PARADISE HILLS SPECIAL ZONING DISTRICT
IS ON-LINE FOR: ZONING PERMITTING
In 2020, the PHSZD Commission moved application review, records management, and public meetings online, when community meetings, in-person transfer of documents, and contact with applicants became impossible due to COVID-19 restrictions. These changes allowed the Commission to continue our services during the COVID-19 emergency while keeping community members safe. The decision to move online also meant moving from paper records to digital records.
New Mexico State Zoning Statutes require special zoning districts, like the Paradise Hills Special Zoning District Commission to (1) review zoning applications, (2) issue permits, and (3) secure, validate and retain zoning permit decisions. Information from applicants is for the purposes of legally describing and securing zoning decisions. New Mexico statutes are clear: “All necessary costs incurred by the zoning commission of a special zoning district in connection with official acts performed pursuant to the Special Zoning District Act [3-21-15 to 3-21-26 NMSA 1978] shall be borne by the parties in interest [property owners/contractors].”
Our rules are similar to other jurisdictions. A PHSZD zoning application is incomplete if no fee or only partial fees are submitted. An application is incomplete if it requires: collation, extraction of data from supporting documents, or further investigation by the Commission. An initial online form allowed information to be digitally sent to the Commission and online public meetings resumed in July 2020. However, property owners and their agents began submitting incomplete applications at a time when the volume of requests increased exponentially. Many applications were: (1) spread over multiple emails and parties; (2) submitted with incomplete data/supporting documents. (3) Applications were submitted without fees or (4) fees were submitted without applicant information. System improvement was required because demand for application review was exceeding the Commission’s resources. The costs to complete applications were not being borne by the parties in interest, but by the Commission. A change was necessary and the Commission responded by developing new online application tools. By April 2021, the Commission expanded the PHSZD website to include:
New online permit applications
Online permit fee estimation forms,
New meeting communication portal,
New digital customer service, email, communication, and data tracking
Automated digital permitting and financial records
Revised fee structure and
New online procedures.
These new application tools have embedded instructions and links to the online property information. Applicants can easily complete PHSZD zoning applications online and have automated: confirmation, fee estimates, and instructions for the next steps. The Commission reviews applications only after a fee has been received and logged, and the corresponding application is found to be complete and conforming to the PHSZD Zoning Ordinance. Incomplete applications are not loaded or reviewed.
Our Special Zoning District Commissioners are elected, but uncompensated community members. In 2020, no national funds were authorized to help local governments and commissions with the cost increase essential to delivering services during a pandemic. Resources and labor were needed to bring the district online. Commissioners and volunteers donated professional services and personal funds to acquire data development and web applications. The PHSZD received more applications in 2020 than in any previous year since the district was authorized in 1982. Zoning requests received in the first quarter of 2021 are greater than 2020.
The past year was challenging for everyone in our community. Within the resources we have, the Commission is dedicating 2021 to improving zoning services and zoning code enforcement. With community input, the Commission plans to update the PHSZD Ordinance, last reviewed in 2009. New inspection procedures will expedite zoning complaints. The new tools have been BETA tested, and permitting will be faster and more compliant with state regulations. Any new technology may have problems and we are glad to help applicants. Our goals are to assist our neighbors and to keep our economy going. Let us know if there are problems or other challenges because we are elected to serve our community.
Paradise Hills Special Zoning District Commissioners
The Paradise Hills Special Zoning District (PHSZD) is a zoning overlay located in unincorporated Bernalillo County, New Mexico, and was created by the New Mexico State Legislature through the Special Zoning District Act. The purpose of the district are found in the Special Zoning District Act [3-21-15 to 3-21-26 NMSA 1978]. The governing Ordinance for the PHSZD was ratified in August, 1982 and authorizes the Paradise Hills Zoning Commission to review and enforce all zoning matters within the jurisdiction. Bernalillo County does not enforce or review zoning regulations for areas within the Paradise Hills Zoning District. The PHSZD Commissioners are elected for four year terms, in local elections.