In the last couple of years, I have had direct personal experiences with proposed changes to our pleasant single family neighborhood. The first involved a housing development that would have increased the allowed density by 100 percent, directly across the street from us. The changed zoning would also have allowed the buildings to be over 40 percent higher. These changes would have completely altered the character of our neighborhood.
The proposal was encouraged – actually promoted – by the Community Development Department, without any consultation with the nearby residents. This forced the neighbors to mobilize, actively oppose the development, and thanks to a thoughtful Planning & Zoning Commission, we were able to turn the situation around. It took a lot of effort and left many of our neighbors with negative perceptions about county government and staff, and many bad feelings about the fairness of the process.
The second is a smaller proposal but also increases density, and is also actively supported by CDD and involves several “creative” Code interpretations. Like the first situation the neighbors questioned the fairness and legitimacy of the process.
Density is the issue. Staff is pressing to increase density in neighborhoods, by hook or by crook, even where the zoning and Code do not support it.
The County’s Development Code is filled with references that tie property uses and development to the comprehensive plan. Whether you or your neighbor can get a special use permit to do something outside the norm or whether a developer can re-zone a parcel to increase density, height or shorten set-backs requirements, could turn on what is in the adopted comprehensive plan.
If you have an interest in maintaining the character of your neighborhood or changing it, want to maintain the density limits of where you live, if you care about how business or other development intersects and impacts residential areas you need to pay attention to the comprehensive plan and how it is going to change. What are your thoughts about the trail system, about keeping or developing open space, about density gradients in transitional neighborhoods?
All these issues are involved in the Comp Plan process. The current 1987 Plan remains largely unchanged with the exception of a 2004 revision to the downtown segment. In a week the County will be hosting three initial public meetings to begin the process of listening to residents express their visions for our community.
The dates and locations are:
- March 14, White Rock Fire Station #3, 6:30 p.m.;
- March 16, UNM LA Lecture Hall 230, 6 p.m.; and
- March 19, LA Golf Course Clubhouse, 9 a.m.
It is critical that there be active participation by every sector of the community. This is your chance to influence the development – or not – of your neighborhood. Don’t let it be dictated to you. Join in and own the outcome.