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ABQ launches effort to update growth plan, replace zoning code

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Suzanne Lubar says the complaints started right after she joined the city’s Planning Department a few years ago.

No one — developers and neighborhood leaders alike — had much good to say about the stack of land-use policies and plans intended to govern growth in Albuquerque.

“Nobody has a true sense of what’s allowed and what’s not allowed,” Lubar, now the city’s planning director, said in an interview Wednesday. “It’s not very predictable. … I had developers calling and saying, ‘I will never do a development in your city again.'”

A broad, bipartisan effort getting started this week aims to change that. One goal is to update the Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Comprehensive Plan, a high-level planning document for the area. The city and county governments are working together on that project.

Beyond that, the city also intends to overhaul its zoning and subdivision regulations — the more-detailed rules that establish how and where development can occur. The goal is to create a “Unified Development Ordinance” that’s easier to understand and carry out, replacing the zoning ordinance.

Russell Brito, the city’s urban design and development manager, said there’s often a disconnect between what higher-level planning documents say — such as the “Planned Growth Strategy,” adopted in 2002 — and the regulatory systems that are supposed to carry out that vision.

“With this new effort, we are addressing both at the same time,” Brito said.

The city has a team of local and national consultants working on the project, including Clarion Associates. The contract to help crafted the city’s Unified Development Ordinance could total $1.5 million.

Don Elliott of Clarion Associates said the UDO will be a single document that tries to boil down the “thousands of pages of regulations that govern who can built what where and get them consistent.”

No one wants to weaken protections for single-family neighborhoods, he said, but the updates will try to “modernize” the rules for mixed-use and commercial districts.

On the city side, the effort was sponsored by a bipartisan pair of councilors, Democrat Isaac Benton and Republican Trudy Jones and. Mayor Richard Berry, a Republican, also supports the effort.

The mayor told lawyers gathered at this week’s Albuquerque Bar Association luncheon that he’s heard the city could add as many as 500,000 people over the next 20 years.

The Comprehensive Plan update “is incredibly important to how our city grows,” Berry said. “… We should have a predictable, understandable target that people who want to invest can put their arrow on. We haven’t had that for decades.”

  • A public kickoff meeting is scheduled tonight (Wednesday) at 6 p.m. in the Albuquerque Convention Center.
  • An open house is scheduled Thursday from noon to 12:50 p.m. in the Plaza del Sol building, 600 Second Street NW.
  • A website dedicated to the project will go live this week at
  • A series of workshops and public meetings is scheduled in the spring.

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