The Look in Brief

Study: state should not restrict local government authority over development

By: - July 22, 2022 7:00 am
Tennessee State Capitol. (Photo: John Partipilo)

Tennessee State Capitol. (Photo: John Partipilo)

In Tennessee local governments have long required developers to dedicate portions of their land for public use — to widen roads or add sidewalks, for example — often over the developers’ objections.

Last year, Sen. Paul Bailey, R-Sparta, and Rep. Ryan Williams, D-Cookeville, introduced a bill to try and limit local government’s authority over such developments.

Bill sponsor Sen. Paul Bailey, R-Sparta, says he's seen a recent rise in the population of homeless individuals in his community. (Photo: Tennessee General Assembly)
Sen. Paul Bailey, R-Sparta, (Photo: Tennessee General Assembly)

But a 65-page study issued  by the Tennessee Advisory Committee on Intergovernmental Relations is recommending against the measure —which would have halted a longstanding practice of local governments in Tennessee requiring property owners to dedicate land for public use in exchange for approval of their projects.

The report noted that courts have found so-called “dedications” of private land for public use are a constitutional way for governments to regulate land when new developments add to a community’s infrastructure needs and incur other public costs.

Disputes over the extent of local government’s authority in development have multiplied in rapidly growing areas in Tennessee. The bill proposed by Bailey and Williams is backed by development interests seeking less burdensome restrictions.

The TACIR study came at the request of the House Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, and Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, after continuing debate of the measure.

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Anita Wadhwani
Anita Wadhwani

Anita Wadhwani is a senior reporter for the Tennessee Lookout. The Tennessee AP Broadcasters and Media (TAPME) named her Journalist of the Year in 2019 as well as giving her the Malcolm Law Award for Investigative Journalism. Wadhwani is formerly an investigative reporter with The Tennessean who focused on the impact of public policies on the people and places across Tennessee. She is a graduate of Columbia University in New York and the University of California at Berkeley School of Journalism. Wadhwani lives in Nashville with her partner and two children.

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