Smyrna plans to extend townhouse moratorium for second time

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March 4 – On Monday, Smyrna City Council is due to vote on extending the city’s moratorium on new townhouses for six months.

What was originally supposed to be six months could soon become 18 months. The moratorium was first put in place in March 2021 for six months, then extended by the council last fall until March 16 this year. If another extension is approved on Monday, the moratorium will expire on September 15.

Community Development Director Rusty Martin told council members during a Thursday evening business session that his department needed more time to work out proposed changes to the city’s zoning ordinances. Staff had other priorities, he said, such as developing new authorization software and drafting legislation to regulate short-term rentals such as Airbnb and VRBO.

“We’ve done a lot of research. There’s no consistent prescription that’s been used nationally or even locally,” Martin said of the townhouse issue. “So it took a lot of research to try to find these different elements to include.”

Staff expect to have a new zoning ordinance ready for council’s review by July, Martin said.

The city is looking to establish new design standards for the construction of new townhouses, as well as creating a new zoning category for them.

Townhouses are currently zoned as single family homes. Residents complained to the city that single-family homes were being torn down and replaced with townhouses, and said the townhouses needed more development and architectural standards.

During the business session, Mayor Derek Norton asked the other members of council if they opposed the extension and received no response. Former City Councilman Austin Wagner voted against the original moratorium and first extension, saying tougher standards would drive up construction costs at a time when the city needs more housing, but Wagner has since resigned.

In other business, the council will consider approving the purchase of a new Pierce aerial fire truck with a 110-foot retractable ladder for $1.18 million. The purchase would be funded by money received through the US Federal COVID-19 Bailout Act.

Council will also vote on approving a commercial building permit for the construction of a new 62-unit, four-story affordable seniors’ apartment building. The apartments are reserved for people aged 62 and over.

The complex, Wilshire Apartments, will be built at 685 Smyrna Hill Drive. Council approved a rezoning in 2019 to allow developer Prestwick Construction to build the $9.5 million project.

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