ROSWELL, Ga. — The Roswell City Council unanimously approved the second reading of a text amendment to the Unified Development Code May 9 that bans construction of new standalone apartments in Roswell.
The vote followed three hours of discussion, mostly from residents and community groups who spoke in opposition. In the end, City Councilman Mike Palermo moved to approve the text amendment, which received a second from Councilman Peter Vanstrom. It passed 5-0, with Councilman Marcelo Zapata absent.
The text amendment, dealing with Section 13.4.3 of the UDC titled “Who Can Submit an Application,” removes multi-family zoning districts and prevents developers from submitting rezoning requests for constructing new standalone apartments without non-residential uses such as retail. The first reading was approved April 11.
During public comment, residents reiterated as in past meetings they were worried the change would aggravate the housing shortage and disproportionately impact low-income residents and people of color, who largely make up the areas in Roswell west of Ga. 400, along Holcomb Bridge Road, east of Warsaw Road and Martin’s Landing.
As Roswell officials double down on their push to ban new standalone apartments, some worry it could aggravate the city's housing shortage and disproportionately impact low-income residents.
The City Council has had a 90-day moratorium on new conditional-use multi-family housing applications since March 28.
Joe Santoro, with the Council for Quality Growth, a non-profit trade organization of more than 300 companies including developers, contractors, attorneys and others in the building industry, asked the City Council to use the time remaining in the moratorium to table the text amendment and meet with local stakeholders.
“Postpone the vote,” Santoro said. “There’s a lot of discussion and good points on both sides, and I think we just need to come to the table, both with City Council, mayor, staff and, really, with the industry, and talk about some of these issues. … I think it’s important that we do not limit the housing options but continue to provide these diverse housing types.”
Resident Sally McKenzie, who runs a Facebook page called Citizens for Responsible Development, was one of only three residents who spoke in favor of the text amendment, saying it was necessary to protect the quality of life in Roswell.
“We live in a great, diverse community by the river,” McKenzie said. “It has so much to offer, and that’s what I hear over and over again. [The Oxbo Road realignment project] was not the defining reason why these people won. It was people, again, saying we want Roswell to be Roswell going forward. … It is struggling right now.”
McKenzie said she supports East Roswell having a balance of residential and business opportunities.
“Historic Roswell is thriving because it has such a draw,” McKenzie said. “It’s got all these unique, wonderful qualities. East Roswell doesn’t have that. East Roswell does not need more standalone apartments. … And the standalone apartments that we have built are not affordable housing.”
Mayor Kurt Wilson said the last time a Roswell City Council passed a standalone multifamily project from the ground up was in 2001 with the Walton Centennial project. He added that 2013 was also the last time the city had any notable redevelopment with the Roswell City Walk apartments. Both projects were executed two years after they passed.
“It’s interesting somehow that this has been turned into a much different discussion,” Wilson said. “If you just look at the data … you can see that currently in our city we have 40 apartment projects, which make up 9,218 units, and then you see that we have 24 condominium projects, which make up 1,599 units.”
Using the same data, Wilson said single-family housing makes up 64 percent of existing land in Roswell.
“This leadership, as duly elected by the people of Roswell, has been very clear about how it’s going to grow this city and in what format it’s going to grow this city,” Wilson said. “It has said with clarity that it will grow this city with mixed-use development, … but it has to be part of an intentional plan and it has to be part of something that the city has clarity about what it’s going to look like. That is not a knock on standalone multi-family.”
The City Council did not provide any updates throughout the discussion on the status of the racial impact assessment it began updating in 2020 to include a full-scale examination process that focuses on staving off racial inequalities.
City documents from 2020 show that zoning and land use regulations have historically been trouble spots where discriminatory practices flourished and that redlining is used as a tool to section off neighborhoods from certain ethnic groups.
The next City Council meeting is slated for May 23 at 6 p.m.