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Berry signs massive rewrite of city’s zoning regulations

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Mayor Richard Berry, center, thanks City Council President Isaac Benton after signing the Integrated Development Ordinance on Thursday. Benton and Councilor Trudy Jones, standing directly behind Berry, sponsored the ordinance, which revamps the city’s land use regulations. Also pictured are members of the city’s planning staff. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)

Copyright © 2017 Albuquerque Journal

Outgoing Mayor Richard Berry signed a massive rewrite of Albuquerque’s zoning regulations into law on Thursday, hailing it as a major milestone that will bring more predictability for development, while creating more protections for neighborhoods.

The Integrated Development Ordinance and two related resolutions that Berry signed were passed by the City Council on Monday night over the objections of several neighborhood association representatives who argued that their rights to weigh in on land-use decisions were being diminished under the new rules. They pleaded with councilors to slow the process down.

But officials have said the rewrite is needed, because much of what is currently in place dates back to the 1970s, and is out of date, confusing and at times contradictory.

“We have had project after project walk away from the table because it’s unpredictable, and time is money,” Berry said Thursday during a signing ceremony attended by city planning staff, and by Council President Isaac Benton and Councilor Trudy Jones, the sponsors of the measures.

Pointing to a stack of planning and zoning regulations roughly 3 feet high, Berry said, “We took literally this stack, this labyrinth of regulation and inconsistency and good things, all mashed together that were confusing and unpredictable and … worked on boiling these down into something that’s understandable, that’s predictable, that protects neighborhoods and makes it easier to invest in Albuquerque.”

The IDO won’t go into effect for six months to allow the council to fix any glitches that are discovered, and to allow time for planning staff and members of the public to get used to the new process.

Benton, an architect and planner, said the sheer complexity of the old zoning regulations often meant he couldn’t get a straight answer from city planning staff on land-use issues.

Jones, who is in real estate, called the IDO one of the best things the city has done in 40 years.

Once the IDO goes into effect, the 1,200 zones that currently exist in the city will be converted to 20 zoning categories and 20 overlay zones, according to city staff. Leading the city’s IDO effort has been Clarion Associates, a Denver firm that specializes in writing zoning codes for municipalities.

Mayor Richard Berry is joined by City Councilors Trudy Jones and Isaac Benton before signing the recently adopted legislation to create the city’s first integrated development ordinance. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)

Berry said the project took 3½ years and cost about $1.5 million.

He acknowledged the anxiety that neighborhood groups are expressing over the IDO, but said it was written “specifically to allow our neighborhoods to be unique.”

And, Berry said, it forces developers to discuss their plans with neighborhoods at the front end of the process.

“We think that’s going to be an opportunity to resolve things on the front end before investors put millions of dollars down and then get delayed for a year and a half during disputes, and it will help the neighborhoods so that they can get their voices heard earlier and have a more collaborative process,” he said.

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