An academic detached dwelling unit development under construction during the spring of 2019 along Canton Avenue

The Auburn City Council approved an amendment to the city's zoning ordinance that will prohibit new academic detached dwelling units in the Neighborhood Redevelopment District after a discussion on the issue turned contentious. 

The Council voted 6-3 to prohibit ADDUs in NRD, with Council members Jay Hovey, Brett Smith and Beth Witten voting against the measure. 

Council members made and passed a number of motions on the original agenda item, which would have lowered the allowable bed density in Urban Neighborhood–West and prohibited ADDUs in the Medium Density Residential District in addition to NRD. 

The Council voted to divide the question, separating the agenda item into two parts — the bed density issue and the ADDU consideration. The former was tabled until the Council's Nov. 3 meeting, at the behest of Auburn Mayor Ron Anders, to give the Council the opportunity to hold a work session on the issue and decide if lowering the bed density in UN-W to 170 beds per acre is sufficient. 

The Council then amended the question pertaining to ADDU regulations, striking MDRD from the measure, leaving ADDUs in that district as a conditional use. 

Local developer Nick Hayes, who owns property in the affected area, spoke against the Council changing the regulations for ADDUs again, citing its harm to property owners and impact on property values in the area. 

ADDUs, especially in NRD, have been a controversial subject over the past two years, as many Northwest Auburn residents have come out against the development type, saying students moving into the area en masse threatens the character of the traditional African-American neighborhood. 

The discussion of ADDUs turned contentious after Councilman Bob Parsons  said the Council was dismantling the work done by the Student Housing Task Force and risked being viewed by the public of engaging in political theater. 

"I think we run the risk of looking as though we are doing theater for our public rather than doing actual work, and I would caution this body to bear in mind that we are possibly muddying the waters of a very serious task force that the mayor himself initiated."

Multiple council members said they took offense to Parsons' suggestion that they may be engaging in political theater, saying that they took the deliberative process and their roles on the Council seriously, while also noting that the Student Housing Task Force determined that ADDUs were a preferable form of student-housing development in the city compared to private dormitories. In surveys taken of Auburn University students during the task force process, students indicated that they much preferred ADDUs to other housing types. 

"This is not theater; it's process, and this is the tools we are allowed to use within Robert's Rules of Order," said Witten.

Also at the meeting, the Council approved a conditional-use request for a general merchandise store to be located at 129 North College Street, where Quixotes used to reside. 

The general merchandise store would be roughly 19,200 square feet and front North College, according to meeting materials. 

Site plans also show a residential element to the project, which could include 44 studio units, 44 one-bedroom units, 22 two-bedroom units and two street-level walk-up units, as well as up to 134 parking spaces. 

The housing units will likely fall under the city's multiple unit development use instead of the private dormitory use, which is prohibited in the Urban Core district and currently the subject of a citywide moratorium, which is in effect through Dec. 23.

The redevelopment of that parcel, which stretches from North College to Wright Street and is adjacent to the municipal parking deck currently under construction, has been a priority the past two years. A previous project for the property, which would have brought a hotel and retail to downtown, fell through. 

"Auburn's Downtown Master Plan highlights the subject property as a location where new development would have a meaningful impact on downtown growth and designated it as a priority focal area," said staff comments. 

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