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Legal hurdle stymies Mariposa bond plan

The Mariposa subdivision on the outskirts of Rio Rancho has been in turmoil since the developer, High Desert Investment Corp., withdrew from the project last summer. (Journal file)
The Mariposa subdivision on the outskirts of Rio Rancho has been in turmoil since the developer, High Desert Investment Corp., withdrew from the project last summer. (Journal file)
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A bond restructuring plan that would lower taxes for Mariposa homeowners hit by the departure of the subdivision’s developer won accolades from residents recently, but attorneys must overcome a legal hurdle that would delay the proposed changes.

Brian Crumbaker, the attorney representing bondholders for the Mariposa Public Improvement District, outlined the proposal to about 50 residents at a meeting in City Hall April 25.

“This is the best news we’ve heard since High Desert pulled out,” said Martha Greenleaf, one of the residents.

Mariposa developer High Desert Investment Corp. withdrew from the project last summer, reneging on an agreement to help cover payments for $16 million in bonds sold to build a water-treatment plant and other improvements, leaving residents to shoulder the burden.

Any progress on restructuring hinges on an agreement with property owners who have filed a class-action lawsuit against High Desert, its corporation officers and owner Albuquerque Academy and the city of Rio Rancho.

“If the lawsuit drags on for three years, then you’re in purgatory for three years,” Crumbaker told the residents who attended the meeting.

High Desert sold the bonds using the PID, or Public Improvement District, process that allows developers to issue bonds backed by payments from property owners for infrastructure. The company’s departure meant homeowner’s taxes could increase from $9 per $1,000 of a home’s taxable value to $110.

Under Crumbaker’s proposal, PID payments would no longer be assessed according to the home’s value. There would be a set amount based on the zoning of the property. Most property owners would see their PID payments reduced below levels they were paying in 2011. Owners of the smallest properties would see a slight increase, Crumbaker said.

“I want it done, I’m tired of worrying about this,” said Mariposa resident Lisa Bloom.

Crumbaker said the proposal requires approval by the City Council, which is acting as the PID oversight board.

Also critical is the sale of about 850 acres of land that High Desert turned over to a company established by the bondholders and is currently listed by Land Advisors Organization. Crumbaker said bondholders would hold out for a price that would maintain value for themselves and property owners.

In an interview after the meeting, Crumbaker said the lawsuit contains allegations about the property which could affect revenue from the sale, but he declined to offer specifics.

Mark Dow, an attorney representing the plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit, said Crumbaker appeared to be “asking for a release of responsibility by the Academy and High Desert.”

Dow said the property owners have lost value in their houses and the lawsuit seeks to compensate them for that loss.

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