Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Candidates Spar Over Growth Laws
By Dan McKay
Journal Staff Writer
A ballroom packed with business people watched Monday as candidates for City Council sparred over development regulations.
Trudy Jones, who's running unopposed in the foothills area of District 8, appeared to be a crowd favorite.
Jones, a Realtor, criticized some of the council's development regulations as "social engineering" and a "system of hidden taxes."
She was responding to a question about the passage of "green" building requirements, new design rules for big-box development and other legislation.
The forum sponsored by several business groups and held at the Marriott was moderated by Kent Walz, Journal editor. About 470 people attended.
Attitudes toward growth and development divided the council candidates all of whom attended except Rey Garduño.
Don Harris, an incumbent facing a recall election in District 9, said he has tried to be a moderating force on the council. He said he prefers using incentives to guide development.
"The more we legislate on this issue, the more we raise the cost to the community," Harris said.
City Council President Debbie O'Malley defended her support for regulating big-box development. "It's important to have a quality built environment," she said.
O'Malley's opponent, Katherine Martinez, said the council should be cautious about assessing development fees. Even a $1,000 increase in fees, she said, puts home-ownership out of reach for many people.
Councilor Brad Winter, the incumbent in District 4 in the Northeast Heights, said many council proposals to regulate development, such as the "Planned Growth Strategy," were unacceptable when first proposed. But sitting down with "stakeholders" has helped the council amend those proposals to make them more palatable to all sides, he said.
Paulette de'Pascal, Winter's opponent, said that, too often, the council passes bills that are amended at the last minute, giving the business community and others little time to analyze them.
In District 6, which covers much of the Southeast Heights, candidate Joanie Griffin said "big boxes" flourish because people shop at them and the council should focus more on offering incentives that promote green building and conservation.
Blair Kaufman, another District 6 candidate, said the residents in his part of town subsidize growth on the West Side. New parts of the city should pay for their own services, he said.
Kevin Wilson, also running in District 6, said he supports impact fees on development as long as the fees are at a "reasonable level."