Monday, April 21, 2008

Subsidizing Growth on Fringes of City Wrong Policy; Op-Ed from Journal

Monday, April 21, 2008 Subsidizing Growth on Fringes of City Wrong Policy
Albuquerque Journal
By Isaac Benton, Michael Cadigan and Rey Garduño Albuquerque City Councilors

Many decisions guiding Albuquerque's transportation and land use trends over the past several decades have contributed to sprawl, loss of open space, global warming and poor air quality.
Rapid development has increasingly occurred on the city's edges, contributing to New Mexico's rank as sixth in the nation for vehicle miles traveled per driver— about 18,500 miles per driver per year. Between 1980 and 2005, New Mexico's population grew by 48 percent, but our vehicle miles traveled grew by 112 percent. As a result, vehicle emissions are the fastest growing and second largest source of carbon dioxide emissions in the state.
Sprawling growth trends in Albuquerque also mean that the open space and working landscapes that we value in New Mexico are disappearing. Nationally, according to the American Farmland Trust, the United States loses 3,000 acres of farmland to sprawl every day.
Many other cities around the country have made decisions to increase affordable residential options in their urban centers and guide development toward vacant land within the city's core, where residents who need it most can access public transit to and from work.
Such leadership would also protect valued open space and working landscapes around Albuquerque such as our deserts, mountains, grasslands and rivers— and the tourism, jobs, watershed protection and quality of life that these places provide.
The city of Albuquerque, however, with the help of the state's Tax Increment Development District (TIDD) policy, has done the opposite by subsidizing sprawling "greenfield" development on the city's fringe.
Tonight, the Albuquerque City Council will consider an ordinance that would get us moving in the right direction by limiting the city's use of TIDDs.
Although originally used to incentivize urban infill development where revitalization efforts would not occur otherwise, TIDDs could fuel development on the outskirts, providing up to 75 percent of the district's incremental gross receipts and property tax revenues for up to 25 years.
By subsidizing the growth of development on the city's edges, state economists estimate that even more homebuyers and businesses will be lured out of the existing community and into the fringe developments, cannibalizing our urban core and increasing hazardous automobile emissions throughout our city.
We strongly support this ordinance limiting the use of TIDDs to within the 1979 boundaries of the city, as defined in the Planned Growth Strategy, within a metropolitan redevelopment area or in a reserve area in which City Council has previously approved a TIDD. TIDDs would be allowed outside of the 1979 boundaries only if the subsidy were consistent with the No Net Expense Policy and was limited to non-residential development only.
The bill would exclude the use of gross receipts taxes to pay for TIDDs, a risk to taxpayers at a time of economic uncertainties and declining state revenues. By allowing state gross receipts taxes to be committed to providing sprawling infrastructure for such developments, New Mexico's TIDD policy has become the most generous to developers in the nation.
If we're going to reduce pollution and protect what we love about our community, we need to end incentives that drive development to our edges and instead promote smart, infill development and redevelopment. This ordinance will bring forward-thinking leadership to protecting Albuquerque's environment and quality of life.
Lauren Ketcham, director of Environment New Mexico, and Javier Benavidez of Conservation Voters New Mexico also contributed to this commentary.

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