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Council defers decision on comprehensive plan

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Albuquerque city councilors listened to public comment late into the night Monday on the proposed rewrite of the city’s comprehensive plan, which, if adopted, will govern Albuquerque development for years to come.

The plan, also known as the ABC-Z project, was the hot-button issue during Monday evening’s City Council meeting, with more than 50 people signing up to speak on the measure. City officials have said that the two-year rewrite is aimed at bringing clarity and predictability to development regulations.

Speakers appeared to be evenly divided between those who urged the council to adopt the comprehensive plan immediately and those who urged it to postpone action for 12 to 18 months to allow for more public input, particularly from communities of color.

The council voted to continue the discussion at its March 20 meeting.

Sherman McCorkle, representing the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, was among those advocating for the comprehensive plan to be approved immediately.

“You have an intelligent and pragmatic comprehensive plan,” McCorkle said. “It adds important goals, policies and actions in regards to community identity and heritage conservation that has been lacking. It encourages public-private partnerships … It speaks to the diversification of our local economy.”

McCorkle said the comprehensive plan is needed to boost Albuquerque’s economy.

Kurt Browning, chief development officer for Titan Development, also supports the plan. He said the city has a wonderful planning staff but said they are hampered by conflicting ordinances.

Among other things, the plan strives to improve protection for the city’s established neighborhoods and respond to long-standing water and traffic challenges by promoting more sustainable development, according to the city’s website.

“The (proposed) comprehensive plan will bring clarity and predictability,” Browning said. “That’s all we want. We’ll follow the rules, but this needs to be streamlined in the immediate future. Please don’t defer it.”

But many others argued that the plan wasn’t ready for final action.

Jerry Worrall, representing the Westside Coalition, a group of 21 neighborhood associations, said the public hasn’t had enough time to digest the thick planning documents.

“We don’t want to lose our community identity,” said resident Cynthia Borrego. “We don’t want to become a bland community.”

Robert Nelson, with the Historic Neighborhood Alliance, asked the council to defer action on the comprehensive plan for 14 to 16 months to allow more input from Hispanic and other communities of color that, he contended, had been underrepresented during the initial process.

But Michaela Renz Whitmore, an employee in the city’s planning department and one of the staffers who worked on the comprehensive plan rewrite, said the city went to great lengths to expand its outreach efforts to minorities when it realized they were underrepresented at the initial meetings. A city spokeswoman said about 100 meetings were held on the comprehensive plan, with 1,943 people taking part in those meetings.