Next step after ABC-Z — major zoning changes

Following the City Council’s 6-2 approval of the ABC-Z Comp Plan March 20th, the City Planning Department is moving “very quickly” to get the Integrated Development Ordinance (IPO) approved.

WSCONA Land Use representative Rene Horvath calls this a “serious step” that involves altering rules and related regulations that govern zoning. She notes that it would potentially change the designations in zone maps, and make it much more difficult to pursue issues of interest to residents.

The zone categories determine:

  • Building height
  • Allowable density per site
  • What types of uses can be built
  • Setbacks, parking requirements, signage, lighting, etc.

The plan also emphasizes administrative review and approval by City officials, which translates into less public involvement and fewer opportunities to weigh in.

The Environmental Planning Commission, has scheduled the following hearings to examine the IDO:

  • Thursday April 6: 1- 8 pm in the City Council Chambers, City Hall
  • Monday April 10: 1 – 8 pm in the EPC basement hearing room at Plaza del Sol/ Planning Department, on 2nd street
  • Monday April 24: tentative
  • Thursday May 4: EPC tentative

Ms. Horvath says this compressed schedule gives very little time for neighborhoods to review and understand the IDO, and to make comprehensive and meaningful comments.

The WSCONA community says that more public review and input is greatly needed. Details of concerns are included in IDO Issues Summary.

Continue reading Next step after ABC-Z — major zoning changes

New Shopping Center on Coors at Montano

The vacant area off Coors Boulevard just south of Montano may soon have a shopping center anchored by a Sprouts Farmers Market.

Early work on soil preparation has begun on the site near the Bosque School.

According to Rene Horvath, who monitors land use issues for WSCONA,  the planned 25,000-square-foot building will be one of about 15 businesses in the $40 million center.

As part of the project, an application has been made for a liquor license that would allow for sale of beer and wine. A survey was done to ensure that Sprouts meets the required 300-foot separation from school property.

The property owner and builder, Silver Leaf development/ Daskalos, assured Ms. Horvath that the center will comply with restrictions to protect views and will not include gas stations or fast food establishments with drive-up windows.

A public hearing on the liquor license is scheduled for 9 a.m  on Friday, April 21, at the Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Government Center, One Civic Plaza NW,  in the City Council Committee Room, Room 9081 .


ABQ A Top Choice to Visit

The April edition of Money Magazine selected the Duke City as a top domestic destination in its Best in Travel Section.

Of the five cities cited, Albuquerque was the least expensive, at $2,194 total cost of a week for two. The other four cities mentioned on the list are St. Augustine, Florida; Estes Park, Colorado; Bar Harbor, Maine; and Fort Worth, Texas.

While the magazine recognized that Santa Fe and Taos may be better known, Albuquerque offers its own unique “mixture of architecture, artwork and cuisine.”

Luxury accommodations are coupled with “impressive displays of street art,” museums and more than 100 galleries, not to mention the Balloon Fiesta.

And the city has a selection of dining options, “including the $7 carne adovada at Mary & Tito’s Café, recognized as an American Classic by the James Beard Foundation.


ABQ Free Press Ceases Print edition

The ABQ Free Press, the weekly newspaper that has been in circulation since April of 2014, has ceased publication of its printed edition and will deliver news exclusively through its website.

Most of the newspaper’s writers will continue online:

  • Editor Dennis Domrzalski, who focuses on in coverage of the Albuquerque Police Department, the economy and the Albuquerque Rapid Transit project.
  • Retired Albuquerque police sergeant Dan Klein, who also writes about APD
  • Sayrah Namasté, who writes about events of interest to the Albuquerque activist community.

The newspaper’s arts and entertainment coverage will also continue.

Publishers Dan Vukelich and Will Ferguson cited economics in their decision to make the March 15 issue the newspaper’s last. “Before we stopped the presses for good, we were told by quite a few potential advertisers who had abandoned print advertising that they would consider advertising online with us in order to attract millennials,” Vukelich said.

