They may not be ready for prime time, but despite that, the Albuquerque City Council passed a massive overhaul of the city’s zoning regulations at its special meeting held Monday, Nov. 13. Once signed by the mayor, the new Integrated Development Ordinance will go into effect in six months; property owners will have about a year to review and request any changes to their zoning.
Just under a million people live in the greater Albuquerque area now. Another half million are expected over the next 25 years. All these people will live in neighborhoods ranging from the semi-rural valley areas to historic Barelas and Martineztown areas, to areas like Tanoan and the Westside colonies. The city’s zoning code guides such anticipated growth—ideally—into a sustainable quality of life for all residents. In 2014, the mayor and City Council directed the city’s planning staff to begin the process of overhauling the ’70s-era zoning ordinance and comprehensive plan. The city hired Clarion Associates, an expert municipal zoning firm out of Denver, to help with the project. In March 2017, the city council adopted the companion planning document, called the ABC to Z Albuquerque/
Several dozen people signed up to speak at Monday’s meeting. Comment was limited to the approval of IDO and to the handful of amendments on the table. Many folks urged the Council to defer the approval for 90 days, some for up to 6 months. Others were for getting the new zoning regulations in place and working out the bugs as it moves forward. Dan Regan, a local citizen who identified himself as the president of a neighborhood association, told the council that IDO was “not ready for prime time” and asked what the council was afraid of by deferring this massive change for 90 days. Others told Councilors that the IDO will do away with individual sector plans that offer protection for vulnerable communities, will push high density zoning across the city, will stifle neighborhood association and resident input, and will give agency to the developers and business community. One neighborhood association representative thanked the Council for listening to their concerns and passing an amendment to mitigate one of their issues. Others questioned why the approval had to happen on the night before the municipal run off election. “I can’t think of a good reason why you have to pass this tonight,” said Jerry Worall, president of the Westside Coalition of Neighborhood Associations.
City planners and supporters of the new IDO say the city’s consolidation and rewrite of the zoning regulations is badly needed due to the hodgepodge and often conflicting zoning laws now in place. They say the IDO cleans all that up and brings predictability and protection to residents, neighborhoods, developers and land owners. There have been about 29 amendments passed so far to the nearly 400-page ordinance. City staff say the amendments, in part, address problems neighborhood associations and community members have identified. “Let the market work it out,” one supporter said. At the hearing, city planners assured residents during the six months to a next year, concerns and possible amendments will be heard and forwarded to the City Council for review.
The amended integrated zoning ordinance passed on a 6 to 3 vote with Councilors Klarissa Peña, Brad Winter and Ken Sanchez weighing in with no votes. Councilors Don Harris, Isaac Benton, Trudy Jones, Diane Gibson, Dan Lewis and Pat Davis said yes, thereby sending the new rules to Mayor Richard Berry’s desk to sign before he leaves office Dec. 1. Councilors Peña, Winter and Sanchez were in favor of a 90-day deferral to take the complicated, amended ordinance back to their constituents. Councilor Sanchez said the council should try to get the ordinance as near to perfect as possible before approval. Councilor Gibson said the revamp does not have to be perfect and she does not think the incoming mayor needs to have input on the ordinance. Councilor Benton said the six-month window to make changes allows for more outreach and amendments. The councilors thanked the staff and community members who have been engaged in and who worked on this project. For more information on how this will impact you and to keep up with progress log on to abc-zone.com.