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Zoning Change Foes: Government Out Of Control

A coalition of 25 neighborhood associations on Monday asked the city council to delay consideration of a massive, city-wide redevelopment and rezoning ordinance, saying it will strip city residents of having a say in how their neighborhoods are developed and that it represents "government out of control."

The Coalition of West Side Neighborhood Associations said the proposed, 397-page Integrated Development Ordinance would give developers a free run of the city and allow them to build anything, anywhere they want.

(Photo: Coalition members Joe Valles and Rene Horvath.)

The coalition asked for a 90-day-to-six-month delay in a vote on the proposed ordinance. The city council is scheduled to hear 19 amendments to the plan Monday night, and could vote on the entire ordinance on Nov. 13.

“What is the purpose of this? It is development at any price, build, build, build,” said Jerry Worrall, president of the West Side coalition. “We are going to remove from the process the neighborhoods and the neighborhood associations. I find that deeply troubling”

Other coalition members said the proposed law would basically eliminate the city's 60 sector plans and homogenize zoning throughout the city. It's those sector plans that give neighborhoods some control over what gets built in their areas and how their neighborhoods look at feel.

Other coalition members said the IDO is an attempt to impose high-density zoning throughout the city.

“The whole object is to make it easier to build developments no matter what,” said Joe Valles, past president of the West Side coalition. “Right now it's being shoved down our throats because they can.”

Valles said the council wants to pass the proposed ordinance before Mayor Richard Berry leaves office on December 1st.

They're saying “we are going to pass this no matter what, before the new administration office takes office,” Valles said. “This is government out of control.”

Coalition member René Horvath urged a delay in the process in order to give community groups across the city more time to study the IDO and recommend changes to it.

“Let's slow down and let's get it right,” Horvath said. “Once it is approved it is very difficult to go back and change it.”

The process to develop the IDO began three years ago. But the 397-page document wasn't made available until late last last year. Many community groups throughout the city, especially those that represent minority communities, have complained that the IDO is a gift from the city to wealthy developers because it would remove obstacles – meaning the public – to development projects.

Patricia Martinez, a North Valley resident, said the IDO would impose higher density throughout the city, and that the way in which it was developed is counter to democratic principles.

“I don't want high density. Don't we have any power?” Martinez said. “We have lost our democracy. This is moving too quickly. Why are they taking away everyone's sector plans?"

Another coalition member said the IDO was “being done for money and for developers.”

City planning officials have said that the IDO would bring more uniform zoning throughout the city but still allow neighborhoods a say in how their areas are developed.

But Valles and others said that wasn't true, in part, because the IDO as proposed doesn't allow residents to appeal zoning changes to the city council, as they can now. Instead, they'd have to go to state District Court to appeal any decision. And that takes time and lots of money, Valles said.

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