So what are we talking about? An urban utopia resembles cities like New York and Downtown Chicago. They're based on walking, mass transit, and mixed use. In other words, lots of people in a small space, with high crime, high rent, high taxes, and every kind of pollution known to man, all in the name of reducing our carbon footprint. The truth is ordinary people have been leaving urban areas as soon as they could afford to for over 200 years. For most people, the American Dream is not a 600 square foot efficiency next to 250 of their closest friends.
The establishment of the Form Based Code zones is consistent with the health, safety, morals and general welfare of the City. The land use patterns realized by the Form Based Code will play an important role in improving Albuquerque’s social and economic quality of life. The new development pattern guided by the Form Based Code zones will reduce dependency on cars, increase opportunities to be physically active, and improve air quality by reducing hazardous vehicle emissions, currently the second largest source of carbon dioxide emissions in New Mexico. [emphasis added]The Form Based Code places form above function. Current zoning sets rules for use. For example a factory can't be built next to your R-1 Northeast Heights home. In a FBC zone, there are few restrictions on what types of businesses and residences can be located in the zone. Zero lot lines and alleys are encouraged. In other words, all kinds of business and residential uses crammed into one small area - the only prerequisite being that the form is correct.
What they're saying is that if a development looks right and promotes the agenda of the planning department and the EPC then build it. Of course the agenda of any government agency is hard to predict and there's nothing more subjective than aesthetics.
Under the FBC there are no clear cut guidelines on what can be built where and developments are held hostage to a set of unpredictable arbitrary guidelines that can change with the political wind. The surest way to stifle economic growth and business development is to make the costs associated with investment unpredictable.
Albuquerque is a suburban city. Its growth was largely shaped and driven by the market place. That means all of us making buying decisions based on our personal wants and needs. Albuquerque is the result of the choices of her citizens. In the past, the city has concentrated on providing the infrastructure that supports these decisions. With the Form Based Code, the city is attempting to dictate these decisions. In short, another form of power is transferred from the consumer to the government and we all lose one more choice, one more freedom.
Advocates of the plan often called New Urbanism, will tell you that the FBC will make you healthier, more moral, and even allow you to save the planet. In reality, they're foisting their idea of utopia upon everyone and the dirty little secret is - every last one of the developments envisioned by the FBC could be built today. Yep... every one.
Life is filled with gray areas. Our zoning code shouldn't be one of them. It should be simple, easy to understand, and predictable. We don't need another layer added to our zoning code, one that is arbitrary, subjective, and most of all unnecessary.