Peachtree City eliminates moratorium on apartment rezonings

15
1746
Jon Rorie, city manager of Peachtree City. File photo.
Jon Rorie, city manager of Peachtree City. File photo.

Procedural move recognizes ban never really prohibited anything, since it was always lifted when requested — 

For the first time since the mid-1990s, Peachtree City has no moratorium on rezoning for apartments and other multi-family dwelling developments.

After a nearly 2-hour discussion last week, the City Council voted 5-to-0 against renewing that barrier to bringing a multi-family rezoning petition before the body.

But the discussion revealed another concern: Every one of the city’s widely used residential zones — GR for General Residential — already contains an express right to build multi-family units with no further rezoning needed. (See the 2019 city zoning maps nearby.)

“No one from staff is advocating that we eliminate the moratorium so that we can have more apartments,” City Manager Jon Rorie told the council at the Nov. 21 meeting.

The problem with the paper ban was that it involved prohibiting even a hearing on the merits of the issue, a constitutionally shaky position for the city to defend.

“The issue at hand is the validity of the moratorium,” Rorie said, explaining that after 20 years of the moratorium it is no longer legally defensible from a constitutional standpoint.

Rorie pointed out that in the past several years, the ban was lifted in every case to allow an applicant to present its case for denser residential rezoning, and in every case the council ultimately voted against the rezoning during a regular hearing.

What will happen now is that a developer can approach the city with a multi-family rezoning request just like any other rezoning request and receive a full hearing.

Rorie said why take the chance of losing a lawsuit against the moratorium on constitutional grounds when the city could more easily defend its ultimate rezoning decision under the city’s more expansive legislative powers of rezoning.

After voting for eliminating the moratorium, the council discussed the possibilities of builders taking advantage of the already existing right to build new apartments in redeveloped GR zones that are not developed up to the limit of dwelling units per acre, including many that now hold only detached single family housing.

STORY CONTINUES AFTER GRAPHIC

<b>City Council slide showing definition of GR zoning district. Graphic/Peachtree City.</b>
City Council slide showing definition of GR zoning district. Graphic/Peachtree City.

“[Developers] could buy land already zoned GR and build what they want up to 25 units per acre,” said Councilman Kevin Madden. “We need to amend the zoning ordinance to [keep] what is currently on the land.”

<b>Peachtree City Councilman Kevin Madden. File photo.</b>
Peachtree City Councilman Kevin Madden. File photo.

Speculation continued about how it might be financially viable for an investor to buy up some single family detached homes on land zoned GR, tear them down, and replace them with 10 to 25 units per acre in new apartments, all without needing a rezoning hearing or council permission.

Planning and Development Director Robin Cailloux told the council that the city has only one undeveloped parcel of land zoned GR. That 10-acre parcel lies behind Peachtree City Elementary School off Wisdom Road.

Senior Planner Robin Cailloux speaking to the Peachtree City Council.
Planning and Development Director Robin Cailloux speaking to the Peachtree City Council. File photo.

Rorie asked the council for some guidance on what ordinance changes the council wanted. He may get direction for that during a council workshop scheduled for four hours at City Hall, 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 3.

The accompanying current Peachtree City zoning map shows the northern and southern halves of the city, roughly bisected from left to right by the four lanes of Ga. Highway 54. The General Residential zones are in brown. The number following the GR — as in GR-10 — denotes the maximum number of dwelling units allowed per acre. The GR zone, without a number, allows up to 25 units per acre. Generally speaking the northern part of the city above Hwy. 54 has more acres contained within GR zones than the southern sector.

<b>Peachtree City official 2019 zoning map, north part of city shown.</b>
Peachtree City official 2019 zoning map, north part of city shown.
<b>Official Peachtree City zoning map, south half of city shown. Graphic/Peachtree City.</b>
Official Peachtree City zoning map, south half of city shown. Graphic/Peachtree City.

15 COMMENTS

  1. When I was councilman we had developers submitting all kinds of weird proposals that are ordinances did not block.

    There was also precedent-setting exemptions, etc., And gave the developers a workaround to get what they wanted.

    I worked with staff to present dozens of ordinance revisions to fix these issues.

    Council has opened the door for developers to submit proposals for changes can be developed.

    Remember, you cannot retro fix a problem.

  2. I don’t think the “speculation” about tearing down part of a subdivision and replacing it with apartments makes sense. A builder would have to obtain a permit to do that and even without the formality of a rezoning hearing he would have to submit a site plan of the new development. If that was outside the existing zoning or land use plan, the city could turn it down for that reason alone.

    Of course that assumes that we do not have a city council that supports something silly like the Great Wolf project. But even then there would be a public meeting (perhaps not a public hearing) during which the site plan would be debated, discussed and approved or not based upon its merits. Currently that power is with Planning Commission only, so the may need some rethinking.

    This just means we as voters need to turn out and have to elect or appoint smart people who respect the land use plan and we all need to pay attention and hold them accountable for their decision-making. The voter turn out and paying attention part has been a problem in the past, but maybe we will get better as the next generation takes over.