Student housing on Glenn Avenue

The Auburn City Council will vote on whether to implement a 90-day moratorium on purpose-built student housing, or private dormitory, developments in the city at its Dec. 17 meeting.

The moratorium was proposed by Mayor Ron Anders, who had requested the council discuss student housing at its Committee of the Whole meeting this week.

He said the moratorium will give city staff time to present to the council options on governing student housing in the future, and City Manager Jim Buston said he believes staff can offer viable options to be considered during that window.

"Staff has been working on a variety of options for some time now," Buston said. "What we have to do now is kind of put pen to paper and get that down in such a way that we can vet it — vet it legally and make sure we aren't violating any state, federal laws, as well as local laws."

He said staff would also be researching municipalities that have put some of the city's ideas into place to see how those ideas worked or did not work.

"We don't want to recommend something that someone else has found not to be something we want to do," Buston said.

Anders said that during the moratorium, he would like to see certain issues evaluated and discussed, including bedroom density, traffic volumes, pedestrian safety, construction materials and building code requirements, and incentives that could be created to encourage the redevelopment or removal of older multi-family housing projects.

He also wants to see the Danter Report — a study conducted by Danter & Associates to analyze student housing and determine its market potential — updated to reflect Auburn University's new enrollment policy, which will maintain undergraduate enrollment at about 25,000 students.

The Danter Report was last updated in 2018, and showed that the city could continue to absorb so many new student-housing beds annually as long as the university's enrollment continued to steadily increase.

"The Danter Report identified a purpose-built student-housing absorption rate of approximately 400 beds per year," Anders said. "Currently, new purpose-built student-housing beds permitted or under construction substantially exceeds the recommended annual absorption rates."

An inventory city staff took of student housing earlier this year showed the city has 36,508 student-housing beds (not including town homes, single-family homes and duplexes). The current Auburn University enrollment is 30,460.

If the council approves the moratorium at its Dec. 17 meeting, the 90-day window would likely not begin until some time in January, Buston said.

"I don't think it would go into effect probably until January ... We'll have to look from a legal perspective if there are any advertising constraints before we start it," he said. "Those projects that are already in the hopper would be grandfathered (in). We'd probably want to give a certain time that you have to get your projects in by "X" date, otherwise you fit into that 90-day moratorium window."

Also at its meeting this week, the council unanimously denied a conditional use for a private dormitory on the corner of Armstrong Street and Samford Avenue. The item had been tabled from the council's Nov. 5 meeting after the council requested more information about the project's design and footprint. The council received updated renderings and site plans just before the regular meeting on Tuesday night began.

The project had drawn early criticism from residents living on neighboring streets, who were concerned about traffic and the development's close proximity to a school. They also feared it would set a precedent of allowing student housing to encroach on an established, traditional neighborhood area.

Though the private dormitory use was denied, the developer could submit plans to build town homes, which would be permitted by right.

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