july 13 roswell council henry

Roswell Mayor Lori Henry wears a facemask while speaking at the July 13 City Council meeting, the first held at City Hall since government offices were closed to the public in March.

ROSWELL, Ga. — Developers looking to add multi-family units in Roswell now face additional hurdles.

The City Council voted to tighten restrictions on multi-family housing July 13 by adopting nearly a dozen amendments to the city’s Unified Development Code. Many of the amendments focused on multi-family units and requirements.

The July 13 City Council meeting was the first in-person session the city has held since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Georgia in mid-March. The city had been conducting business through online meeting apps. In preparation for the in-person meeting, the city installed barriers between council members and staff and enforced a facemask requirement policy.

The hours-long discussion on multi-family and affordable housing weaved through nearly all of the amendments. It began with an amendment to remove stacked flat and walk-up flat building types from the commercial mixed use, commercial corridor and commercial heavy zoning districts located within the Holcomb Bridge Road/Ga. 400 character area.

Councilman Mike Palermo said that prior to the meeting, he had received several emails voicing concerns that the amendments would make housing more unaffordable.

“This, nor any other text amendment, is saying that apartments will no longer be a choice for developers,” Palermo said. “That’s not what this is saying. What this came about from is a strong desire to build destinations and having a zoning code that encourages and creates opportunities for more walkability.”

Councilman Matt Judy, however, said he couldn’t disagree more. He said the amendment takes away opportunities for developers to provide the right type of housing in areas where it is needed.

“What we’re doing with this is taking away an opportunity,” he said.

Judy added that he would be more in favor of a comprehensive, diagnostic review of the UDC.

The amendment was ultimately passed with the exclusion of the northwest quadrant between Warsaw Road and Ga. 400. It came to a split 3-3 vote, with council members Judy, Matthew Tyser and Marie Willsey opposed. Mayor Lori Henry broke the tie in favor of the amendment, stating that zoning codes are fluid documents with amendments constantly being made.

One public commenter, Sandra Sidhom, criticized several of the amendments, saying that while they are well intentioned, the overall effect would be harmful for people of color and lower-income residents.

“It feels like with these amendments that we’ve romanticized the idea without really analyzing the data behind the actual impact it has on income inequality,” she said.

Other amendments approved at the meeting include amendments to:

  • Allow applications for multi-family units only as a conditional use where multi-family currently exists or in select commercial corridors
  • Require properties that contain multi-family units to have multi-use trails
  • Require developments in the commercial mixed-use district to have over 51 percent of the square footage devoted to commercial/retail.

Julia Grochowski is a Reporter with Appen Media Group and covers Roswell.

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