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Opponents win City Council ruling on ABQ garbage transfer station

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Mayor Richard Berry’s administration will have to seek a zoning change to build a garbage transfer station in the North Valley, the City Council ruled Monday.

The unanimous decision is a victory for opponents of the project.

A zoning change requires a public hearing, and the applicant must prove the change won’t harm adjacent property owners or nearby residents.

The Berry administration, meanwhile, argued that operation of a transfer station at Edith and Comanche NE was already allowed under the “light manufacturing” zoning at the property. In other words, there was no need for a zoning change, city executives said.

They say they can save $2.5 million to $4.5 million a year in fuel costs by building the transfer station, which would serve as a drop-off point for garbage trucks making their daily rounds. Trucks would dump their trash at the station, where it would be collected and loaded onto larger vehicles headed for the West Side landfill.

A city zoning official determined the proposal was compatible with the kind of uses already allowed in the property’s light-manfacturing zoning, which permits assembly and similar operations.

But nearby neighborhood groups appealed, and a land-use hearing officer recommended the City Council side with them.

Timothy Flynn–O’Brien, an attorney for opponents of the project, told councilors that it “defies commonsense” to compare the dumping of trash to a bottling plant or other manufacturing that involves assembling products.

“Dumping trash from one truck and loading it into another,” he said, “is transfer. It’s not assembly.”

Jenica Jacobi, an attorney for the city planning department, said the zoning staff’s opinion should carry weight.

“Your zoning enforcement officer is an expert,” she said. “… It’s his expert opinion on what is compatible and similar.”

The City Council’s ruling, of course, can be appealed to state District Court.

In other action, the City Council:

— Accepted introduction of a proposal calling for a special city election Feb. 7 in conjunction with Albuquerque Public Schools, which has its own questions to send to voters.

A bipartisan pair of councilors, Republican Don Harris and Democrat Pat Davis, want to ask voters to approve an increase in the amount of funding available to mayoral candidates who participate in public campaign financing. The election resolution is scheduled for consideration at the council’s Nov. 7 meeting.

— Upheld a lower panel’s decision allowing the construction of an Albuquerque Rapid Transit station in the east Downtown, or EDo, and Huning Highland neighborhoods, a historic area. It was a 7-2 vote, with Dan Lewis and Klarissa Peña in dissent.

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