A look at the status of Germantown developments including Thornwood, TraVure and Carrefour. Memphis Commercial Appeal
Sixteen months into a year-and-a-half apartment-building moratorium, Germantown officials have completed a report about the impact apartment-dwellers have on city services.
City staff did not offer any definitive projections about whether building additional apartments would be good or bad or strain city services but stressed that they had compiled data about the current demand on city services from apartment dwellers that can be used to inform future decisions.
Members of the board of mayor and aldermen saw the 200-plus page report for the first time at a work session Thursday evening, which included a presentation hitting the highlights of the study. The lengthy report detailing the impact future apartments could have on city services is expected to be available to the public online Friday morning, Assistant City Administrator Jason Huisman said.
The Germantown Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted in January 2018 to put a moratorium on all new multi-family housing projects. During the moratorium, city staff studied the impact of existing apartments. (Photo: Jim Weber/The Commercial Appeal)
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The Germantown Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted in January 2018 to put a moratorium on all new multi-family housing projects after a wave of proposed apartment projects raised concerns from residents about the potential impact on city services, including the school district and first responders. During the moratorium, a group of 15 city staff members, many of whom have expertise in data analysis, has studied the impact of existing apartments and used that information to project if the city could face future issues if more multi-family housing is built.
Huisman said the group used between five and 10 years of data from the Germantown police and fire departments and the Germantown Municipal School District to identify how many students come from apartments and the rate of calls to emergency services from apartments.
The group identified 60 properties across the city which theoretically could be developed for residential uses in the next 10 years based on current zoning maps and small area plans and developed an “aggressive” build out model to predict the potential impact that would arise from the construction of more than 2,000 apartments, the assistant city administrator said.
Huisman stressed that the model was created for convenience, to help illustrate the data, and that the important thing was to look at indicators like the incident-to-crime-ratios and apply them to future projects that come through the city for approval.
“We’re not going to say, by any means, that what we’re presenting to you is going to happen,” he said.
The historical data and projections were compared to other housing types – condos, single-family homes and assisted living facilities or nursing homes – for perspective. During Thursday’s presentation, city staff focused on areas that include smart growth zones.
Currently, apartments account for 6.3% of the approximately 16,000 dwelling units in the city, said Phil Rogers, director of the Germantown Athletic Club.
“Having only five apartment (complexes) in the city of Germantown, it’s a small dataset,” he said.
Over the past five years, Rogers said, GPD has responded to about 185,000 incidents, not all of which correlate with an actual crime. Apartments accounted for 3.9% of the city’s total incident call volume, and the incident-to-crime-ratio for apartments, the proportion of incidents the police respond to which are an actual crime, was 5.76%. Comparatively, the incident-to-crime-ratio for single-family homes was 11.34%.
The “aggressive” model projected an additional 118 crimes per year and 1.87 additional calls for service per day, according to Rogers.
When asked about the study results by Alderman Dean Massey, GPD Capt. Mike Fisher said the department did not see a need to make any changes beyond the plans already in the works, which include creating a new district to help share the work in District 1.
Chief Richard Hall said that precinct was the city’s busiest and the decision to create a new district was not made specifically because of the “Western Gateway” plan — an effort to build up the city’s western entryway.
Rogers said the Germantown Fire Department has received about 20,000 calls for service in the past five years, which includes calls relating to fires, the need for emergency medical services and other issues. Less than 2% of those calls were attributed to an apartment, he said.
Currently, the greatest proportion of calls for fire and EMS services come from nursing homes or other age-restricted facilities. That would continue to be the case, by a wide margin, regardless of apartment build out.
Huisman said if the apartment build out model used in the study was followed, it could result in about one additional call to the fire department from an apartment every other day, meaning apartments would account for about 8% of the residential call-volume 10 years from now.
Overall, the apartment build out model used in the study showed an additional 123 students living in apartments would enter Germantown schools by the 2028-29 school year. Currently, 6.2% of GMSD students — 339 kids — come from apartments, Rogers said.
Houston Middle School would be the only school which would be over operational capacity. However, Houston Middle is already over capacity, Huisman said, and the school district is already planning on expanding the school.
The number of potential students who could be added to the district depends on how expensive any future apartments are. Current data indicates students are less likely to come from expensive apartment units like those at Thornwood, where a two-bedroom unit rents for about $2,300 a month.
“The price is going to be very determinative of the number of students coming out of it,” Rogers said.
Economic and Community Development Director Cameron Ross said due to the city’s current design standards, it was unlikely that any future apartment units built in the city would rent for $1,200 or so, a price point that makes it statistically more likely a student would live in the unit.
Huisman said it was important to keep in mind that the model used historical data to project possible scenarios and that things could change in the future.
“The key takeaways here, in our opinion, are the ratios that have been established,” he said. “And those ratios for home units can be applied to any development, no matter how many units, to be able to determine what’s the right number of units, if any at all.”
A fourth section detailing projected impacts to the city’s infrastructure was not discussed Thursday. Huisman said the discussion was focused on the other three sections because they were more data-heavy.
“We just want to take the time to be able to try to give them a running start before they start digesting the material,” he said earlier in the week.
The moratorium will expire July 8 if the board does not take action before then.
No date has been set for the material to be discussed at a regular board of mayor and aldermen meeting, but Mayor Mike Palazzolo said Thursday that a second work session to discuss the study would be scheduled in June.
Corinne Kennedy is a reporter for The Commercial Appeal. She can be reached at Corinne.Kennedy@CommercialAppeal.com or on Twitter @CorinneSKennedy.