District 4 Councilman John Riggs has called for a moratorium blocking construction of new apartment complexes in Statesboro.
“I would like for you to think about it for a few days. I would like to hear what our attorney has to say,” he told the city’s other elected officials Tuesday during the 9 a.m. council meeting.
“This is due to us having too many apartments and not enough students,” Riggs said.
No formal action was taken on his request, but City Manager Charles Penny said staff members will prepare to discuss it further with the mayor and council during an open, public “work session” at 4 p.m. Oct. 15 in Joe Brannen Hall.
“Just remember my goal is to keep the apartment complexes that we have now full, keep their rents high, but not too high,” Riggs added. “Every new apartment that we build, it makes an older apartment seem obsolete, or they drop the rent on it and possibly sometimes they don’t do background checks.”
District 1 Councilman Phil Boyum said that some problems attributed to “apartment complexes” are not actually occurring in direct-rental apartments but in condominium complexes, which are divided among multiple owners.
“I know that the homeowners associations of those condo developments have been very unable to control their own environments, and so perhaps piggybacking on what John is asking for maybe also be looking into how we can strengthen those homeowners associations,” Boyum said from the council dais.
He said he has a couple of such condo developments in his district and referred to others “over on Lanier (Drive) just outside the bypass” and “right by the stadium.”
If enacted, Riggs’ proposal would overlap another Statesboro development moratorium already in effect.
A six-month, Oct. 1-March 31, moratorium now blocks processing or approval of zoning variances that would allow group homes, such as those for people in addiction recovery, to occupy houses in single-family residential zones. When approved 4-0 by the council on Sept. 3, it came with instructions for city staff to develop regulations for group homes.
Interviewed after Tuesday’s meeting, Riggs indicated that he wants new regulations on apartment complexes too. But first he wants to halt “anything that is going to lower the values or the rents" in other complexes, because that “causes people that you don’t want to live there, bad people moving in,” he said.
Recent violent crimes in residential complexes near the Georgia Southern University campus motivated him to request the moratorium, he said.
Dexter Dunbar, 27, from Sylvania died after being shot at Stadium Walk Apartments the night of Sept.14-15, and Statesboro police subsequently charged two other Sylvania men, Brendyn Laroy Carter, 22, and Thomas Israel Cooper, 20, with Dunbar’s murder.
That killing occurred a few hours after two men survived gunshot wounds in an apparently unrelated incident that night in the Cambridge at Southern-The Pines complex. The two complexes are next to each other in the Lanier Drive area.
“It’s a safety thing for me. It’s a crime thing, and we have so many apartment complexes with such good staff at these places that they’re doing their absolute best to put the best renters in these places, and they just can’t compete when you’ve got a new place opening up,” Riggs said.
He hopes to work with city planning and zoning staff, he said, to ensure that off-campus student apartments remain student apartments and do not become housing for a mix of students, families and other renters.
However, a moratorium in itself could only block new complexes from being developed and would not change older complexes.
Next ‘work session’
The work session where Penny said the moratorium will be discussed will be held in Joe Brannen Hall, a ground-floor meeting space in 58 East Main St., a separate, city-owned building next door to City Hall.
Penny, city manager since July 1, has been encouraging the council to hold these 4 p.m. work sessions before the second regular meeting of each month is held at 5:30 p.m. the same day, which is the third Tuesday. After meeting first in the Joe Brannen Hall, officials go to City Hall and upstairs to the council chambers for the regular meeting.
“Work session” meetings, whether or not City Council votes on anything, are also public meetings, subject to the Georgia Open Meetings Act, just as the regular meetings are.
Other issues which will be presented to council during the 4 p.m. Oct. 15 work session include new special events alcohol permit rules, the proposed blight tax and possibly also the importance of the 2020 U.S. census, Penny said.
During Tuesday’s meeting, the council unanimously approved a revision of alcoholic beverage license types to take effect Jan. 1. Special six-month licenses had been issued effective July 1 to allow time for the revision and to reset the renewal dates to Jan. 1 going forward.
However, the new schedule of fees by license type, necessary to put the revision into full effect, was not on Tuesday’s agenda. City Attorney Cain Smith said the fee schedule should be ready for the Oct. 15 regular meeting.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.