I was going to write about property development in Albuquerque, and how I've seen the face of the City change, in many ways for the better, over the 15 years or so I've lived here.
Instead let me start by saying this: The City is changing the zoning codes for Albuquerque, this process is going to affect you regardless of who you are and where you live in the city, and I encourage you to get involved. This weekend.
This Saturday, December 8th, there will be a Public Meeting to discuss the new Form Based Zoning Code which was approved by the Albuquerque City Council on November 5th. And you should show up!
Why do you care? Lets face it, Zoning Codes are, in general, horribly boring things. But they affect all our lives in subtle, and sometimes unsubtle, ways.
- Zoning codes affect what you can build on your property, if you own property.
- Zoning codes affect what other people can build on the property next to you. And even if you don't own your own home, everyone lives somewhere and most of us care what's next door. Whether it's a shed, an addition, or a 4 story condo block right behind your back fence that blocks the sun from your yard 8 hours a day in Winter.
- Zoning codes affect what kind of businesses can go into an already existing building in a particular location, whether its a coffee shop, a clothing store, a porn shop, gun shop or a bar.
In short, Zoning Codes affect what our City looks like, how we as citizens interact with it, and the kinds of uses that different parts of the City can be put to.
Changing the Zoning Code for the City is a big deal. It will affect you.
I'll be the first to admit, I've read a little about the different types of zoning codes in use throughout the US
, and I still don't fully understand the impact of a Form Based Zoning Code.
A lot of the impact will depend on how the code is implemented. So I'm not writing to decry the evils of form based zoning. In fact I would support a change to zoning that encouraged growth and development in a way that is beneficial to the communities that make up the Albuquerque metro area, while maintaining some degree of autonomony for those communities.
I simply don't know enough about the Form Based Code. And I suspect a lot of other people don't either.
But a few things make me nervous about the way the new code is being moved through City government:
- I haven't seen a good explanation of why we need this change, other than the overly simplistic list of points "Form Based Code Compared to Existing 'Euclidean' Zoning" on the City's Page about the Form Based Code. Hopefully the public meeting will provide that explanation, but to be honest I am expecting spin. That list smells like spin. I want to know who benefits from these changes and how?
- The Form Based Code is moving very rapidly through City government. Council approval on November 5th, Public hearing coming up on December 8th and then hearing before the Environmental Planning Commission (EPC) on December 20th is insanely quick for legislation that will affect the entire City. That's less than 12 days between the public hearing and the EPC hearing on approval of the new code. 12 days and only one round of public input is simply not enough time for a change of this scope.
- The Form Based Code is coming up for discussion and hearing during the busiest time of the year for most people - between Thanksgiving and Christmas. This isn't accidental. This same time of year is when any contentious plans for development, or other legislation, generally manage to get themselves heard because they are guaranteed to get less public opposition, or input. This isn't my cynicism, this is an observation of fact by myself over the last 4 years, and others who have had as much as 20 years working on zoning issues in the City. People are busy around the holidays. Who wants to take a day off work to sit in a hearing 5 days before
- There was very little public notification about the public meeting on December 8th. The only notification Neighborhood Associations received about it was a flyer in the Office of Neighborhood Coordination newsletter. Anyone asking for a variance for a single property in a neighborhood has to notify the surrounding NA via mail, usually a certified letter, but the City doesn't have to do the same when they're changing the entire zoning code for the entire city? Makes me
- Finally, there was no collaborative process in discussing the draft code with Neighborhood Associations across the City. NAs are the voice of their neighborhood, and while these voices are subject to the same flaws and errors as any other form of representation, they are a recognized part of the City's policy for addressing development and zoning. Why were they omitted so blatantly from this process?
Taking Neighborhood Associations or their representatives out of the mix is a bad sign.
There's too much money in development dollars flowing into the City and politicians pockets for there to be a fair balance between the financial and community interests unless there's a commuunity group involved to oversee the process and have input. Remember the whole checks and balances thing we liked so much about our democratic system of government?
So, we as citizens have our chance to get informed and have our input on December 8th.
Please attend the public meeting:
When: Saturday, December 8, 2007, 9 a.m. - 12 noon.
Where: Albuquerque Convention Center, Taos-Cochiti Room.
Who: All neighborhood associations in the City and members of the general public are invited.
Why: To learn about the Form Based Code and have an opportunity to ask questions.
For my part I agree we need to encourage smart development, increase density along our transit corridors and in general, like it or not, we need to find a way to grow our City infrastructure and economy to support the influx of new residents that are coming. Because they are coming people, believe it.
But unless I see something amazing at the meeting I am probably going to ask that the issue be deferred and there be another round of public comment later in the year.
I urge you to do the same. Ask for the issue to be deferred for anothe couple of months. Ask for a 2nd round of public input to give people who attend the first meeting time to get the word out to their friends and neighbors who can attend a second meeting.
Waiting another few months for a change which will affect the city for years to come is not going to harm anyone, and can only benefit us as a community by allowing greater public participation.
But I'd like to hear other people's thoughts on the issue.
Know something about Zoning or Form Based Codes?
Have an opinion on Development that's more complicated than "I don't like these ugly buildings..." ?
Think I'm full of crap?
Post a comment.