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Santa Fe may get land in northwest quadrant back after 90 years

SANTA FE — The city of Santa Fe is looking to terminate a nearly 90-year-old agreement with Santa Fe Estates, Inc., and enter a new arrangement that would convey roughly 250 acres of property in the so-called northwest quadrant near N.M. 599 and North Ridgetop Road back to the city.

The City Council’s Finance Committee on Monday unanimously approved the proposal, which will be up for consideration by the full City Council on Dec. 11.

Asked by City Councilor Mike Harris what the city’s objective for the property would be, Kevin Kellogg, the city’s asset development manager, said it would be to get the land “unstuck” so that it could be developed in the most profitable way.

Councilor Signe Lindell saw the proposal as an chance for the city to address its housing shortage with affordable units. Without the new agreement, the property could remain dormant for many years, she said.

“I see it as an opportunity for us looking into the future,” she said. “It’s another property we could consider for use for affordable housing. I think it’s a great location.”

Under the original terms of the agreement signed in 1930, Santa Fe Estates worked to clear title and develop the land for sale, including installation of utilities and road construction. Proceeds from the land sales were then split between the city and Santa Fe Estates, minus development and sales costs. The idea of the agreement was to encourage development of the land and add to property tax proceeds. The city has received about $4.5 million as its share of the property sales over 90 years.

According to a staff memo to city councilors, Santa Fe Estates’ board of directors determined that modifying the 1930 agreement “would be in the best interest of Santa Fe Estates, and potentially more attractive to the City than the current terms.”

The 250 acres was recently appraised at a value of about $2.4 million. Santa Fe Estates would pay the city $133,220 at closing.

The property, however, would be subject to the larger Las Estrellas master plan for the area, which allowed for the construction of 753 residential units on 290 acres, 14 acres of commercial space and 200 acres of open space.

David Gurule, managing associate with Santa Fe Estates, indicated that about 250 homes in the Las Estrellas development have already been built.

An appraisal report dated August 2018 says the vacant land is zoned mostly for single-family residential use of mixed density. The report also notes that the project would likely be opposed by the Tano Neighborhood Association. “Arguments will likely include that higher density will result in a significant increase in traffic volume along Tana Road, increased noise and light pollution, and other detrimental conditions to the surrounding neighborhood,” the report says.

But Harris didn’t see that as an obstacle. He said because it would be a low density development, “I don’t see it as having a major impact.”

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