On November 15 Councilmember Angie Henderson introduced a bill, BL 2016-493, that could well be one of the most influential sidewalk bills in recent council history. This bill increases the requirement for when developers need to build sidewalks and would help reduce use of paying a fee in-lieu of, or rather than, building a sidewalk (the much maligned "In-Lieu Fee").
This bill has come out of a series of conversations around the Bike/Ped Master Plan update (it was one of our top 4 priorities) and ongoing discussions with Council, Metro Planning and Public Works. Since the majority of sidewalks in Nashville are built by private developers, not the city, it is essential that our sidewalk requirements reflect our city's desire to be a walkable and livable place.
While this bill is very complex, it would result in far more sidewalks being built across the city, and for this reason we strongly support it, and hope you will as well! Here's a quick summary of what it does.
If you love codes and policy, we strongly recommend you read the bill in its entirety here.
3 Big Things this Bill Does
1. Require some sidewalks for residential development.
- This bill closes a major loophole in our infill development requirements, by requiring single- and two-family infill development in the urban zoning overlay (UZO) to build sidewalks. And require sidewalks outside of the UZO on major and collector streets and near community centers (see here) to install sidewalk infrastructure. Currently single or two family developments aren't required to build sidewalks at all!
2. Expands the area that requires sidewalks for commercial and multi-family developments.
3. Reduces the number of instances where a commercial or multi-family residential development can pay a fee instead of building a sidewalks. In other words, require more sidewalks!
- ALL commercial or multi-family developments in the Urban Zoning Overlay, on a block with existing sidewalk, or along a major street will now be required to build a sidewalk.
Some other details that are especially exciting:
- This bill prohibits obstructions in sidewalk. For example, a utility pole.
- This bill requires that a developer that is paying a fee in-lieu of building a sidewalk must still dedicate right of way for future sidewalk development.
- Requires that if anyone seeks a variance, Metro Planning can recommend whether or not the variance is justified or if alternate design might be possible.
Some things we're still thinking about:
This is a complex bill and there will hopefully be a lot of discussion about whether or not this goes far enough (or too far).
- Should we require sidewalks up to 1/2 or 3/4 of a mile from a center (currently it's just 1/4 mile)?
- Should there be some sort of additional requirement around schools, parks or greenways?
- Should the amount of the in-lieu fee be set by Public Works? How do we ensure it actually covers the cost of building a sidewalk?
- Where does the in-lieu fee go? Currently they go to a neighborhood district, should it be required to be spent in the same neighborhood?
This bill will be heard by the Planning Commission on January 12 and at public hearing at Council on February 7. Contact your council member to let them know you support the bill! And consider joining us at both those dates to support expanding out sidewalk requirements. If you have specific questions there will also likely be a stakeholder meeting in December sometime to discuss the bill. So stay tuned for more details.
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