Editorial: There's 6 months to refine needed ABQ zoning revamp - Albuquerque Journal

Editorial: There’s 6 months to refine needed ABQ zoning revamp

More than two years ago, Albuquerque’s Planning Department set out to rewrite the city’s mountain of planning and zoning regulations, which had grown so unwieldy with area, sector, corridor, subdivision, streetscape and zoning plans that neither residents, developers nor city regulators could easily figure them all out.

Don Elliott with Denver-based Clarion Associates, a consultant hired to guide city staff through the daunting task, said the myriad land-use, development and zoning rules were “one of the most complicated systems our firm has ever seen. That’s not a distinction Albuquerque should be proud of. … You don’t need all of that to get the city you want.”

The quagmire of regulations frustrated businesses, developers and citizens alike. So in 2014 city councilors directed the Planning Department to update the city/county Comprehensive Plan and overhaul the city’s zoning code. Last March, the City Council adopted the comprehensive plan, which will guide development going forward. On Tuesday night, the council, on a 6-3 vote, approved the rewrite of the zoning regulations, now known as the Integrated Development Ordinance.

And while there has been much drama surrounding the IDO – including poetry in letters to the editor decrying it – the lengthy process involved everyone from city staff and residents to Clarion’s experts, from developers to neighborhood associations.

While such endeavors seldom produce unanimous buy-in, the comprehensive plan and IDO – which reduced the city’s roughly 1,200 zones to 20 – streamline a cumbersome process that undoubtedly chased off a fair number of business expansions, would-have-been new businesses and developments.

The City Council deserves applause for approving the IDO in the face of considerable pressure to delay the new zoning ordinance.

It also deserves applause for not rushing its implementation.

Rather than simply plug in the IDO now that Mayor Richard Berry has signed it, the City Council has delayed its implementation for at least six months. It’s a smart safety net that:

1. Provides time for the City Council, Planning Department, developers and neighborhood associations to hold workshops that lay out specific concerns and/or solutions, and;

2. Allows amendments to be crafted and passed before the IDO takes effect.

The IDO already provides ample time for comment on proposals, and it requires developers to involve neighbors early on. And it gives property owners a year to request a zone change if they’re unhappy with the IDO zoning. In addition, within a year of the IDO taking effect, the Planning Department will submit a package of discretionary, voluntary zone changes to the City Council for approval.

Overall, the IDO, which addresses status quos in place since the 1970s, should simplify what has too often been an overly burdensome and massively confusing process. Now, it is essential that everyone with a concern use the next six months to improve the new IDO through sincere cooperation and compromise.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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