ACC Design Guideline for Setbacks

last revised 5/6/09 

These guidelines are established to ensure that residences, outbuildings, walls, and other structures are placed on lots in accordance with the intent of the covenants to forever retain the open, natural character of Sandia Heights. They define setbacks for street frontage, side, and rear boundaries. Guidelines are provided for the process of reducing setbacks for lots that have insufficient buildable areas and that qualify for the granting of a variance, such as oddly shaped lots, lots with extensive physical impediments, and lots with unusual amounts of street frontage. Owners who expect to request a variance are strongly advised to hold a discussion with the ACC prior to the start of the design.  This can help to expedite the review process and avoid costly redesigns.


    1. Front setbacks shall be measured from all lot boundaries with frontage on public roadways and cul-de-sacs. Front setbacks shall be applied to both streets in the case of a corner lot, to the front and back boundaries of lots with front and back frontage on 2 streets, and to all street frontage in the case of lots where a single street forms a curve(s) around portions of the lot. 
    2. Side and rear setbacks are measured from lot lines not fronting a street or cul-de-sac.
    3. Setbacks shall be measured perpendicular to the lot boundary and shall extend across the entire length of the boundary. Where two setbacks overlap, the larger setback takes precedence.
    4. Access features such as driveways, stairs, and walkways along with their related safety devices such as guardrails and railings, and grading features such as retaining walls that do not interfere with the visual continuity of the land are allowed uses in setback areas. 
    5. Residences, outbuildings, walls (except required retaining walls), fences, trees, and any other structures are prohibited within the setback areas.
    1. All provisions of this section shall apply only to lots where the requirements for the granting of a variance as defined in the latest revision of the ACC Procedures and Guidelines – Standards for Granting a Covenant Variancehave been demonstrated.     
    2. Reduction of setback distances will be considered on a case-by-case basis. The proposed design must conform to the boundaries of the buildable area in both orientation and form and make effective use of the space available. esigns that are driven primarily by objectives such as form and orientation to views but, as a result, make poor use of the available buildable area will not be granted a variance. In general, designs that use less than 75% of the buildable area will not be considered for a variance.
    3. Reduction of side and rear setback dimensions will generally not be considered where there is the potential for a less than 30-foot separation from structures on abutting properties. Consideration will be given to the reduction of side and back setbacks wherever they abut unbuildable areas on adjoining properties, to the extent that the reduction to the setback does not decrease the distance to the adjacent buildable area to less than 30 feet. Public lands, where development is prohibited, will be considered unbuildable for purposes of consideration and approval of side and rear setback variances. 
    4. Front setback changes shall be applied equally to the entire boundary fronted by a street/cul-de-sac, whether formed by one or more streets. 
    5. Where lot characteristics dictate a change to the front setback(s), first preference will be to change the point of reference for measurement from the front lot line(s) to the street(s) edge. In many cases this may be the only variance required. 
    6. Front setback reductions in the range of 44-feet to 30-feet from the street edge will be granted as required to achieve parity with other houses in the particular unit. In general, front setbacks less than 30-feet from the edge of the street will not be granted.
    7. In extreme cases, where physical circumstances such as arroyos, flood plains, or other natural conditions prevent the construction of a minimum size house as defined by the covenants for the unit, front setbacks in the range of 2-feet to 15-feet will be considered. Visual impact on the streetscape and vehicular safety will be primary considerations in evaluating the requested variance.
    8. Front setbacks less than 15-feet from the street edge will not be granted under any circumstances.
    1. Limited Area Lot:  A lot that meets the requirements for the granting of a variance from setback requirements by virtue of insufficient buildable area to achieve parity.     
    2. Buildable Area:  The area of a lot excluding setback areas and areas that physically prevent development such as arroyos, extreme grades, and other physical impediments.  Desirable visual features such as rock formations or plants that do not physically prevent construction will not be excluded from the buildable area.
    3. Parity:  The condition in which a residence is comparable in size (square feet of heated area on one or two floors as allowed by covenants) and amenities (patios, portals, garages, etc.) to the other homes in the immediate area/unit.
    4. Covenant specified setbacks of less than 45 feet: Where the restrictive covenants specify 35 foot setbacks from the front property line, the guidelines specified in Section 2 herein apply for all requested front setbacks less than 35 feet.


last revised 5/6/09

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Albuquerque, NM 87122

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