Parties reach golf course settlement

Overgrown shrubs surround what was previously the golf course lakes at the Enclave neighborhood. Despite the settlement it is still unknown of what will become of the golf course at the North Nine and East Nine neighborhoods. Photo By: Diana Cervantes

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — The West Nine Neighborhood Association and Land Development 2 LLC have reached a settlement, ending a months-long battle over a plan to build homes on the former golf course.

The settlement agreement, made Jan. 21, permits more development for LD2, while also giving the residents open space in between the old homes and new ones.

Land Development 2 owner Josh Skarsgard approached the association in September to reach some sort of compromise.

“We expected to have a court battle, and so the settlement offer from the developer was a bit of the surprise,” said Mike Pyne, president of the West Nine Neighborhood Association. “They called us and said, ‘Would you talk to us about this?’ And we said, ‘Yes.’ We pulled back the letter from (last) February and said, ‘These are our terms.'”

The court date was set for Feb. 27, but due to the settlement, the association is in the process of dropping the lawsuit.

Two of the most important compromises for the association are the “setback area” between old and new property lines and the lot sizes of the homes.

The declaration of covenants, conditions and restrictions filed with the settlement requires new homes to be built at least 65 feet away from existing homes. That buffer would be left as untouched open space, and according to city ordinance, will have “non-irrigated native vegetation” tended by the association.

The residential lot sizes will conform to R1 standards for low-density single-family housing, bigger than Skarsgard originally wanted. The current neighborhood is zoned for R1 housing.

According to Pyne, the R1 lots and setback area would “protect the look and feel of our neighborhood.”

Skarsgard didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment.

Pyne said Skarsgard reached out to the association because he wanted to move ahead with business but the lawsuit had stalled progress.

“He was very honest with us. His business interests were held up because of our court case. He said, ‘I can’t do anything with that land because I can’t take money out on it; I can’t develop anything because this court case kind of casts a shadow over the entire area,'” Pyne said.

Golf Course developer Jim Bellows with Bellows Golf Management was initially working with Skarsgard to restore the 18 holes of the golf course not being converted to housing. It’s unknown if Bellows is still involved in the project.

Bellows also didn’t respond to requests for comments.

According to Pyne, there was a lot of drama between Bellows and Skarsgard during the whole process, and he doesn’t know the status of their business relationship. That leaves a looming uncertainty for the North Nine and East Nine neighborhoods that were told they’d get a golf course.

Pyne said this whole journey has been a study of community activism.

The association had to rally together through throwing fundraisers to pay for the attorney.

“You know, we organized, we were active, we raised money, we hired an attorney, and kind of faced down this big developer and the city and said, ‘You are not going to do this to us,’ and, you know, we think we reached a compromise that’s agreeable to everybody,” Pyne said.