Why is zoning important? Perhaps you noticed announcements for three important zoning meetings this month for three different bodies in the ABQ metro. Zoning ordinances are the regulations imposed by cities and counties describing how land may be used and setting requirements for allowable developments and land uses. Ideally, interests are balanced, and the general welfare of the public is promoted and preserved.
The Bernalillo County Commission approved the Santolina master-planned development west of Albu(r)querque. This was highly controversial and remains so. The next meeting about Santolina focuses on an agreement with the water authority (ABCWUA). Development can not go forward without an agreement. An important point is that the existence of paper water rights does not mean there is water available for tens of thousands of people the developers say will move to the development even though area population appears to be decreasing. In addition, the Commission previously approved tax increment financing for the developers–that is future taxpayer money goes to the developers to help pay the costs of development. Santolina Master Plan
The City of Albuquerque is overhauling the zoning code. This effort has met significant resistance from city residents who are not developers and commercial realtors. The notions of transit-oriented development and increased density sound good in theory with regard to reducing emissions and sprawl, respectively. However, many of the claims made to justify the major changes are not valid. Albuquerque is not seeing an increase in population, and the majority of millenials and boomers do not want to live in high-rise apartments in an urban center. Further, Sector Development Plans (SDPs), documents created to guide development of particular areas of the city, will be eliminated. SDPs have been created with significant neighorhood participation and have served unique areas of the city well. IDO
Finally, Sandoval County is considering a draft Oil & Gas Ordinance to address concerns about negative effects of extraction, particularly fracking. Unfortunately, the draft ordinance appears to be lacking in requirements for environmental impact studies and consideration for historical sites and wildlife areas. The latest news in this saga is that Sandoval County may consider using Special Use Permits on a case-by-case basis rather than moving forward with work on an Oil & Gas Ordinance. Sandoval County P&Z