Council OKs growth grant

By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor

City officials are hoping a $55,000 grant from the state’s Livability Innovation Fund will be the seed for a new way of approaching growth and zoning in Portales.

The grant, which was approved by city council at its regular meeting Tuesday, will allow the city to undertake an effort to put what is known as form-based zoning, possibly using a software system called SmartCode into use in the downtown area.

“This is going to be a huge tool for us,” City Manager Debi Lee said. “You create a vision of what you want your community to look like. We need business and activity and this is going to provide codes that will stimulate that.”

Lee was able to attend a seminar in Austin, Texas, on form-based zoning. Planning Director Sammy Standifer and City Attorney Steve Doerr were able to attend a similar event in Denver which gave city staff more background.

Lee explained Portales was one of 11 cities in the state to receive the funding. The state will administer the grant and has matched Portales with a planning firm from Austin called Code Studio.

Lee said she hopes to have an initial meeting with Code Studio set up in about three weeks. Eventually the planning firm will involve the community through a process called a design charrette, where the community being planned is envisioned.

“The city has to be actively involved and you have to create a vision of what you want,” Doerr said. “It’s really a positive healthy approach to dealing with changes like we’ll see from Cannon’s new mission.”

Lee and Doerr told councilors that the process could provide the kind of connection desired between the downtown area and the Eastern New Mexico University campus. They also said it could help stimulate more foot traffic and a better business climate downtown.

In other business councilors:

• Approved an additional $15,000 in support for the Roosevelt County Economic Development Corportation. That brings the city’s total support to $45,000 providing to council seats and one citizen seat appointed by the city council on the board of the reorganizing group.

• Approved the final budget for fiscal year 2007-2008, along with budget adjustments for the 2006-2007 budget.

• Approved a contract with the Non-Metro Area Agency on Aging as a vendor for tranportation services for senior citizens in Portales.

• Approved a resolution accepting approximately $82,000 in cooperative grant money from the New Mexico Department of Transportation for street repairs on various streets.

• Held a public hearing on an ordinance revoking portions of city code pertaining to rates and charges for various city services.