MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Germantown officials will allow additional apartments in the coming years. The suburb’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved zoning changes in a 3-2 vote Monday night.
But the years-long debate over apartments and development is likely far from over.
Opponents of the measure say they’re not done talking about it. And voters may have it on their minds later this year, when half of the aldermen are up at the ballot box.
“My platform was to slow it down, continue to preserve the character of our community,” said Scott Sanders.
Sanders was elected as a Germantown Alderman in November 2018. A hot topic in that election was apartments and development. Incumbent Germantown Mayor Mike Palazzolo held his seat by only 120 votes out of more than 20,000 cast. Palazzolo defeated Alderman John Barzizza, a vocal apartment critic.
“The vote as it passed last night did not much of anything to stop apartment growth in Germantown,” said Sanders.
Monday night the city’s BMA changed the city’s smart growth code to allow apartments only as part of mixed-use developments. This means new stand-alone complexes would not be permitted. Because Germantown is landlocked and mostly developed, there are only a handful of locations where new construction is even possible.
Sanders says the changes do little to satisfy the concerns he’s heard from constituents over impacts to property value and traffic.
“All it takes is putting in some retail, apartment space, making it mixed-use, and an apartment complex can go in,” he said.
The city’s enacted two apartment moratoriums to study the issue. A lengthy report compiled last year by city staff examined impacts of added density because of apartments on police, fire and the Germantown school system.
Resident Edward Lazarus told WMC Action News 5 that the plan voted on Monday, allowing apartments in mixed-use developments, is a good compromise.
“I like the idea of having a walkable community and not have to get in my car and go somewhere,” he said. “It’s a neighborhood. It feels more like a neighborhood rather than a big apartment complex where people get in their car and leave.”
A city spokesperson said the ordinance changes go into effect immediately. Germantown elects its mayor and aldermen on a staggering scale, so three aldermen will be up for election later in 2020.
It remains to be seen if apartment construction will still be a big issue with voters.