Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Student Housing Decision Expected Feb. 11; Council Action Could Kill Apartment Complex

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Student Housing Decision Expected Feb. 11; Council Action Could Kill Apartment Complex

Article excerpt

A lengthy debate among its members led the Tuscaloosa City Council on Tuesday to modify the implementation of a timetable for two zoning amendment changes that will affect future student housing.

And those changes now stand to affect a planned $36 million student housing complex on 13th Avenue.

State law requires municipalities to advertise any potential changes to its building and zoning codes for at least 30 days before a City Council can vote on and adopt them.

The council's actions Tuesday night removed any additional delays beyond this 30-day period in the enforcement of an amendment change that will eliminate apartment-only projects within the city's MX, or mixed-use, zones.

For the second amendment, it will be illegal for more than three unrelated people to share one living space in MX-5 zones following this 30-day provision.

A third amendment -- preventing developers from using provisions of the city's landscape ordinance to allow a reduction in off- street parking requirements for any residential project -- will go forward without any changes.

All three are scheduled for a public hearing and vote on Feb. 11.

Right now, the MX-5 zoning rules allow up to four unrelated people to live under the same roof, and the pending ordinance amendment will not affect any development currently within the city's approval pipeline as long as they meet certain requirements.

These requirements include the securing of land development and building permits within the 30-day advertisement period and the project itself being completed by Sept. 1, 2015.

City officials said an 18-month construction window is fair for developers seeking to be open in time for the following school year.

Currently, the only development now in jeopardy because of these ordinance changes is one by Trinitas Ventures LLC, a development company out of Lafayette, Ind., that is looking to construct an apartment-only complex of 677 bedrooms in configurations of one, two, three and four bedrooms on 13th Street just east of the Lofts at City Center.

The Lofts is the mixed-use complex currently underway on the former site of the Wood Square shopping center that will feature 1,226 bedrooms.

Last week, the City Council's Public Projects Committee approved a transitional provision within these amendments that would have given Trinitas until March 1 to obtain the land development and construction permits along with the Sept. 1, 2015, extension for completion and occupation.

Tuscaloosa attorney Bryan Winter, speaking on behalf of the developers and Tuscaloosa landowners seeking to sell the 6.5-acre tract for the project, asked the City Council during its premeeting on Tuesday to extend those deadlines for an additional two weeks on the permits and until Sept. 1, 2016, on the construction.

The reason, Winter said, was because the financing institutions behind the project wanted assurance that the development could go forward as planned should an unforeseen event or circumstance delay the work. …

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