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Who Needs A Grading Permit

A Grading Permit is issued by the Metro Water Services (MWS) Stormwater Division for land disturbing activities within Metro Nashville/Davidson County. Grading is defined as any operation or occurrence by which the existing site elevations are changed; or where any ground cover, natural or man- made, is removed; or any watercourse or body of water, either natural or man- made, is relocated on any site, thereby creating an unprotected area. This includes stripping, cutting, filling, stockpiling, or any combination thereof, and shall apply to the land in its cut or filled condition.

The following information is distilled from Volume 1 of the Stormwater Management Manual (SWMM), which is the governing Metro regulation. Grading Permits are NOT required for the following activities:

  • Fill material contains only inert soil, rock, concrete without rebar and no more than 24 inches in length, and/or brick rubble.
  • Fill is not in the 100-year floodplain and is less than five (5) feet in vertical depth at its deepest point as measured from the natural ground.
  • Does not result in a total quantity of more than 100 cubic yards of material being removed from, deposited on, or disturbed on any lot, parcel, or subdivision thereof.
  • Does not impair existing surface stormwater management systems, constitute a potential
    erosion hazard, or act as a source of sedimentation to any adjacent land or watercourse.
  • Has no fill placed on a surface having a slope steeper than five (5) feet horizontal to one
    (1) foot vertical (steeper slopes can be allowed if justified by calculations for appropriate stabilization measures).
  • Has no final slopes steeper than one (1) foot vertical to three (3) feet horizontal (steeper
    slopes can be allowed if justified by calculations for appropriate stabilization measures).
  • Has temporary or permanent soil stabilization measures applied to denuded areas within 15 days of disturbance.
  • Does not contain hazardous substances.
  • Is not partially or totally in a watershed with outlet to a sinkhole or drainage well.
  • Does not result in the exposure or disturbance of more than 10,000 square feet of land.

The following activities are exempt* from obtaining a grading permit (unless occurring in a designated floodplain):

  • Grading as a maintenance measure, or for landscaping on existing developed lots or parcels, provided all of the following criteria are met:
    • The aggregate area affected or stripped at any one time does not exceed 10,000 square feet, and is not within a natural drainage way (e.g., designated flood plain). 
    • The grade change does not exceed eighteen (18) inches at any point and does not alter the direction of the drainage flow path. 
    • Has temporary or permanent soil stabilization measures applied to denuded areas with in 15 days of disturbance. 
    • The grading does not involve a quantity of material in excess of 100 cubic yards.
  • Finish grading or excavation below finished grade for the following structures: 
    • Basements and footings of a single family or duplex residential structure.
    • Retaining walls. 
    • Swimming pools. 
    • Human or animal cemeteries. 
  • Accessory structures related to single family residences or duplex structures authorized by a valid building permit, provided the disturbed material or fill is handled in such a manner as to conform to the approved erosion control plan for the area or, where no such erosion control plan is in effect, that such work is done in a manner which presents no significant erosion hazard.
  • A structure within a major subdivision or a PUD, which has an approved grading, drainage, and erosion control plan
  • Accepted agricultural land management practices (such as plowing and cultivation)
  • Nursery operations such as the removal or transplanting of cultivated sod and trees
  • Tree cutting at or above existing ground level (with tree removal permit)
  • Logging operations leaving the stump, ground cover, and root mat intact (with tree removal permit)
  • Installation of public utilities such as sewer, electric, gas, or telephone lines by a public utility or its agent.

*Activities exempt from obtaining a grading permit must comply with all stormwater regulations including erosion and sediment control guidelines. Metro can revoke any of the aforementioned exemptions if an activity violates these provisions. Additional details can be found in Volume 1 Sections 3.3 and 3.4 of the SWMM.

To apply for a grading permit, please fill out and submit:

Submit these items to:

JoAnn Brown
Metro Water Services
Stormwater Development Review
800 2nd Ave S
P.O. Box 196300
Nashville, TN 37219-6300

Additional requirements for Grading, Drainage, and Erosion Control plans are described in Vol. 1 Sec. 4.2 of the SWMM. To ensure timely review, these requirements should be included in the application package along with a Tennessee General Storm Water Permit Certification (Vol. 1 Appendix A - 5 of the SWMM).

Once all information is submitted and approved. A pre-construction meeting will be scheduled. These meetings are held every 20 minutes at Metro Water Services 1607 County Hospital Road. The meeting will cover the project erosion prevention, sediment control, grading procedures, Metro codes, and other related issues. The certified EPSC professional (TDEC Level I) who will represent the project and perform the routine site inspections must attend the meeting. The project engineer and contractors should also attend. See the grading permit issuance flowchart for pre-construction process schematic.

The grading permit does not give property rights to the holder. Furthermore, this permit does not give the holder the right to discharge or disturb adjacent property without the consent of the adjacent owner and does not exempt holder from applicable state, federal and local laws.

For additional information on grading permit requirements or plan submittals, contact JoAnn Brown: via email at joann.brown@nashville.gov or (615) 862-4705.

For more information on the issuance of grading permits or the scheduling of pre-construction meetings, contact Bonnye Holt via email at bonnye.holt@nashville.gov or (615) 880-2420.