A redesign of the website is underway. New features being planned include more video posts, regular podcasts and periodic email news updates.

“We have [millennials] in our readership,” Vukelich said, “as well as the affluent, older college-educated readers that most advertisers want to reach,.”

Six-to-Two Votes Carry ABC-Z Plan, defeat amendments

Despite attempts by Councilors Ken Sanchez and Klarisa Pena — both representing West Side districts — to amend or delay passage, the ABC-Z Comprehensive Plan was approved by the City Council at its March 20 meeting.

Councilors Sanchez and Pena were on the short end of 6-2 votes that rejected a move to delay the decision and approved the Plan as amended. Seventeen of the 30 proposed amendments were approved, many of which were offered by Councilor  Isaac Benton,  who represents downtown, old town and parts of the University of New Mexico.

Councilor Sanchez was successful in gaining passage of two amendments supported by West Side community groups:

  • Remove the Premium Transit designation for Coors Boulevard and maintain it as a Major Transit corridor. A Premium Transit designation requires bus-only lanes and allows for more apartment density along the corridor.
  • Maintain the truck restrictions on Unser Boulevard. Unser was approved as a four-lane parkway in 1989 with design standards and truck restrictions to protect the petroglyphs and nearby housing.

Councilor Pena sponsored an amendment to better facilitate community engagement efforts, which passed.

The next step will be consideration of  the Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO), prepared by the Planning Department for review by the City’s Environmental Planning Commission. The first hearing is scheduled for Thursday, April 6.

Continue reading Six-to-Two Votes Carry ABC-Z Plan, defeat amendments

Delay sought for ABC-Z Plan

WSCONA asks residents on the West Side to contact City Council members urging them to postpone a decision on the controversial  ABC-Z Comprehensive Plan so that major concerns can be addressed. The Council is set to debate the Plan at its 5 pm meeting today.

Rene Horvath, the WSCONA coordinator, cites concerns over:

  • Elimination of the Sector/Area plans, and how it will affect zoning, protect Community Identity and its assets
  • Promoting too much apartment density in commercial areas
  • Designating Coors Boulevard as a Premium Transit Corridor (similar to the ART Project on Central Avenue)
  • Reducing public input and participation in order to streamline the development approval process
  • Gentrification in certain neighborhoods
  • Other aspects of the Plan that have not been fully discussed, such as such as lifting truck restrictions on Unser near the Petroglyphs, overcrowded schools/density, promoting single loaded streets adjacent to Open space areas, etc.

“This is not a simple update of our current Comprehensive Plan,” she says, “but a complete re-write.”

At the last Council meeting, March 6, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association, or NAIOP, and the Albuquerque development community spoke in favor the Plan. Representatives of neighborhood groups, however, said the Plan should not be considered at this time. More time is needed to evaluate the amendments, they said. Councilor Ken Sanchez is proposing a  six-month deferral to give time to review and address the amendments.

Continue reading Delay sought for ABC-Z Plan

Post Office Adds Inspectors to combat theft

Albuquerque has one of the highest rates of mailbox break-ins in the country, according to WSCONA members who have been trying for several years to address the problem.  Now their efforts may be bearing fruit.

The Postal Service announced that it would be adding two inspectors to the staff that investigates such crimes. When WSCONA first highlighted the problem they learned that there were only two inspectors available to cover the entire state.

At the urging of WSCONA, Representative Michelle Grisham Lujan took up the issue and met with the head of the Postal Office’s Inspection Service in 2016. The office acknowledged that Albuquerque had a problem and promised to look into it.

Now it has agreed to add two more inspectors to the state.

In announcing the plan, Rep. Grisham Lujan said “property crime, including mail theft, is a real problem in Albuquerque. I’m pleased that the Postal Service responded to my request for more postal inspectors to help prevent and investigate mail theft. The West Side Coalition of Neighborhoods led the charge for this change, and I appreciate the Chief Postal Inspector for meeting with us and hiring the new inspectors.”

