidewalks in neighborhoods. In some neighborhoods, there are no sidewalks, while in others, there are mismatched sidewalks.

A new ordinance is aimed at improving Nashville sidewalks as the city continues to develop.

The ordinance was passed through Metro Council in 2017 requiring sidewalks to be built to certain specifications on certain streets if there are new homes built or if there are major improvements to the property.

That ordinance has caused some people to question how the ordinance works after some sidewalks have been built that mismatch the old surrounding sidewalks, and other sidewalks are built up onto properties that don't have sidewalks at all.

The Metro Board of Zoning Appeals said nearly half of their appeals have been made for sidewalk exceptions since July 2017.

One developer along Cahal Avenue in East Nashville was required to build a six-foot grass strip for safety and utilities in front of a six-foot wide sidewalk in front of a new home, even though it didn't match up to the rest of the street.

“There was a sidewalk that did exist and sort of looked like what you see on either side of this, but all of that had to get demoed, and then as part of the ordinance, you have to make sure that any new right-of-way improvements that you’re doing ties in to what’s on either side of the property," Ben Azzi of ZMX Inc said.

The idea is when enough properties get rebuilt or renovated, it will improve the sidewalks along the streets included in the ordinance.

"We have, as a city, elevated our sidewalk standards," said Metro Council Member Angie Henderson.

She added that many streets in Nashville show the need for the ordinance, which targets heavily-traveled streets. 

"It's not just saying sidewalks everywhere, and it's not sidewalks to nowhere, it's saying: These are the areas where we have identified through planning and community process and through design that sidewalks are needed," Henderson said.

The ordinance went into effect on July 1, 2017, and when the ordinance hits one year of activation, council plans to evaluate how it's been working by looking at appeals through the Metro Board of Zoning Appeals, by talking to stakeholders such as home builders and developers, and other interested parties.

Ideally, with Nashville's constant development, in the future, many sidewalks will be brand new, connected, and much safer than they were before.

Builders can request an exception to the ordinance or pay an in-lieu fee, with the money going back to Public Works, designated into pedestrian benefit zones.