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Friday, March 14, 2003

Building Plans Would Speed Up

By Kate Nash
Journal Capitol Bureau
    SANTA FE Financing plans for major residential development proposals would be automatically accepted if cities and counties don't act within 90 days of their introductions, according to legislation approved by the Senate.
    Some local government officials don't like the idea, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Manny Aragon.
    "This would seek to throw a hand grenade in our process," said Albuquerque City Councilor Michael Cadigan.
    The plan (SB 451) would speed up the approval of so-called Public Improvement Districts, which require local government consent.
    Private developers obtain funding for subdivisions under the so-called PIDs and then assess fees to home buyers.
    Other steps to make a development become reality would still have to be taken, including engineering, zoning and platting, said Bernalillo County Commissioner Tim Cummins.
    Aragon said developers, such as Westland Development Corp., grew tired of waiting for Albuquerque City Council to set up a process for considering PIDs. The council did not have such a process until last month.
    "People have been petitioning them (for a PID) and they haven't been able to get it done," said Aragon, a Democrat who represents the South Valley.
    Aragon said the Legislature two years ago gave cities the authority to deal with PIDs.
    The Albuquerque council in February approved its procedures for PIDs, which doesn't set a deadline by which a district application must be approved.
    Bernalillo County Manager Juan Vigil said he supports Aragon's bill because 90 days is a reasonable time frame for acting on proposals.
    "You could get an answer quickly," he said.
    The measure was headed to the House Government and Urban Affairs Committee for consideration.
    Opponents said the move undermines the City Council's authority to look over and gather information on proposed developments in its jurisdiction. Others charge the measure could leave out crucial public and lawmaker input.
    "If it doesn't make it onto someone's radar screen, it gets approved," City Councilor Eric Griego said.
    Under the bill, one hearing on the PID would be held if a bill is to be accepted.
    City Councilor Tina Cummins said the PID application procedures call for people to know about the plans.
    "In the current application process, people who are affected will be aware," she said.
    Tim Cummins, brother of Tina Cummins, said he supports Aragon's bill.
    "I think it's probably appropriate for the state Legislature to clarify its intent" to allow PIDs to be set up, he said.