New regulations nearly complete

Joseph Brown/ The ItemSterling Huntsville on Sam Houston Ave., currently under construction, is expected to be a 181 unit student housing complex that will house approximately 750 persons. The Huntsville Planning Commission is taking steps to regulate large student housing complexes with additions to the city's development code. 

The Huntsville Planning Commission is moving forward with changes to the city’s development code geared towards regulating student housing. 

With four unanimous votes in Tuesday’s meeting, commissioners set standards for building heights, defined occupancy definitions and set standards for required parking spaces. The complete shared housing design and development code still must be ratified by the Planning Commission and Huntsville City Council.

“The new language to the code ensures that standards are appropriate to address concerns associated with the subject use including density, design, landscaping, lighting, waste management, infrastructure and public improvements,” said city planner Janet Ridley.

The current code only regulates apartments with a maximum of 29 units per acre. However, new regulations will regulate by bedrooms per acre. Commissioners chose not to set density caps though, due to “density being fixed in other measures of the code.”

Other additions voted on Thursday afternoon were standards for parking spaces. Commissioners approved a recommendation of 1.1 parking spaces per bedroom for attached-housing complexes and 1.5 parking spaces per bedroom for detached units. Currently developers are not required to have a parking spot for every bedroom.

“These are guidelines, but they are not necessarily absolute,” Ridley added. “If a developer doesn’t meet everything in the design criteria, it doesn’t mean that they can’t do their project. Depending on the project there are considerations of all kinds.”

Commissioners also voted to set a minimum of two stories and maximum of four stories for any new complexes.

Also included in the new code is a definition for a unit as three units or less. However, according to officials more bedrooms can be added to a single unit with increased land requirements. A six bedroom unit is referred as two dwelling units for the purpose of density regulations.

Public hearings in front of the planning commission and city council are still required before the plans can be ratified by either body.

The next scheduled meeting of the Huntsville Planning Commission is set for Feb. 21 at 5:30 p.m.