Regulation changes could end Gulf Shores multifamily development moratorium

By GUY BUSBY
Government Editor
guy@gulfcoastmedia.com
Posted 8/24/22

GULF SHORES — A six-month moratorium on accepting plan applications for multifamily and townhouse site plans could come to an end with new development regulations, city officials said.The Gulf …

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Regulation changes could end Gulf Shores multifamily development moratorium

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GULF SHORES — A six-month moratorium on accepting plan applications for multifamily and townhouse site plans could come to an end with new development regulations, city officials said.

The Gulf Shores City Council approved the moratorium Feb. 28. Lee Jones, director of planning and city development, said Aug. 15 that officials were worried about the effect of development on the city land-use plan.

"In 2017 and 2018, several townhouse and multifamily projects were approved for this site plan review process and in 2019, 2020 and 2021, those projects built out and just based on feedback from the community, feedback from planning commission and council, we knew that the developments that the zoning ordinance was yielding was not in sync with what was envisioned in the city's land-use plan," Jones said.

The proposed amendment would require new development to fit in with uses in surrounding areas, such as single-family housing.

"The proposal that I have for you today is focused on achieving the vision of the land-use plan and also mitigating impacts of entitled

developments today without taking away any of the rights as far as the permitted uses or the densities that are in place," Jones told council members at a work session.

Developers would also have to file plans, such as traffic impact studies, showing how their projects would be designed to reduce the impact on streets and utilities.

"What this does is it says you're entitled to whatever your zoning, as far as density, will permit, but you need to provide a development impact mitigation plan that shows how, if you do reach those entitlements, this is how you're going to offset the impacts of that development on the roadway system through a TIS as well as on the utility infrastructure, water, sewer, stormwater, impacts," Jones said.

The amendments would be more specific about the open space required in a development. Certain amounts of space would be required for each unit, such as patios, balconies and small yards, and other areas as shared open space, such as parks, playgrounds and greens.

Councilman Phillip Harris said previous regulations allowed almost any undeveloped area to be counted as open space.

"What a huge improvement to have usable, functional open space instead of allowing retention ditches to count in space that really can't be utilized whether it's active or passive," Harris said.

Harris, who also serves on the city planning commission, said some past developments have met Gulf Shores technical requirements, but were not appropriate for the area.

"As planning commission members, we see a lot of developments where our current ordinances really don't do that job that our land-use plan and our vision want it to do," Harris said. "So, we've approved projects that meet all the requirements and the developers have done the right thing. The landowners have done the right thing, but we may not be happy with the end product."

Mayor Robert Craft said some of those past developments are still causing traffic and utility problems.

"We've seen some unintended consequences from a transportation impact or infrastructure impact because we didn't have anything like this in place and some of those issues today, we're fighting to overcome and it's a challenge to do and this is the kind of thing that will prevent that in the future and will help us have a better understanding of impacts on all of the things that affect us all, all our utilities as well as our traffic infrastructure," Craft said.

At press time, the council was scheduled to vote on the amendments Monday, Aug. 22.

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