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City rezones land for more homes

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A zoning change to higher-density housing for property off Unser Boulevard against the Albuquerque city limits again passed the Rio Rancho Governing Body, over objections of a number of neighbors.

At their meeting Wednesday night, governing body members unanimously voted to change the zoning of two blocks of land from R-1 zoning, the lowest-density single-family housing designation, to R-3, which allows higher-density detached single-family housing, townhomes and apartments, and R-4, which entails single-family detached homes at a density of about 10.8 units per acre.

The governing body approved the change at a prior meeting, but reconsidered it Wednesday because a clerical error had prevented people from being able to speak about it at the earlier meeting.

The property is bounded by Black Arroyo Road, an Albuquerque street, on the south, 22nd Avenue on the north, 19th Street on the east and 17th Street on the west. Homes on large lots are scattered to the north and west, with a couple of homes in the middle of the parcels whose zoning changed.

Development Services Director Dolores Wood said the zone change fit city policy by, among other things, providing a variety of housing and fixing an error in past zoning. Once the change was approved, she said, the developers would have to submit a site plan that includes improvements to mitigate effects on neighbors.

Myrna Brown, who lives in the neighboring Vista Montebello subdivision, said the area’s primary entrance is Black Arroyo, which has two lanes and no shoulder. A vehicle parked along the road could make passage impossible for emergency vehicles, and lives might be at risk in a major emergency, she said.

If the governing body approved the zone change, she said, it would send a message to prospective homeowners that the city wouldn’t support them or take care of their safety.

“The message will be that the city values development at any cost,” Brown said.

Vista Montebello resident Robert Brown, an FBI criminal intelligence supervisor, said bringing in 1,000 people would cause an influx in violence and property crimes eventually. He also said building apartments would devalue his property.

“To say that the values of our property are not going to be affected by this is ludicrous,” he said.

Three speakers said Maggie Cordova Elementary, which serves that neighborhood, is overcrowded, and the development would make it worse.

On the other hand, Jeffrey Wooten, NAIOP commercial development organization representative and Cabezon resident, said a number of property owners were working together for orderly development of the land, meaning better roads, use of public facilities and use of land. The developers, not taxpayers, would pay for infrastructure, Wooten said.

He said the development of Rust hospital and other businesses created the need for higher-density housing nearby.

“The approval of this rezone application is critical to the future of this area,” Wooten said.

He believed developers would lose interest in the area if rezoning failed, because of unpredictable city processes.

Howard Balmer, representing the developers, said the site plan would address entrances and exits. Planners would work with police, the fire department, public works and other city staff members, he said.

Councilor Chuck Wilkins said there was no evidence the development would decrease property values and increase crime. Rio Rancho is one of the safest cities in New Mexico, despite high-density housing in some places, he continued.

“I’m trying to be fair,” Wilkins said. “I’m trying to follow the law.”

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