Few would argue that the lack of affordable housing to rent in Sedona is becoming more of a problem with every passing month.
High rental costs, more long-term rentals becoming short-term and the fact that only 4 percent of Sedona’s housing are apartments has city officials — as well as many business owners — concerned.
On Tuesday, Sept. 19, the Sedona Planning and Zoning Commission addressed this issue in two ways, both through requested major amendments to the Sedona Community Plan.
Pinon/89A multi-family project
Location: 3285 W. State Route 89A
Applicant: Keith Holben, MK Company Inc.
Request: Major Community Plan Amendment to the Future Land Use Map from commercial to multi-family high density.
Purpose: To allow for the development of a 45-unit apartment complex.
P&Z recommendation: Approval
Multifamily high density plan amendment
Applicant: City of Sedona
Request: Major Community Plan Amendment to the text of the Land Use, Housing and Growth chapter.
Purpose: To create a multi-family high density designation allowing for more than 12 dwelling units per acre for development projects that provide strategies for achieving housing diversity, affordability and availability in order to address local housing needs. No new maximum number has been proposed, but 20 units per acre has been discussed. Any request would be handled on a case-by-case basis.
P&Z recommendation: Approval
Both were approved unanimously by the commission and will move on to the Sedona City Council for consideration next month.
“This is not an affordable housing amendment,” Senior Planner Mike Raber said of the city’s request. “This amendment is intended to provide an opportunity for higher density projects that can be approved as rental apartments through the rezoning process. We’re a city with only 238 rental apartment units out of 6,500 housing units. There needs to be some incentive for this type of housing, which is badly needed in the community.”
The property proposed for the 45-unit apartment complex — divided among three separate buildings — is currently vacant. A city report states that the parcel is approximately 2.25 acres and is currently zoned for commercial use.
The applicant is requesting a zone change to high-density multi-family residential.
To address the need for housing, the owner has agreed in writing that the units will not be converted to condominiums, that they will not become short-term rentals and that a rental agreement will be for a minimum of 90 days. These stipulations would be carried over to future owners if he were to sell the development, Community Development Director Audree Juhlin said.
“While the housing market in Sedona has been tight, in the past, the demand has been able to be met through the existing housing stock, with houses being rented out as long- term rentals to the local workforce,” the report states. “However, with the state’s passage of Senate Bill 1350 in 2016 [effective January 2017], much of that rental housing stock was converted into short term rentals, further taxing the local housing market.”
The applicant first met with city staff in early 2017 to discuss the proposal, including the various approvals that would be needed to facilitate the proposed development. The application was submitted in May. This project is contingent upon approval of the city’s request to increase density per acre.
Because of that fact, the applicant opted to only request a conceptual review at this time. If the major amendments are approved by council, the applicant will move forward with the comprehensive zoning and development review submittals.
It’s not uncommon for many in the community to be accused of fear mongering on various topics. But during the meeting, it was the commission and representatives of the project’s owner who was accused of it. It was pointed out that because of its current commercial zoning, there are 80 types of businesses that could be built on that land. A fast food restaurant is one of those possibilities.
In recent years there have been proposals to build a 98-room hotel there while another was requesting 44,000 square feet of retail and office space, as well as 25 condos. Members of the public accused the city of scare tactics by saying that’s an option.
Many on the commission said they’d rather see an apartment complex there than another hotel or fast food restaurant. Part of that opinion was based on a traffic study paid for by the applicant that showed that an apartment complex would have one-fourth the number of cars coming in and out each day compared to a fast food restaurant.
Of those in the audience who spoke, many were opposed to the project because of possible increase in traffic, safety along Pinion Drive and on-street parking by the residents and guests of the apartment complex. Those in favor spoke of the need for additional workforce housing.