Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Councilor Seeks to Shut Off Tap
By Sean Olson
Journal Staff Writer
Albuquerque City Councilor Michael Cadigan is calling for the city-county Water Authority to flex its muscles to control development.
Cadigan, who is also a member of the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority board, said the board should block service to some new developments, even if water availability isn't the issue.
The Water Authority ought to look at all growth issues including the impacts a development would have on schools and traffic before giving the go-ahead for water service.
"The water supply is the teeth of urban planning," he said.
City and county governments can only tell a developer how to build, Cadigan said, not if it can build. But developers "don't have a constitutional right to water," he said.
Under current policy, the Water Authority does not look at land use issues that aren't water related.
Other officials say Cadigan's strategy is unnecessary.
"You run the risk of creating gridlock," Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chávez said.
"Planning is uniquely the responsibility of municipal government and county government," Chávez said.
Any intrusion into that planning authority, he said, would undermine the charters of Albuquerque, Bernalillo County and the Mid-Region Council of Governments.
Gabriel Nims, 1,000 Friends of New Mexico executive director, said other government authority should not be an issue in the debate.
"I don't believe we should be having territorial battles in a region where we all share the same water," said Nims, who agrees with Cadigan's approach.
The development community clearly doesn't like the idea.
"That's trying to go in the wrong direction," said Chuck Gara, National Association of Industrial and Office Properties board chairman.
Gara said the land use decisions should be left to local governments with zoning jurisdiction. Additional regulation would repel good development.
"These are things that can be, and would be, challenged if they ever came to fruition," Gara said.
Board member and County Commission Chairman Alan Armijo said he was up for hearing proposals on how to coordinate land use and water planning but was skeptical of Cadigan's idea.
Armijo said the Water Authority's "no net expense" policy already gives it a say in new development.
The "no net expense" policy ensures that the Water Authority receives new water rights for development outside of the current service area. Developers would have to bring water rights or money for additional water rights to the authority before receiving service.
Cadigan said the authority's no-net expense policy doesn't cover all the consequences of providing water service such as overcrowded schools.
There may be middle ground, other board members said.
Water board Chairman Martin Heinrich said land use decisions should be left to the city and county, but the authority could provide the teeth to make sure developers cooperate.
Deanna Archuleta, board member and county commissioner, said water availability should be a mandatory part of all land use decisions.