The “Permit Raj,” Albuquerque Style

If you have ever seen the excellent film “Commanding Heights,” you are probably familiar with the “Permit Raj” which held India’s economy back for more than 50 years.
A story in today’s Albuquerque Journal (subscription required) reminded me that the “Permit Raj” is alive and well here in our own over-regulated city. First, “an unexpected city requirement triggered a two-month delay in the water park project at what is now the Park Plaza Hotel and Conference Center.” Apparently, the issue related to an “unexpected regulation” from the city that forced the developer to increase the number of public restrooms and showers. This may not seem like a huge deal to those who don’t understand major construction projects, but a two month delay can be costly. Whether the regulation is justified or not, it would seem that the City’s building codes should be clear enough that this doesn’t happen.
In another example of out-of-control regulation, the City has put a hold to renovation of the Wyndham Hotel at 2910 Yale SE. The 276-room Wyndham sits on land owned by the city as part of the Albuquerque International Sunport campus. As a result, the hotel operator must lease the land from the city. In and of itself, this is not a big deal, but now the developer has been told that the City wants to assume the roles of lender and hotel franchiser in the ground lease, neither of which was included in the letter of intent. The relationship requires the owners to provide detailed financial reports on the hotel’s operation, thus bringing problems of proprietary information and competition.
The City of Albuquerque needs to stop playing ridiculous games and instead work to promote and support business development, not scare it away. Otherwise, why not just move to Rio Rancho?