Our view: Restricting growth with restrictive covenants

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Anyone driving through Rio Rancho can see a city on the rise, with plenty of places to shop, big bright advertisements and two-story buildings.

Yet after doing over a year’s worth of research, it seems much of that growth — both commercial and residential —was not part of the area’s original plan. According to the 1961 land-use covenants created by AMREP, then called Rio Rancho Estates Inc., this entire area was meant to be a giant neighborhood made of half-acre lots with one-story houses.

Without going into each line item on the land-use covenants, it’s safe to say that a majority of Rio Rancho is in violation of this antiquated code.

However, AMREP Attorney Mathew Spangler explained in an email that a waiver can be purchased for $2,000 an acre for anyone wanting to develop a section of land in the Rio Rancho area.

Regardless of the legal foothold AMREP has in the matter, the question really comes down to how fair it is to charge people for a document that clearly has no modern merit. Yet, without the waiver, developers cannot receive a valid title for their property, leaving them stuck with a giant investment that cannot legally come to fruition.

Is this a good business practice to bring up during a time when the City of Vision is in desperate need of economic growth? Developers talk, so this issue is not a secret among those who may have at one time wanted to expand or open a business here.

AMREP pushing these land-use covenants when a developer does decide to build here is the same as a child on the playground charging his peers to use his ball.

Another issue of concern that was raised by our research is AMREP asking the school district for a payment on the covenants for Joe Harris Elementary in Unit 10. Now, of course, the district verified that no such payment was made. The concern is if the district was to pay for the waiver it, in essence, would be taxpayer money.

This could be a serious defect in the plan when we get bilked for something out of our legal control.

Although we cannot offer a legal solution to alleviate what comes down to a legal act on the part of AMREP, the Observer has concerns about the restrictive covenants’ ripple effect for our area. We also understand and appreciate that in the past AMREP played a big role in helping this city grow before the Sandoval Economic Alliance’s inception. It just looks desperate on the part of AMREP to still try and keep a toe in the game by pushing what amounts to gibberish on a few pieces of paper.

Just before Rio Rancho incorporated as a city, this very document was highlighted as being a problem and that was in 1981. Imagine how much more irrelevant it is now in 2019.

We urge AMREP to reconsider its position, which isn’t being looked at positively, and come to the table with a better solution for the greater good of all of Rio Rancho — not only the greater good of AMREP.

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