Mail has been stolen from both collection boxes near homes and the blue boxes in areas such as parking lots. Thieves look for money or checks being sent through the mail, as well as personal identification information they may use.

ABC-Z Priorities Outlined

Jerry Worrall, president of WSCONA, and consequently the primary spokesperson for many residents on the West Side, testified on behalf of the coalition’s 21 member associations at the Albuquerque City Council’s March 6 discussion of the ABC-Z Comprehensive Plan.

WSCONA’s goal, he said, was to obtain a deferment of the revisions to the Plan for several months in order to more closely examine its potential impact on communities.

During the Final Action portion of the Council Agenda, when public testimony regarding the Plan was given, he highlighted issues WSCONA’s Executive Committee had prepared in requesting a deferral:

  • Bernalillo County needs to be involved in the ongoing changes because City and County properties are next to each other in many places.
  • Goals of  the Plan revision have not been met for:
    • Improved protection of Neighborhoods/Special Places
    • Economic Development and job creation
    • Long standing water and traffic issues
  • The Integrated Development Ordinance has to be completed and accompany the plan for approval
  • The term “Defined Accountability Unfunded” must be identified in any ordinance to eliminate unfunded liabilities
  • Coors must be designated a scenic or a premium transit corridor

At the end of the meeting, which lasted until 11 pm and heard from some 50 people, the Council decided to continue its deliberations for two weeks to analyze the numerous floor amendments that were offered.

During the Public Testimony portion of the meeting, Mr. Worrall also spoke about severely reduced staffing for the Office of Neighborhood Coordination when it was under the City’s Planning Department. The office was reduced to a single person, and many services to neighborhoods were eliminated, he said. “This lack of support and services led to the reduction of membership among neighborhood associations and coalitions. Rebuilding those organizations is paramount to obtaining community input.”

He promised that WSCONA will pursue answers to its questions aggressively and to report on progress. The burden is also on everyone across the City, he added, to raise their own questions about the Plan and to seek answers.

ABC-Z Comprehensive Plan Debate Continues

Some 50 people offered public comments as the City Council discussed the ABC-Z Plan  in detail at its March 6 meeting. As the clock moved to 11 pm,  the Council decided to postpone its vote on approval of the Plan until March 20.

Those who approached the microphone were generally evenly divided between individuals and groups who asked for the plan to be given more time for analysis and debate, and representatives from the development community who argued that sufficient meetings have been held and that the plan as it stands is worth approving.

The delay to the next Council meeting was justified as time to review several amendments that had been submitted, but community representatives noted that Councilor Ken Sanchez argued in support of a longer delay — as requested by several speakers — of several months.

If the Council had adopted the updated Comp Plan, the draft would have been submitted to  the Bernalillo County review and approval process.

WSCONA representatives support a move to postpone final approval of the Plan for at least six months so that more detailed comments could be provided on the long and technical document.

WSCONA points to developers’ hands in ABC-Z Plan

Dr. Joe Valles, a member of the WSCONA Executive Committee, believes that the “Development Community is heavily involved in the genesis, writing and promotion of the ABC-Z Comp Plan,” noting that proposed amendments to existing plans do away with what he calls “pesky” neighborhoods’ involvement in the land-use process.

He also says the new plans eliminate major Sector Development Plans that were fought for and are currently working for their targeted communities.

In a note to WSCONA members, he notes  that both the Commercial Association of Realtors-New Mexico and the City’s Planning Department sent out recent emails calling for support of the Plan. They both endorse the amendments with “generalized-glorified attributes,” and mimic each other’s words in talking points.

He concludes that, while these points may sound attractive to the unread, the details of the complex plan chart an unrealistic path.

Some of  the Sector Development Plans being changed, for example, were specifically adopted to keep rampant apartment development at bay in order to accommodate job-creating zoning. The current market trend in ABQ is to build apartments. Many of the plans contain C-2 Zoning and, if recent attempts to accommodate apartments through commercial zoning is any indication, then “say goodbye to the opportunity of having offices, shopping and jobs in those sector plans.”