Our view: Governing body should stand by zone change decision

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Rio Rancho Governing Body members did the right thing in voting for a zone change for a 19-acre parcel west of Unser Boulevard last week.

They should continue that support when they reconsider the issue next week and carefully review the site plan that would follow to ensure it appropriately respects the rights of neighbors.

We hope neighbors who object to the zone change will realize that the development doesn’t mean an end to their lifestyles and respect the developers’ desire for a return on their investment as well as the city’s need for economic stimulus.

Given the proximity of the expanding Presbyterian Rust Medical Center and other development in the Unser corridor, we think the development would enhance the opportunity for people who can’t necessarily afford one or half-acre lots to find housing close to where they work.

The change would convert the parcel, which lies just north of the Bernalillo County line, from R-1 zoning, the city’s lowest-density single-family housing designation with one house per lot, to the higher-density R-4 single-family designation and R-3 mixed residential district.

The half of the parcel farthest from Unser would be designated R-4 and allow only single-family detached houses at an average density of 10.8 dwellings per acre. The section zoned R-3 would allow single-family detached residences at 14.5 houses per acre, single-family attached townhomes with a density of 36.3 units per acre and multi-family housing — apartments — with 26 units per acre.

In our view, the development would generate service-supporting revenue for government coffers and create jobs and rooftops to help attract more retail businesses. The proposed residential uses are appropriate and shouldn’t significantly diminish the quality of life in the surrounding developments.

Some neighbors are unhappy. Many have dream homes on acre or half-acre lots, and are concerned about traffic, further overcrowding in schools and the potential for increased crime. Understandably, they want to preserve their quiet neighborhood.

However, we don’t see those concerns materializing significantly.

The Cabezon neighborhood has similar zoning to what’s proposed, and is an attractive area where children can play outside.

With Unser nearby, it’s likely most people will use that as the primary road to enter and leave the new development instead of driving through the existing residential areas, which have lower speed limits.

Schools in the area are overcrowded, but that’s not enough of a reason to stop growth. While we realize the difficulty of dealing with changes in schools or their boundaries, the school district is addressing the issue and the ultimate solutions may not be too traumatic if people are willing to be flexible.

Nor is the fear of increased increased crime — the implication being that higher-density developments and more crime go hand-in-hand — a valid reason to deny the proposal. As population grows anywhere in the community, crime might — or might not — increase.

The governing body unanimously approved the change last week but voted to hear the matter again because of a clerical error concerning the time of the hearing.

We see no reason why it should change its decision. The proposed zone change offers many potential benefits that outweigh the risks.