Remember the days when it was easy to meet your neighbors? Front porches, everyone collecting their mail and newspaper at the same time, kids going to the same schools? Times have changed. Now we enter homes using garage door openers, have different hours of work and different options for schools. So how do we connect on shared interests and concerns and build a sense of community? Many people have found that neighborhood associations (NAs) can help create an environment to bring residents together.
What is a neighborhood association?
First, let’s consider what a neighborhood association is not. It’s not a homeowners association (HOA) that’s formed by a developer and applies to a specific development. In HOAs, homeowners are compelled to follow covenants and restrictions governing the development and pay homeowner association dues.
Neighborhood associations, however, are voluntary. Each is geographically defined, and while they vary in size, they have a common identity. A neighborhood association gives residents a body to discuss common concerns and consider solutions. For example, that could involve everything from recreation paths and parks to sidewalks, safety and crime, zoning, neighborhood cleanups and street repair, as well as regulations that affect the neighborhood. Neighbors volunteer their time and energy to serve on their association’s board, and residents join and participate at various levels – or not. It’s their individual choice.
So what are the benefits to being recognized as a neighborhood association by the city?
Recognized neighborhood associations give a voice to the neighborhood with a clear, organized way to speak to government elected officials and administrative departments. Neighborhood associations (and neighborhood coalitions – see below) are entitled to receive notice of developer permit applications, variance and conditional use requests, information about projects and construction happening around the city, and they get automatic appeal standing under the city’s zoning system, the Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO).
This means if someone is building a fence or an addition in your neighborhood that require a variance, or a business submits a request for a permit, the points of contact for the neighborhood association will be notified. The notices include information for replies, questions, concerns and to request a meeting.
Here are a few notification examples:
1) If a recreational cannabis business wanted to open a business closer than 600 feet to another cannabis business within the boundaries of your neighborhood association, your point(s) of contact would be notified because that would require a request for a variance.
2) If a neighbor wanted to build a 5-foot wall in their front yard, again your point(s) of contact would be notified because a request for a variance is required. (FYI walls require permits.)
Notices are sent about events, filming and other city projects and initiatives within a neighborhood association boundary. The county and city agencies receive the list of association contacts so they can send information to the right folks.
Albuquerque and Rio Rancho NAs
The city of Albuquerque has a Neighborhood Association Recognition Ordinance – with recognition standards for neighborhood associations and neighborhood coalitions (NCs). A neighborhood coalition is a group of two or more NAs and/or HOAs, together with groups and individuals within a specific geographic boundary. In Albuquerque, the coalitions have formed around the nine City Council districts.
Albuquerque has a map of areas of the city with and without a neighborhood association. Check out the Office of Neighborhood Coordination (ONC) website for information at cabq.gov/office-of-neighborhood-coordination, or call (505) 768-3334 or email email@example.com.
Rio Rancho’s source for homeowner and neighborhood associations is at rrnm.gov/335/Homeowners-and-Neighborhood-Associations.
How do I start one?
If there is not a neighborhood association in your area, consider starting one. A few committed neighbors can do it. Step-by-step guidance is at cabq.gov/council/documents/new-association-or-coalition-step-by-step.pdf
Complete the Association Compliance form. Create your bylaws – there are sample bylaws on the ONC website. Elect officers. Decide if your new neighborhood association needs an email address. Designate two people to receive notices from ONC. Unfortunately, notices are sent to only those two people. Existing NAs have been asking for the number to be expanded or a list serve, but there’s been no change yet.
Read the Neighborhood Association Recognition Ordinance about annual meetings and reporting. Dues may be collected; however, payment of dues cannot be a prerequisite of membership or voting rights in the association. Many dues range from $5-$25 per year.
And you can contact a neighborhood association near you or the neighborhood coalition in your area for assistance. Their experience is priceless.
What costs can a NA expect?
Each neighborhood association can decide what is needed. Rental of a post office box runs approximately $200 per year. A basic website registration is also around $200 per year. Other miscellaneous expenses can include periodic fliers to announce events, postage, event expenses such as National Night Out, printing/copies of paper ballots if you use them as well as membership forms, and similar basic operating expenses that any organization or club would need. Donations can be requested.
Tip O’Neill said, “all politics are local.” A friend involved in neighborhood associations for many years told me, “You can’t get more local than your neighborhood.” Join your neighborhood association, for the impact it can make in the community as well as connections with your neighbors.