Politics enters fray as Roswell pauses mixed-use residential 90 days

Roswell has put a temporary ban on applications for some multi-family developments, but not without showing some of its nasty politics. (File photo)
Roswell has put a temporary ban on applications for some multi-family developments, but not without showing some of its nasty politics. (File photo)

The city of Roswell will not accept applications for some multi-family developments during the next 90 days.

In a contentious split vote, the City Council on Monday approved the moratorium on residential developments unless the project is more than 75 percent non-residential.

Half of the council abstained, with those council members saying they didn’t understand what was being proposed, why it was happening now and if it was legal. The city attorney said moratoriums are allowable by law but rarely used.

The city will use the three months to tweak its unified development code, or UDC, which is the guiding land use document for this North Fulton city of nearly 100,000 residents.

This comes after a late-year election season that showcased sharp political disagreements over development. Some in Roswell feel dense residential housing like apartments congests roads and adds children into classrooms who might move away quickly. Others feel smart development is the only way to bring everyone into the growing area.

READ | Roswell leaders debate ways to fix downtown parking woes

The tipping point in the council's view on development came after the December runoff election victory by Christine Hall.

Hall voted for the moratorium, which was put forward by Councilman Mike Palermo. Palermo said the three-month pause gives them time to suggest UDC changes that will result in a better balance of the tax digest — which he feels too heavily leans on residential property taxes — and ensures proper growth in the city.

A resident during the public comment portion of Monday’s meeting said transient people live in apartments and bring more trash and add congestion, frustrating long-time residents. Others at the meeting donned T-shirts supporting apartment-dwellers.

Councilman Matt Judy and other council members who abstained said they were frustrated Palermo sent an email at 4:15 p.m. on Friday adding this to the agenda of the Monday meeting.

READ | Fulton elections: What the data shows about December's voter cancellations

“This is not transparent,” Judy said. “This is a big decision because in this city people will hear this is a moratorium. They won’t hear it’s a moratorium for 90 days.”

Mayor Lori Henry, who didn’t vote, said she feels the pause gives them an impetus to do something about development. “In order for us to see redevelopment of our existing apartments, we are going to have to offer density bonuses,” Henry said.

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In 2012, a Roswell couple saw an online listing for gold bars from Africa and attempted to purchase about 220 pounds. Seven years and about $500,000 later, the couple realized that the whole thing may have been too good to be true, since they still have not received their fortune.

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