COVINGTON — Expressing concern over the growing number of developers looking to build apartment complexes in Covington and a lack of restrictions on where they can build, the City Council approved a 90-day moratorium on applications for multifamily dwellings at its meeting Jan. 21.
The moratorium was put in place in order to give city staff time to propose zoning map amendments that will define where inside city limits multi-family housing will be allowed.
The temporary halt on applications went into effect immediately and will remain in effect until April 20.
This is the second moratorium on multi-family housing Covington has enacted in the last two years. In the spring of 2018 the council approved a 60-day moratorium in order to give planning staff time to develop standards for multifamily housing. Those standards were approved in June 2018 and the moratorium was lifted.
Since then the council has approved rezoning for three apartment complexes. Two senior living (affordable housing) complexes, one located on Covington Bypass and the other on Clark Street, will have a total of 320 units, and a high-end apartment complex approved for Covington Town Center will add another 350 units, for a total of 670 units.
Plus, the existing 250-unit Arbor Lakes Apartments at 431 Kirkland Road, just outside city limits, has been approved for a $23 million bond issue for rehabilitation.
Council member Susie Keck expressed concern for the effect that apartment renters and their vehicles could have on the city’s roads and infrastructure and suggested the moratorium was needed to give staff time to look at where in the city multifamily housing should and should not be allowed.
“What I would say is we need to look at where we’re allowing apartments,” said Keck during a work session prior to the meeting. “I think we have enough apartments right now with the three that are being built and Elevations (at Town Center). I don’t think we need more. There’s nothing worse than a bunch of (empty) apartments. Just watch the news.
“There is traffic, impact on schools and pressure on our infrastructure. The traffic on Highway 36 is horrendous. Right now as it stands, they could put apartments in right next to Magnolia Heights, and the road cannot take the traffic. There will either have to be more lanes or a roundabout or I don’t know what.
“The only purpose of the moratorium is to educate us as to where apartments could possibly come into Covington so that we can know if we have the infrastructure in place... We need to plan for the future.”
City Attorney Frank Turner Jr. said that would be a legitimate reason for a moratorium.
“Right now, under current zoning ordinances, multifamily is allowed in a lot more classifications than it was 20 years ago,” he said. “You may want to go back and look at where they are allowed and if they are allowed in too many places, and do we have too many rental units in the city. Those are legitimate purposes.”
Mayor Steve Horton noted that the city is not trying to discourage apartments from being built, but needs to decide the best places to put multifamily housing.
“The moratorium is not to say not to build apartments,” said Horton. “It’s to say we want to put them consistent with infrastructure and road congestion. Is there a better way to do what we’re doing today?
“We may end up doing nothing,” he added. “It just gives us the opportunity to look. We’re just slowing down and saying let’s look at it and if what we’re doing works for us and the community. It’s not an intent to stop someone from using their property; it’s to make sure that what we’re doing best serves our citizens and the community.”