Apartment rezonings to be halted for year

Columbia County commissioners approved Tuesday a yearlong moratorium on apartment rezonings.

The resolution adopted by the commission said that officials want to review public concerns over multifamily housing and examine ordinances governing the zoning for such housing.

"The board has received expressions of concern from various elected officials and citizens concerning the substantial increase in multi-family housing in the county and feels that it needs to review and study the situation in order to protect the best interests of Columbia County," according to the resolution.

The county no longer will accept applications to rezone property for townhouses; apartments; planned unit developments that include apartments; or planned development districts that include apartments, condominiums or townhouses.

Commission Chairman Ron Cross requested the moratorium last month after debate over site-plan revisions for Marshall Square. Developers of the 47-acre property on Evans Town Center Boulevard had proposed an apartment density far greater than the 14 units per acre allowed in other zonings.

Though developers were requesting 288 apartment units, commissioners limited them to 189. The developers have filed a $57.5 million lawsuit against Columbia County over the commission's decision.

Mr. Cross said the debate highlighted the need for greater clarity in the law.

According to the resolution, there were only 1,430 apartment units in Columbia County from 1971 to 2007.

Currently, 602 apartment units are under construction. Another 1,500 apartments can be built in the county on land already zoned for that use.

Reach Donnie Fetter at (706) 868-1222, ext. 115, or donnie.fetter@augustachronicle.com.