Follow Us

Nashville's unusual sidewalk law unconstitutional, court rules

The case now returns to the district court to determine the appropriate remedy.

Published: May 10, 2023 11:02pm

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday determined that an unusual law that Nashville, Tenn., implemented to build or pay for sidewalks is unconstitutional.

The city law requires that those seeking building permits must pay to construct sidewalks on the property or pay the city a fee to avoid the obligation. Two property owners in the city brought a challenge to the law and were represented by the Southeastern Legal Foundation.

The Wednesday court ruling overturned that of the district court, which had upheld the law. The appeals court determined that the city could not use the permitting process to seize property that it may not normally seize by direct means, the SLF stated. The court determined that the law violated the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.

"Permits are not a license to steal. Every American property owner should celebrate this ruling because it protects them against cities holding their properties hostage," said SLF Director of Litigation Braden H. Boucek, who argued the case.

One of the property owners, Jim Knight, owns property that lacks a sidewalk. However, municipal authorities have determined that building one would cause a drainage issue and demanded he either pay a fee or build a modified sidewalk. He refused.

Meanwhile, the other owner, Jason Mayes, sought to build his home on a vacant lot next to his parents' home. However, the city demanded he build the sidewalk despite there being none on his side of street at all. The city instead forced him to pay an $8,800 fee to begin construction.

The case now returns to the district court to determine the appropriate remedy.

Ben Whedon is an editor and reporter for Just the News. Follow him on Twitter.

The Facts Inside Our Reporter's Notebook