With the industriousness of a bunch of Rio Grande raccoons, the Albuquerque City Council wrapped up their June commitments with two jam-packed meetings that put new cannabis zoning laws in place, gave the thumbs up for the November municipal elections and cleared the council table before the summer break.

Get Us Outta Here

The council takes the month of July off; so at the June 21 regular meeting, it approved some items and deferred a bunch of others. Here is how it went down:

  • Councilors agreed to work with the state and Bernalillo County to dedicate the stretch of Coors Boulevard from Central Avenue south to the county line to honor the late Father Graham R. Golden, who was killed by a speeding vehicle while pulling out of the Santa Maria de la Vid Abbey near Pajarito Road. The city launched a “Speeding Has A Name” campaign to educate drivers on the dangers of having a lead foot.
  • West Side speeders will be getting some attention as well. Councilors approved coming up with traffic management improvements to Universe Blvd. from Irving Blvd. to Ventana Hill Rd. A safety study will be conducted in the next chunk of time.
  • Melissa Santistevan is the new inspector general. She replaces Kenneth Bramlett, who died from COVID-19 in December. Santistevan owns Precision Accounting. 
  • Burque loves Netflix. A  sublease deal with Netflix to sublease about 130 acres down at Mesa del Sol was happily approved. The city leases from the New Mexico State Land Office and will sublease it to Netflix for the expansion of its film, television and multimedia production site. Netflix bought Albuquerque Studios in 2018. City staff said Netflix setting up its production hub here was a game changer for the local economy. 
  • Save the date. Councilors approved November 2, 2021 as the day of the next municipal election. The mayor and several council positions are up for grabs along with 11 questions for voters.
  • A couple of the items deferred include amendments to the Candelaria Nature Preserve Resource Management plan. This is the plan that governs about 167 acres east of the Rio Grande, north of Candelaria Blvd. Another is forming a Tax Increment Development District, or a TIDD, for the University of New Mexico’s south campus to help generate infrastructure for that bustling area.

IDO Changes Are A Go

During a six-hour special meeting held June 17, councilors worked through the annual update of the Integrated Development Ordinance. What was special about this year’s IDO review is the council had to tackle cannabis-related regulations in anticipation of recreational marijuana becoming legal July 1.

The council voted on a total 15 cannabis-related amendments. It said no to some ridiculous proposals suggested by Mayor Tim Keller and other council members—such as barring new cannabis businesses from most parts of Central Avenue, Fourth Street, San Pedro, Broadway and Bridge as well as other “main streets.” Also rejected: implementing business hour restrictions, banning cannabis shops within 300 feet of religious institutions, keeping cannabis shops 1,000 feet away from each other and away from adult entertainment or adult retail shops.

Traditionally conservative Councilor Trudy Jones gained some fans when she said she talked with businesses along the Central Ave. corridor who are struggling and would welcome any business energy recreational cannabis can inspire and do not see the industry as harmful. Take a gander at Durango or Pagosa Springs and one can see how recreational cannabis venues can help weave together a vibrant business area. 

Some of what was approved was an amendment to grandfather in existing medical dispensaries. These businesses can expand into the recreational market, even if their location is not compliant with the new rules. Instead of 1,000 feet between cannabis businesses, there will be 600 feet between cannabis businesses, unless a conditional-use permit is gained for closer locations. And the dumb idea to keep cannabis shops away from adult entertainment venues was put to rest as well.

At the June 21 meeting, Councilor Issac Benton sponsored another amendment that would temporarily stop any cannabis businesses from opening up in the Old Town area until July 2022. Benton said Old Town was special and warrants its own rules, which the Council will have to formulate by the end of the moratorium. If not, Old Town will need to suck it up and be like the rest of the city.

New standards for cannabis microbusiness licenses were created. This will give smaller operators and producers more choices when it comes to locations. Councilor Lan Sena sponsored the idea and said it is to promote more equity and give the little producers a chance to succeed.

There were other changes not related to cannabis in the annual IDO update. The most important was not approving an amendment to limit the number of beds a shelter can have to help our homeless neighbors. Councilor Pat Davis proposed limiting the number of beds from 10 up to 100 based on the site’s zoning. There has not been a limit in the number of beds a shelter can have in the IDO. The issue of shelter beds, and “not in my neighborhood,” came about after the city purchased the old Lovelace Hospital on Gibson Boulevard to use as a possible up-to-175-bed shelter and social service hub for our homeless neighbors. This is in Davis’ district, and many residents were not happy with the plans. But Davis stood alone as the vote failed on a 1-8 tally.

The overall IDO changes were approved on a 6-3 vote with Councilors Lan Sena, Klarissa Peña and Cynthia Borrego losing some fans when they surprisingly voted against it, saying it was steamrolling people of color and rushing through important decisions about cannabis.

The next meeting of the City Council is set for a Zoom meeting at 3pm, Monday, August 2. Watch it at GOV-TV at cabq.gov or on Comcast Cable Channel 16 or on the city’s YouTube channel.