Zoning, Pawn and a Runoff
Council tackles municipal issues
A major revamp of the city’s zoning code, significant changes to how pawnbrokers can do business and stopping vehicle solicitations drew a good size crowd for the Oct. 16 Albuquerque City Council regular meeting. Some items got heard and even less got passed as the grinder of democracy made a little more sausage.
Lots of people came out to weigh in on the proposed Integrated Development Ordinance, a comprehensive rewrite of the metro area’s 40-year old development plan along with its connected zoning code. The proposed IDO plan cleans up dozens of separate zoning plans into one inclusive document. City planners say the update is needed to simplify and integrate the city’s zoning regulations, and to streamline the city’s development review and approval procedures, all in order to improve economic development and job creation.
Several representatives of neighborhood associations along with citizens spoke out, asking for the IDO process to be slowed down so more can weigh in on the details of the plan. A couple of other neighborhood folks and business groups spoke in support of the revamp saying the new IDO plan will protect and guide growth across the city including the more vulnerable areas. A proposed amendment to the ordinance was introduced that will give residents a broader right to appeal development decisions.
The proposed ordinance will have one more public hearing in front of the full Council before it is set to be voted on by the full Council on Nov. 6. It would go into effect six months later. City planners are serious about getting the word out to Burqueños. The project has the catchy name and website—ABC to Z and abc-zone.com, respectively—a Facebook page, and a youtube video.
Pawnshop owners and supporters spoke out loudly against this proposed ordinance, arguing it would not help the city tighten up on property crime. “We are not the scourge of Albuquerque,” one pawnshop owner said. He went on to say that out of approximately 250,000 items taken for loans from 16 of the 18 local pawnshops scattered around town, only 150 items were suspicious enough to be taken by the police department. Most items, 85 to 90 percent of items pawned, are reclaimed by the customer. The average amount of each pawn transaction is $110. The pawnshop system helps poor people make ends meet.
One of the proposed provisions is that shop owners would have to implement cashless transactions where the customer will get a check mailed to them three days later. Other provisions would require the customer to provide a thumbprint and an identification card. Photos of the items pawned would be required as well. One speaker said these measures will wipe out pawnbroker businesses in the city and deny the opportunity for people to get an emergency loan. One pawnbroker said one of his recent customers was short for his electric bill so he had to pawn his TV until his next paycheck. A single mother said she has had to pawn her jewelry to help her take care of her family in times of need. Neither of these could wait three days. Another shop owner said no one from the city talked to them about any of these proposed changes to their business.
An Albuquerque Police Department spokesperson told the council it supports and has worked on the passage of this bill. He also said the department doesn’t want to close pawnshops, just close gaps through which stolen property can flow. The APD representative did admit that it was just a “few bad apples” among the pawnshop owners that are taking in most of the stolen items. Councilors agreed to send the measure back to the finance committee for more work before the measure faces a vote.
Councilors approved a resolution authorizing the upcoming runoff election. The Nov. 14 election has city wide voters picking between Mayoral candidates Tim Keller and Dan Lewis. Over on the Westside, District 5 voters will choose between Cynthia Borrego and Robert Aragon in a runoff to choose their next city councilor.
Another group of civic-minded residents took their seats on city boards: Kathryn Perea and Roger L. Ebner were appointed to the Balloon Fiesta Park Commission; Nancy Zastudil and Julia Youngs will serve on the Urban Enhancement Trust Fund; Michael L. Mitchell is now a member of the Veterans and Military Affairs Advisory Board; Edward Gerety was selected for the Greater Albuquerque Bicycling Advisory Committee; Neil Katzman will work with the Youth Advisory Council and Adriano Lujan has been appointed to the ABQ Volunteers Advisory Board.