The Administrative Committee of the Tuscaloosa City Council voted Tuesday to advance Mayor Walt Maddox's request for an extended moratorium on multifamily housing and student apartments.

The first moratorium on such complexes was adopted in January 2019 but expired in May of this year.

Mayor Maddox then signed an executive order extending the moratorium, but said he was threatened personally with legal action by an out-of-state developer. He issued a public statement, pushing this vote onto the city council.

"I will not waver on my position that mega student apartments are bad for public safety, neighborhoods, infrastructure and our overall quality of life... Clearly, we need a comprehensive plan of action."

The council adopted a new moratorium on June 23 that went into effect June 29 and was set to expire in September, but Maddox is now suggesting the council extend it to the end of 2020.

The measure is meant to put a cap on housing developments consisting of 200 or more bedrooms with four or more beds per unit capacity.

This would allow the City enough time to finish a review of its code, housing data, service fees and multifamily definitions, as city leaders hope to mitigate overstuffing the housing market and instead refocus development on sites that will bring the city more revenue.

"The market isn't interested in balancing supply and demand," Maddox said. "It's about capturing existing demand to 'move it over there."

Brendon Moore, the Executive Director of the city's Office of Urban Development, and Director of Planning Ashley Crites, said extending the moratorium can allow the council to discuss the following:

  • Preventing Mixed-Use Ground-Level Commercial/Upper Level Residential Building Types
  • Renaming University Area Neighborhood to University Residential District
  • Defining Student-Oriented Development
  • Removing bonus height provisions from the University Area Network
  • Establishing a scaled density cap on residential housing
City of Tuscaloosa

All discussed plans that were approved are now pushed forward to the city's zoning commission to await a recommendation from that body. They are expected to do so before a final city council vote on August 18.

 

At the Tuesday night meeting, Maddox again brought up issues with public safety, citing a correlation between crime rates and older, more vacated student apartments.

With more and more mega-complexes popping up in and around Tuscaloosa, concerns about public safety and the upkeep of the older units are consistently arising.

Maddox and Crites also highlighted additional benefits of extending the moratorium, citing that existing mixed-use complexes tend to have their commercial ground floors serve internal residential needs. That limits sales tax revenue, which makes up 52 percent of the city's annual revenue.

The discussion will continue with the Planning and Zoning Commission before coming back before the City Council next month.

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