SANTA FE, N.M. — The Santa Fe City Council on Wednesday narrowly approved an amendment that allows higher buildings near the intersection of Pacheco Street and St. Michael’s Drive, rejecting arguments about blocking views and increased traffic from taller, more dense development.
The approval allows building height in the Midtown Local Innovation Corridor Overlay District along St.Mike’s – often referred to as the Midtown LINC – to supersede those of the South Central Highway Development Corridor, a portion of which overlaps the Midtown LINC.
The amendment affects only three overlapping properties on Pacheco south of the intersection with St. Mike’s.
It allows for developments to be built to a height of 52 feet, which opponents of the amendment argued would take away from the viewshed as travelers enter the city from St. Michael’s and St. Francis drives. The limit for the South Central Highway Development Corridor was set at 38 feet “to establish a clear sense of visual openness and continuity as seen from major highway entrances to Santa Fe.”
It took about 3½ hours of discussion over two meetings to arrive at the decision. The proposal was postponed after more than two hours of debate at the July 31 meeting, largely because Councilor Peter Ives, sponsor of the amendment, was not present to respond to questions from his colleagues.
On Wednesday, Ives explained that his primary goal for bringing the proposal forward was to spur redevelopment along the St. Michael’s Drive corridor and put two vacant buildings formally leased by state government for office space back into use, possibly for housing.
He said he felt the need for development along the St. Michael’s corridor outweighed any negative effect the height limit would have on views of the surrounding landscape. “The impact on views is certainly minimal,” he said.
People opposed to the amendment who spoke during a public hearing at the previous meeting and on Wednesday said the 52-foot limit would result in obstructed views. They also expressed concerns about increased density and traffic along Pacheco, and that qualifying projects within the Midtown LINC could be approved administratively without public input.
Just three of the 10 members of the public who spoke during the public hearing on Wednesday were in favor of the amendment. They included Jeffrey Branch of Branch Realty, which is advertising two of the properties – the Pollon and Ark plazas – as investment properties, and his daughter, Megan.
Megan Branch said the developments could provide opportunities for new housing in a city suffering from a housing shortage. Jeffrey Branch didn’t say whether the buildings would be converted to housing, but said the reason there hasn’t been new development in the Midtown LINC was because so many buildings were encumbered by leases.
Land Use Director Carol Johnson said as of yet no proposals for development in the Midtown LINC, which was established as an effort to stimulate development along St. Michael’s Drive, have been submitted to the city.
Councilor Signe Lindell offered a compromise that would have set the building height limit in the overlapping area at 42 feet, but it failed to gain the support of the majority of the council.
Note: This story was updated to correctly identified Jeffrey Branch as the man who spoke in favor of the amendments during the public hearing.