Alibi V.15 No.11 • March 16-22, 2006 

Council Watch

The Opposite of New Orleans?

Councilor Don Harris (left) introduced a bill that would temporarily stop the construction of more RV, mobile home and boat sales yards in part of his district.
Councilor Don Harris (left) introduced a bill that would temporarily stop the construction of more RV, mobile home and boat sales yards in part of his district.
Wes Naman

At the March 6 City Council meeting, Councilor Ken Sanchez moved a bill setting the Council's one-year budget priorities. Councilor Isaac Benton amended the bill to add pedestrian-friendly language. Councilor Michael Cadigan amended it to encourage walkways over the now four-lane, high-speed Montaño. Councilor Debbie O'Malley's bill requiring a stoplight at the intersection of Griegos and San Isidro passed 8-1, Sanchez opposed, despite the objection of the administration that traffic volume did not warrant a signal. But after a flurry of deferrals, most bills dealt with who gets to build what where.

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IssueCouncil's TakeReporter's Take
Rebuilding UglyWorld
Councilor Don Harris introduced a floor substitute bill changing a moratorium on all building into an Interim Development Management Area (IDMA). The IDMA should stop only unwanted projects from being built in the area bounded by Eubank, Lomas, Tramway and the Tijeras Arroyo. It would temporarily stop the construction of even more RV, mobile home and boat sales yards, abandoned big box stores and "adult" businesses until Sector and Metropolitan Redevelopment plans can be prepared. The bill reignited long-running Council complaints about how long it takes the Planning Department to produce various plans, and how much it costs. The bill was deferred.
Councilor Sally Mayer questioned the proposed joint management of the IDMA by Council Services and the Planning Department. Councilor Harris said he created the IDMA concept because of the concerns of the development community. Chief Administrative Officer Bruce Perlman said the Council should not be concerned with the design or implementation of planning efforts. Planning Director Richard Dineen listed nine plans currently keeping the department busy. Councilor Cadigan questioned the "gold-plated" cost of outside planning consultants. Councilor Benton put in a plug for outside consultants, saying many issues had already been solved elsewhere. Deputy Director of Council Services Lou Columbo said, "Doing the plan isn't enough, you have to implement it."Let's hear it for redeveloping the sadly neglected District 9. The dismal stretch of Central between Tramway and Eubank is in a neck-and-neck race with the vast, vehicular graveyards lining I-25 south of Rio Bravo for the title of ugliest major transportation corridor. But District 9's splendid natural setting offers opportunities for a knockout gateway to the city. Travelers from the east drive through Tijeras Canyon, anticipating the city they can't yet see. Suddenly the canyon walls fall away to reveal a stunning view and ... fizzle. While the easternmost stretches of Central will never be a trendy, walkable area like Nob Hill or Downtown, there's infinite room for improvement.
Swiss Cheese Zoning, No!
Councilor Cadigan moved a floor substitute bill that forbids "pocket" or "conditional use" rezoning of commercial C-1 or C-2 properties to residential zoning if schools in the area are overcrowded or if the ratio of jobs to housing is over 1:2.
An administration amendment passed allowing property to be rezoned to high-density residential if it is within 300 feet of a major transit corridor. Councilors Craig Loy and Mayer objected to passing a floor substitute. The bill was deferred. This bill and the following one assume that building job-producing facilities next to housing will encourage people who live in the housing to work nearby instead of working and commuting across the city. Statistics showing whether the policy works would be nice.
Swiss Cheese Zoning, Yes!
Councilor Loy moved a bill that would remove an amendment from a bill passed last November barring Westside zone changes from commercial to residential if the school serving the area was overcrowded. Loy said the Environmental Planning Commission was blocking residential construction where there was any overcrowding at all, even if the zoning was not changed.
Councilor Cadigan said he'd been discussing new strategies with the administration and asked for a two-week deferral. Councilor Loy said he felt like he was being held hostage and wouldn't support the deferral. Councilor Mayer said the problem was the fault of Albuquerque Public Schools, not developers. The deferral passed 6-3, Loy, Mayer and Councilor Harris opposed.Councilor Loy said the bill was an attempt to stop growth on the Westside. Well, this has been the driest winter on record--apparently the end of a 50-year, relatively wet cycle. Even if parched city residents weren't using more water, there's no way conservation can offset exploding growth. Too much water wiped out New Orleans, too little may do the same to Albuquerque.
Half Fast Planning
In the '70s, people as far away as the East Coast were buying residential lots in Volcano Cliffs for the gorgeous view and low price. Of course, the area didn't have roads, water, utilities or much of anything else. It still doesn't.
Councilor Cadigan sponsored a bill extending an 18-month moratorium for four more months so the city can finish planning a mixed-use community instead of 3,000 more acres of Westside commuters. The extension passed unanimously.Volcano Cliffs property owners are understandably getting very impatient. However, Cadigan said a half-acre lot that sold for $5,000 was now going for $100,000 to $150,000, so their very long-term investment hasn't been a total bust.