Alibi V.15 No.41 • Oct 12-18, 2006 

Council Watch

Not In My Backyard

Cadigan moved a bill to prohibit subdivisions from restricting the use of solar collectors. The bill passed unanimously.
Cadigan moved a bill to prohibit subdivisions from restricting the use of solar collectors. The bill passed unanimously.

At the Oct. 4 meeting, councilors debated what will or will not be allowed in various neighborhoods. Councilor Isaac Benton moved an administration bill putting a six-month moratorium on adult businesses Downtown. The bill passed unanimously.

Seven current and former clients of the Youth in Transition (YIT) program for homeless teenagers praised the service. YIT Executive Director Donna Rowe also asked for support, saying about 1,000 teens in Albuquerque have no place to stay each night. Councilors asked Valorie Vigil, director of the Family and Community Services Department, what was available for homeless teens. Vigil said nothing specifically, and discussed the legal problems associated with the city providing services to homeless teens that are not "emancipated" from parental control.

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Issue Council's Take Reporter's Take
Toss No Mas

Councilor Craig Loy put a bill on the Consent Agenda adding "smoking tobacco product litter" to the city's Weed and Anti-Litter ordinance. The fine for tossing anywhere but in a fireproof receptacle starts at $250 with subsequent fines of $500.
Loy mentioned the danger of bosque fires and offered pocket ashtrays from the Toss No Mas program to any smokers in the chamber. The consent agenda passed unanimously. Apparently, anyone caught throwing a "chaw" can out the window would come under lower fines for regular littering. It's not clear whether the tobacco fines would apply to someone flicking ash off a cigarette out a car window.
Toot No Mas

Councilors Martin Heinrich and Debbie O'Malley sponsored a bill creating "quiet zones" at nine city railroad crossings within three years. Trains will stop sounding their horns once flashing lights, barrier gates and other safety devices are installed. Heinrich estimated the work would cost between $1.5 and $3 million, with some state funding. See this week's "News Bite" on page 8 for more details.
O'Malley said that, standing in a Stronghurst neighborhood backyard, the train noise was a "stunner." The top priority crossings are Candelaria, Menaul and Claremont. Benton asked why crossings in his Downtown district couldn't be priorities. O'Malley said it had been an issue a lot longer than the EDo neighborhood. The bill passed unanimously. Sounds good to me, but having lived a block and a half from the major Los Lunas railroad crossing for years, I'd say police, fire and ambulance sirens are much more disturbing. At this point, I want to hear the whistle of the Rail Runner in Valencia County.

Atilano and Loretta Dominguez appealed a zone change decision allowing a crematorium on their street just north of Sandia/Kirtland and between Wyoming and Moon. Several speakers expressed concern about odors, embalming chemicals, and possible mercury and radioactive contamination. The garage-type facility will also cremate pets. Attorney William Kramer represented the property owner and proposed operator. Kramer said opponents' concerns were based on pure fear. He said the proposed oven was "not a Hindu funeral pyre" but had received a permit from the Air Quality Control Board. Kramer said funeral directors had to remove any materials that might spread radioactivity or mercury before sending bodies to the crematorium site.
Kramer said the request met the "changed circumstances" requirement for a zone change because of the vastly increased need for cremation services. Another criteria is whether a proposed zone change is more advantageous to the community. Councilor Michael Cadigan said the enabling zoning law did not define whether "more advantageous" meant more advantageous than a vacant lot, or more advantageous than the worst possible use of the current property's initial M-1 zoning.

O'Malley compared crematoria to cell phone towers--nobody wants them in the neighborhood, but everyone wants uninterrupted service. The Council voted 6-3 to block the crematorium, Cadigan, Mayer and O'Malley opposed.
If a zone change must be more advantageous to the community, what is the definition of "community"? All 600,000 or so residents of the Middle Rio Grande area? People in the neighborhood of the proposed facility? Neighboring property values, such as they are, would hardly be enhanced by having bodies burned full time across the street. Benton said the neighborhood faced a kind of attrition as it changed from residential toward commercial and manufacturing. The crematorium would probably have pushed it over the edge. O'Malley has a valid anti-NIMBY point that service facilities such as cell phone towers and crematoria have to be built somewhere. However, cell towers' functions depend on being in specific locations, while those of crematoria don't.
And Now for Something Completely Different

Saying that a lot of old, "boilerplate" subdivision covenants banned solar collectors, Cadigan moved a bill to prohibit subdivisions from restricting the use of collectors providing water heating, space heating and cooling, or power generation.
Cadigan called for the Planning Department to create design standards for the collectors and mentioned new types that are basically invisible. Heinrich mentioned that tax credits for the equipment are up to 30 percent. The bill passed unanimously. Hooray! Minimal sanity restored! If we can't legally require more renewable energy, we can at least stop outlawing it. Meanwhile, I'm trying to visualize someone whose life is so free of, um, challenges that a neighbor's solar collector becomes a big issue.