University Heights homeowners have asked city officials to order work to stop on a 14-unit townhouse development that they say could lead to a new era of apartment construction near the University of New Mexico.
Developer Chuck Hall said Friday he is building quality townhouse-style apartments at Garfield and Girard SE in an area that abounds with apartment buildings.
“We did everything the city asked us to do, and we have a valid building permit for 14 units on that lot,” Hall said.
City officials said Friday they are reviewing their decision to approve the building permit, which was issued in May. Work began at the site on Sunday.
Homeowners agree their neighborhood is well known for an abundance of student rental housing, but most of the area’s apartment buildings predate 1980s-era zoning changes they say were intended to curb apartment construction in the neighborhood.
“I’m very concerned about the precedent,” homeowner Jane Sinclair said of the new development.
“We want to have a neighborhood here,” said Sinclair, who owns a home on Garfield across from the townhouse site. “Instead of being more residential, it’s going to be a big commercial rental area.”
Don Hancock with the University Heights Neighborhood Association contends the city’s zoning ordinance prohibits construction of 14 townhouses on the 21,300-square-foot lot. Hancock wrote a letter Tuesday asking city officials to rescind the building permit.
“The city has issued a building permit erroneously,” Hancock said Friday.
Hancock contends that, under the city’s zoning law, each townhouse requires a lot size no smaller than 2,200 square feet and that Hall could build no more than six townhouses on the property.
Apartment construction requires a minimum lot size of 22,500 square feet, Hancock said.
Hancock and others voiced those arguments to the city in October after Hall offered his original plan to build a 15-unit apartment complex on the site.
Hall responded that city officials rejected those arguments at a hearing in February.
Steven Chavez, the city’s land-use hearing officer, issued a recommendation in February stating that the city’s zoning ordinance did not forbid the construction of new apartments on the lot, even though the project fell short of the minimum lot size. However, lot size was a factor that the city planning staff needed to consider when Hall applied for a building permit for the project, Chavez wrote.
Brennon Williams, the city’s code compliance manager, said Friday that the City Council took no position in March when they considered Chavez’s recommendation, clearing the way for Hall to apply for a building permit.
Williams said he had made no decision on Friday about Hancock’s request that the city rescind the building permit.
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal