Under the proposed 90-day moratorium, new academic detached dwelling unit developments, like the one pictured here under construction last spring along Canton Avenue, would not be allowed

Auburn residents will get their first chance to weigh in on the proposed moratorium on new student-housing developments when the Planning Commission meets next Thursday.

A public hearing will be part of the proceedings as the commission decides whether to recommend approval or denial of a 90-day moratorium on new student housing, a measure proposed by Auburn Mayor Ron Anders earlier in December.

The moratorium would target two uses in the city's zoning ordinance, private dormitories and academic detached dwelling units, halting new developments of those types for 90 days.

That would give city staff the time to explore and propose zoning and building code changes. 

Revisiting and changing the construction standards to prohibit wood-frame construction on the upper floors stacked on podium levels could stem the number of private dormitories coming into the city. 

"It would, or course, increase the expense of the project, which could in theory cause people to be a lot more deliberate about the decision-making in regards to continuing to put out this type of product on the market," said Planning Director Forrest Cotten. 

Changes to the zoning ordinance could also make a large impact. 

"We know that there’s some fairly low-hanging fruit in the zoning ordinance that we could look at if there’s a desire to put a damper on development," said Cotten, who noted the city could look at reducing the density allowance for Urban Neighborhood–West, which allows a density of up to 255 beds an acre. Urban Neighborhood–East, which also permits private dormitories by right, allows a density of 85 beds per acre. 

"On the west side, the number one thing I think you look at is the density allowance," said Cotten. "We went through a very purposeful process with the Downtown Master Plan in creating these new urban neighborhood (districts), and a deliberate decision was made to incentivize in the west side and to be a lot more cautious on the east side because of difference of the character of the areas. And we’ve pretty much gotten what we’ve asked for. The current allowance is triple over in the west than it is in the east, and that’s where we’re seeing all the development, by and large."

To address the proliferation of ADDUs, the city could make floor area ratio and impervious service ratio more restrictive in the zoning ordinance. 

"The ADDU is a tougher nut to crack because, again, we don’t address ADDUs in the same way from a density perspective," he said. "You restrict the FAR, you restrict the ISR, you start bringing down the size of the units, you start bringing down the beds. It’s a different way of coming at the same problem."

The Planning Commission will consider the moratorium ordinance at its meeting next Thursday at 5 p.m. in City Council Chambers on Ross Street. The City Council is set to consider it at its meeting on Feb. 18. Both meetings will have public hearings. 

The earliest the moratorium could go into effect is Feb. 27.  

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