Council Watch: Downtown Development
 Alibi V.21 No.10 • March 8-14, 2012 

Council Watch

Downtown Development

The Council breezed through an easy agenda at its Monday, March 5 meeting. The gavel was in Debbie O’Malley’s hand as President Trudy Jones was absent.

The big news happened earlier in the day when Mayor Richard Berry signed into law a redistricting measure that creates a seat on the southwest mesa by eliminating the Downtown core district.

It is likely the plan will end up in court. Opponents argue the change packs the bulk of the city’s minority voters into one district and dilutes the Democrat base.

Sylvia Fuentes, mother of Len Fuentes who was killed during a 2010 domestic violence call, addressed the Council. Jeremy Hollier, the officer who shot Fuentes, was arrested on Sunday, March 4, and charged with assaulting his wife. “If this fine officer can hurt someone he loves, think about the pain he can inflict on someone he doesn’t love—like my son. He killed him,” Fuentes said.

The next meeting is set for 5 p.m. on Monday, March 19, in the Council Chambers in the basement of City Hall. You can also view it on channel 15 GOV-TV.

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Slow Down

Two moratoriums were on the table. One bans significant alterations in and around Downtown until the city finishes working on the area’s sector plan.

The second gives another extension to property owners that have not brought homes into compliance with the zoning code imposed in 1959. The deadline has been extended many times and was set for March 28. The latest extension tacks on three more months.
Both were approved. Councilor O’Malley added an amendment to the Downtown moratorium that allowed businesses with existing permits to continue or finish projects. A special city council meeting is set for 5 p.m. Wednesday, March 28, to discuss the Downtown sector plan.

Councilors said the extension on the zoning compliance gives property owners a little extra time to fix their homes while the city looks at long-term solutions to snags in the code.
The zoning code was imposed in 1959. People had decades to either remove or convert illegal structures. One citizen spoke out against both moratoriums, saying owners should be able to do what they want with their property. That's true, but 53 years is long enough to give property owners time to bring noncompliant property into the future.
Ring Up

New Cingular Wireless wants to add a cell phone tower to a Public Service of New Mexico electric pole at Balloon Fiesta Field. The company asked the city to lease out a 15-foot by 20-foot plot of ground for an enclosure to house the tower's equipment. The city would receive $2,000 annually for 25 years.
O’Malley sought to defer this seemingly simple item so the city can tweak the contract and talk to some balloonists about whether adding cell phone equipment creates danger for pilots. Good job, Councilor O’Malley, for considering safety factors. The most obvious issue is a balloon getting caught on the tower. Another possible problem is interference with the radios used on and around the field by balloonists. There’s a reason airlines try to get everyone to shut off their cell phones for takeoffs and landings.