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Roswell plans for ‘post COVID-19 world’, extends housing moratorium

The grounds of Roswell City Hall will be the site of “Music on Hill,” a series of free outdoor concerts beginning in September on the second Friday of the month. AJC FILE
The grounds of Roswell City Hall will be the site of “Music on Hill,” a series of free outdoor concerts beginning in September on the second Friday of the month. AJC FILE

The moratorium on new multi-family housing developments in Roswell has been extended to June 10. Some City Council members say it’s an opportunity to consider new priorities in a “post COVID-19 world.”

City Council unanimously approved the extension, Monday, during a teleconferenced meeting. The freeze includes applications for new apartments, duplexes, townhomes and condominiums unless they’re within a mixed-use project with more than 75% non-residential space.

In January, a divided City Council passed a 90-day moratorium that was set to expire April 26. Since that vote, city officials have been working to update the uniform development code (UDC), a required guideline for future development in the city.

In the last year, City Council members have had heated disagreements on Roswell redevelopment. Monday, however, they appeared to agree that the coronavirus and weeks of residents sheltering in place could change how and where people want to live.

Councilman Marcelo Zapata questioned whether existing apartments would remain viable. People might not want to live in apartments anymore, he said. “They might be worried about the virus, living in a small space [and] can’t enjoy walking in the front yard or back yard.”

Other Council members said this period of time presents an opportunity to start over and write a new UDC. They’re watching Alpharetta where the economic development director said he could foresee corporations leasing less commercial office space because more employees are working from home.

“When we come out of this we will be coming into a different world,” said Councilman Matt Judy. “Class A office buildings could be a thing of the past.”

Mixed-use developments and how people decide to live, work, play and shop will also change, added Councilwoman Marie Willsey.

A $5 million private project on Alpharetta Street in Roswell was halted by the coronavirus shelter-in-place order. Its plans include 100,000 square feet of office space, 40,000 square feet of retail space and 128 apartments.

“I think this is a chance to press pause and try to put together a community vision with market reality, and try to put forth a UDC that attracts the kind of business and reinvestment that the community wants,” said Willsey. “It’s an unprecedented chance to do that.”