Academic Detached Dwelling Unit

The creation of a new student housing type, called academic detached dwelling units, was delayed by the Auburn City Council during its meeting this week.

Councilman Steven Dixon denied unanimous consent on the agenda item, which moves it to be considered at the council's first meeting in March, when it must be voted on or tabled to a specified date.

The vote delay came after the council was addressed by a handful of developers and investors, who either found problems with the new housing type or did not fully understand it.

The council suggested that meetings be held with interested parties prior to a vote so that education about academic detached dwelling units (ADDUs) can occur or tweaks can be made to the proposed ordinance amendment that would create the housing type. Councilman Tommy Dawson said that he would not vote for the ordinance as it was presented at Tuesday's meeting, and Councilman Bob Parsons said he felt the council was "in no way ready" to make a decision on ADDUs.

"I'm not ready to move forward with this at all. I think we need to speak with the developers; I think we need to find common ground where we can all walk away and feel like we've been heard, we're taking care of the people who live here, and taking care of our economic prosperity at the same time," he said.

He also called for the council to step up and represent the African-American community living in northwest Auburn, where student housing has encroached on single-family neighborhoods through a new form of housing currently defined as single-family housing, though it typically contains five bedrooms and five baths and operates as student housing. The development of these homes on streets like Canton Avenue largely spurred the city to work toward defining and regulating this new type of housing as ADDUs.

Under the current proposed ordinance, ADDUs would be defined like private dormitories where unit configurations typically include a common space, private bedrooms, each with a dedicated bathroom, and no master bedroom or master bath. The bedrooms are also typically smaller in floor area than those found in single-family detached dwelling units. The ordinance would require 1.1 off-street parking spaces per bedroom.

The ordinance amendment would permit ADDUs in the city’s three Urban Neighborhood Districts — East, West and South. ADDUs would be a conditional use in Corridor Redevelopment Districts Urban and Suburban and in the Redevelopment District, and be subjected to review by the Planning Commission and City Council for a number of issues, including compatibility with the surrounding properties.

ADDUs would not be permitted in Neighborhood Redevelopment District, which covers areas that include Canton Avenue.

Developer Chris Birdsong addressed the council saying he does not think the definition for ADDUs is clear enough, and developer Nick Hayes said he feels the new regulation takes away property rights and should not be regulated citywide, but only in areas where these types of developments are a problem. An investor who has projects on Canton Avenue admitted to not understanding the ordinance.

Planning Director Forrest Cotten said the ordinance is almost identical to how the city regulates private dormitories and that he feels the issue is being made to seem overly complicated.

"This is no different than the private dormitory regulations that were adopted three years ago next month," he said. "Those regulations have been implemented seamlessly. There have been no difficulties. The methodology that's employed, the criteria that we use, things we look at are exactly the same, and there has not been any problems in three years with the private dorms. The only difference is these are single units on single lots of record; private dorms are multiple units typically on a single lot of record. I'm really not oversimplifying this."

Councilwoman Connie Fitch Taylor said that while it may be too late to save Canton Avenue, it's not too late to prevent these types of student-housing developments from encroaching on other family neighborhoods. Taylor lives on Williams Street, next to Canton, and said she is in danger of being pushed out of her neighborhood.

"It could have been saved if somebody had came in and maybe built some houses for families. I mean, it's a family neighborhood, well, it was," she said. "It's too late. It's too late, but is it good that it continues?

"If we keep being pushed out the neighborhood, then I'm going to have to sell, and whatever gentleman relocated people to somewhere else, I hope y'all are able to relocate me."

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