Woodstock puts moratorium on apartment developments
by Michelle Babcock
September 06, 2013 11:57 PM | 2494 views | 0 0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
WOODSTOCK — The city of Woodstock now has a moratorium on new apartments in force in parts of the city until the council passes an amendment they say will better maintain a balance of single-family and multi-family housing.

Following an executive session, the Woodstock City Council passed an emergency memorandum 5-0 Aug. 26 to limit permits for new apartment developments in the area near RidgeWalk Parkway. Councilman Randy Brewer was absent.

The moratorium is in effect until council passes a code amendment to ensure the council and public’s ability to review future apartment development requests, officials said, which could be in October.

Woodstock Community Development Director Jessica Guinn said the code amendment she and staff are putting together for the council’s review and adoption, “will help to ensure that an appropriate balance of single-family and multi-family housing products will be maintained within the city.”

“During the moratorium, staff will move forward with preparation of a code amendment for consideration by mayor and council, and no new land disturbance permits or building permits will be issued for apartments in the SmartCode areas, except as specified by the moratorium that was adopted,” Guinn said Tuesday. “The moratorium was approved through Feb. 26, 2014; however, mayor and council may lift the moratorium prior to that date.”

The SmartCode covers various areas along and near RidgeWalk Parkway, Guinn said Tuesday.

The SmartCode does not require apartment developments to go before the mayor and council, but the code amendment being prepared by Guinn and staff will allow the mayor and council to review each apartment permit request, and give residents the opportunity to support or oppose future multi-family developments, according to Guinn.

“Currently, apartments are a permitted use in the SmartCode area. This means that someone could submit plans for apartments in this area without requiring any zoning process or review of mayor and council, provided that plans meet the requirements of the SmartCode (no variances required),” Guinn said. “If we amend the code to make apartments a conditional use, that would mean that apartments within the SmartCode areas would require public notification and public hearing before the planning commission, followed by public hearing and a vote for approval or denial by mayor and council.”

At the meeting, Guinn said she and staff had already begun working on the code amendment, and it would be going to the planning and zoning commission in October, and should come to the city council “the second regular meeting of October.”

Guinn said that since one property developer had already approached the city about building apartments prior to the memorandum, with a concept plan showing about 250 apartment units to be built on about 20 acres, this development by the Prestwick Companies is exempted in the memorandum.

The apartment complex would be built on the west side of RidgeWalk Parkway, south of the Brookshire subdivision, according to the memorandum.

“No applications for permits or zoning have been submitted at this time, but since they have already met with us and shared a conceptual plan it was most appropriate to exclude that property, so long as any plans or applications that are submitted for that site are in compliance with the current code, requiring no variances,” Guinn said. “At this point, they only have a conceptual plan, so no official plans are in place for the site.”

At the council’s last meeting, Moon said as of Aug. 26 the city had “roughly 30 percent” multi-family housing, or apartments.

“And if you look at everything that’s possibly on the books that could be built, that number would be about 35 percent apartments,” City Manager Jeff Moon said at the meeting.

Moon said that there were three “entitlements on the books” for multi-family housing developments, which have not been built yet.

In 2000, the mayor and council approved a policy with the goal of having no more than 20 percent of the city’s housing comprised of apartment units, Guinn said.

“In light of this policy, aimed at maintaining an appropriate balance of single-family and multi-family housing, we want to ensure that mayor and council have the opportunity to review and consider each request for new apartments, most likely through a conditional use process,” Guinn said.

Adding a conditional use permit to the SmartCode will allow the mayor and council to review future apartment complex development requests before approval, and provide the opportunity for council to hear residents’ concerns.

“If the moratorium wasn’t passed, we would have moved forward with a text amendment as outlined above; however, there would be no mechanism in place to limit permit applications for new apartment developments in the SmartCode areas while that amendment was being prepared,” Guinn said.

Guinn said the moratorium will most likely be lifted sooner if the code amendment is prepared by staff and accepted by the mayor and council before Feb. 26, 2014.

“The moratorium allows staff the time necessary to prepare and present an amendment to this section of the code for consideration by mayor and council,” Guinn said.

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