Gallatin city leaders again expressed their opposition to new apartment developments last week but stopped short of pursuing a moratorium on new constructions.
Members of the Gallatin City Council received an update from the city’s planning department on Feb. 11 regarding the status of 5,708 total apartment units that have either been built, are under construction or have been approved across the city.
In order to pursue a moratorium, city leaders would need to do it in conjunction with a study, according to Mayor Paige Brown and City Attorney Susan High-McAuley. The moratorium would also need to apply to more than just multi-family developments in order to help protect the city from any potential lawsuits.
“You cannot put a moratorium on apartments,” Brown said during the meeting. “You put a moratorium on every development. That’s jobs, that’s houses, that’s commercial and retail and restaurants.
“What we’re hearing from (apartment developers) is that we’re kind of at capacity right now.”
Prior to 2010, there were 43 existing apartment complexes in Gallatin totaling 2,486 combined units, according to data provided by the city’s planning department.
Since that time, 10 new developments totaling 1,718 units have been completed. There are also two complexes currently under construction with 660 combined units along with plans for four others that have been approved with 592 units in all.
“We’re not just getting apartments,” City Planner Bill McCord said last week adding that approximately 500 to 600 new single-family homes are also being built in Gallatin each year. “We’re just getting lots of people. We are growing fast and we’ve managed that growth consistent with the comprehensive plan and our land development regulations.”
City leaders heard from four residents during the meeting who expressed concerns about additional apartment developments and how Gallatin’s rapid growth is impacting area infrastructure and schools.
“It’s too much too soon,” Long Hollow Pike resident Michelle Jouvence said. “Nobody is saying shut everything down (and) no more apartments, but I think that looking at what’s going on and if we’re ready for it is probably a good idea. If you can kind of hit the pause button and do a temporary moratorium, I think that’s kind of what people are asking for you to do for us.”
The cost of a feasibility study would likely be between $100,000 and $150,000, according to Brown who added that while it would lead to a six-month moratorium on building “nothing is coming anyway” regarding new multi-family developments.
City planner: Percentage of apartments ‘not way out of bounds’
Shortly after being hired in the fall of 2013, McCord began researching how much of all of the available housing units in Gallatin were multi-family. He found that it was approximately 20 percent.
By comparison, Hendersonville was 20.1 percent multi-family at the time, while Lebanon was 13.7 percent, Columbia was 15.1 percent, Franklin was 26.6 percent, Murfreesboro was 27.9 percent and Nashville was 29.1 percent.
In the fall of 2018, multi-family housing was only projected to account for approximately 23 percent of all homes in Gallatin, according to the most recent data provided by the city.
“We’re not way out of bounds from anywhere in our area communities,” McCord added.
As for the impact on schools, McCord cited a Germantown, Tenn. study from May 2019 that found apartments per unit have a “significantly less impact – about half” on schools when compared to a single-family home. He added that apartments pay property taxes based on a commercial rate of 40 percent which is double that of a single-family home.
“They don’t get a free ride,” District 3 Councilman Jimmy Overton added. “None of us up here want to approve another apartment complex tomorrow. I want to put that to bed. We don’t want to approve any, but… if it’s zoned for it they can build it.”
There are currently more than 15,000 acres of vacant property across Gallatin that already have zoning that could allow for apartments, according to data provided by the city’s planning department. The estimated maximum number of permitted units that could be built is 15,905.
The overwhelming majority of vacant property is located on the west side of the city in District 4 where 12,697 of those estimated total potential apartment units could be allowed through existing zoning.
As Sumner County Schools moves towards building a new elementary, middle and high school off Upper Station Camp Creek Road just north of Gallatin to accommodate growth in the area, Pond Drive resident John Miller asked city leaders to consider the impact new development has on the rest of the county.
“Would you guys be really approving all of this stuff if the only people you could tax were the people in the city?” Miller said referencing a 34-cent property tax increase that was approved by Sumner County Commission last year. “I know it’s progress and I’m not going to (expletive) about the traffic, but just think about the whole thing and the consequences that happen five years down the road, 10 years down the road and what it impacts and who it impacts. (It’s) everybody in the county.”