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Council approves rewrite of Albuquerque’s zoning regulations

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Albuquerque City Councilors voted on Monday night to push through a massive rewrite of the city’s zoning regulations, a move that drew applause from developers and other supporters and criticism from many neighborhood groups.

The Integrated Development Ordinance and two other related measures now go to outgoing Mayor Richard Berry for consideration. He has previously said he supports the IDO, calling it long overdue.

Even if Berry signs the measures into law, the IDO wouldn’t go into effect for six months to allow the council to fix any glitches that are discovered and to allow time for city planning staff and members of the public to get used to the new process.

But regardless of the six month delay in the effective date, neighborhood groups were upset that the council moved forward with the rewrite, particularly on the eve of a mayoral election.

Albuquerque’s new mayor will take office on Dec. 1.

Dan Regan, who identified himself as the president of a neighborhood association, said the IDO is not ready for prime time, and added that the vast majority of Albuquerque’s neighborhood associations don’t feel that it gives them the voice they currently have in planning and zoning decisions.

“I’m not sure why the night before the mayoral election we’re considering passing this after 40 years of living with what we have,” Regan told councilors. “The changes in the IDO, as currently expressed, will move influence, voice and power from the neighborhood associations and the public. It flips it over to the development community.”

But councilors were also thanked for tackling the planning and zoning regulations, which a consultant hired by the city described as some of the worst in the country. City officials have said the rewrite is needed because much of what is currently in place dates back to the 1970s and is out of date, confusing and at times contradictory.

“I know it’s a monumental task, but you guys have taken it on,” Dave Hill told the council. “Protection and predictability citywide, that’s what this IDO does. It gives us protection and predictability for both the neighborhoods, the developers and land owners.” He urged city councilors to move forward and pass it.

In the end, councilors did just that, by a vote of 6-3. Council President Isaac Benton, and councilors Dan Lewis, Pat Davis, Diane Gibson, Trudy Jones and Don Harris voted to pass the measures. Councilors Ken Sanchez, Klarissa Peña and Brad Winter voted against the ordinance and two resolutions.

Earlier in the meeting, Peña had sought to delay the effective date of the IDO from six months to a year, but that motion failed on a 2-7 vote. Sanchez joined her in voting for that amendment. Benton argued that if six months ends up not being enough time to go live with the IDO, the council could at that point vote to delay the effective date.

Sanchez and Winter later argued for a 90 day deferral on the IDO, which would have meant delaying a vote on the matter for three months, but that motion failed by a 3-6 vote, with Sanchez, Winter and Peña voting for it.

Sanchez argued that overhauling the zoning code is a very complex matter, noting that there had been numerous amendments.

“We should try to get it as close as we can to perfection,” he told his colleagues.

Winter, who voiced support for the IDO, argued that he would like more time to talk to his constituents about it. He said he’s concerned about the distrust between neighborhood groups and developers.

Davis countered that there are good provisions in the IDO for neighborhoods, such as the requirement that developers go to neighborhoods to talk to them about their plans at the beginning of the development process.

The rewrite of the city’s development rules stems from a resolution passed by the city council in 2014. The resolution directed the planning department to update the Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Comprehensive Plan and to overhaul the city’s zoning code.

The planning department began that process in February 2015. The council adopted the comprehensive plan in March.

Once the IDO goes into effect, the 1,200 zones that currently exist in the city will be converted to one of 20 in the IDO, according to city staff. Property owners would then have about a year to request a zone change if they fall into one of several categories. That includes property owners who find that their current use isn’t in line with their new zone or property owners who want to down zone their property. Within a year of the IDO becoming effective, the city’s Planning Department would submit a package of discretionary, voluntary zone changes to the council for approval.

Leading the city’s IDO effort has been Clarion Associates, a Denver firm that specializes in writing zoning codes for municipalities.

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