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RR City councilors OK housing 5-1; neighbors upset

RIO RANCHO – Rio Rancho Governing Body members recently voted 5-1 to rezone an undeveloped acre of land in North Hills to allow medium-density single-family housing, despite protests from neighboring homeowners, at their meeting at City Hall.

Councilor Jeremy Lenentine, a North Hills resident, cast the dissenting vote.

Rio Rancho Governing Body members hold a banner promoting the campaign to get community members aware of and involved in efforts related to the Sandoval County Economic Development Action Strategy. Sandoval County Commission Chairman Dave Heil spoke about the campaign and asked the mayor and city councilors to pose for a photo with the banner at a recent governing body meeting at City Hall. (Argen Marie Duncan/Rio Rancho Observer)

He said he didn’t feel the change was beneficial for the welfare of the community and he had a problem with the duplexes included in plans from AMREP Southwest.

“In my opinion, also, this open space is necessary,” he added.

On Councilor Jim Owen’s suggestion, city councilors voted 5-1 to specify that only detached, single-family homes would be allowed on the land, just west of the intersection of 19th Avenue and Blueberry Drive.

The land had been zoned for R-1 use, or the lowest-density single-family housing, but the city’s generalized land use map marked it for open space, drainage or park use, according to city information.

AMREP initially asked for the zoning to be changed to R-3 to allow attached and detached single-family housing, according to the city. On the recommendation of city staff and the planning and zoning board, the governing body voted to change the zoning to special use so setbacks, lot size and other such requirements would match those of the surrounding homes with the same special use zoning.

AMREP Southwest Vice President of Land Development Jarrod Likar said initial plans for the area included nine housing units, mostly attached duplexes, but the change to special-use zoning decreased the number to seven. The ban on attached units would decrease the number even more, he said.

However, he agreed to both changes.

In his letter to the city, Likar said the zone change from R-1 was appropriate because it addressed the need for varying types of housing in the area.

Drena Erickson, who lives in the area, opposed the zone change. She said traffic already makes it hard to get in and out of the nearby park, and development of the acre would increase the already-problematic flooding on Cherry and Pine roads after rain.

City Development Services Director Anthony Caravella said regulations would require the development to retain rainwater on the site instead of allowing it to run off.

She also said the extra homes and traffic would make it hard to drive away from the area in case of a fire.

The conceptual plan shows a new dead-end street running through the middle of the acre, with a T-shaped turnaround area at the end. According to city documents, the fire marshal approved the proposed street design.

Erickson also said the land in question was supposed to be a park, and AMREP had promised to build another park in North Hills “mañana.”

“Mañana never happened for us,” she said. “The park has never been built.”

Another neighbor of the land, Pat Socci, said putting new homes in the older neighborhood would increase the property value, and thus property taxes on the old homes, while making it harder to sell the older homes because he believed people would rather buy new homes.

He also complained that the new development wouldn’t be part of the existing homeowners association or pay dues, but would benefit from being surrounded by an HOA.

Likar said the section of land would have covenants to blend in with those in the HOA. Under city regulations, he will have to get city approval of more-detailed plans as the development proceeds.

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