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Oxbow project gets another hearing

The Albuquerque City Council will hold another hearing Aug. 17 on a plan to build 76 homes on a 23-acre property near the Oxbow wetlands on Albuquerque’s West Side. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal file)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

The prolonged battle over what happens to 23 acres above the Oxbow wetlands just got longer.

With two Albuquerque city councilors sitting out a Monday vote on the proposed Overlook at Oxbow residential development, neither a motion that would have allowed the project to proceed nor a motion that would have forced another hearing had enough votes to pass.

But the stalemate means it moves to another hearing anyway. By default, the council will take the matter up again on Aug. 17.

“This is like an albatross,” Councilor Diane Gibson said. “It feels like we just keep talking about this.”

Gamma Development’s plans for the Poole property at the east end of Namaste Road in northwest Albuquerque have boomeranged around city government for over a year.

The city’s Environmental Planning Commission – an appointed citizen board – approved Gamma’s 76-home site plan in March 2019 over neighbor objections that the developer was gaming regulations to increase density and had not adequately considered the ecological impacts.

Opponents appealed. A land-use hearing officer heard the case and recommended the city council uphold the EPC’s approval.

But the council last summer voted to send the case back to EPC for another review.

Gamma submitted an amended plan for 69 homes, and the EPC approved it in February, triggering more appeals.

The council on Monday was supposed to act on a hearing officer’s recommendation to uphold the EPC site plan approval. Accepting or rejecting the recommendation requires five votes.

Three councilors – Brook Bassan, Don Harris and Trudy Jones – voted to uphold it.

Four – Isaac Benton, Pat Davis, Gibson and Klarissa Pena – voted to reject the recommendation and move to a full hearing before council.

Councilors Lan Sena, whose district includes the property, and Cynthia Borrego recused themselves. Sena, who joined the council in March, said she had previously signed onto appeals of the project as a neighborhood representative and felt it was appropriate to recuse herself. Borrego cited her other role as the Albuquerque Metropolitan Arroyo Flood Control Authority (AMAFCA) board director as a potential conflict since the case involves an AMAFCA easement.

Monday’s failed motions set up a full hearing before council, though several councilors wanted that anyway.

Davis said the case has the potential to establish something akin to “new case law” for the city and deserved further review, while Benton noted the complex issues at play.

“I do feel as painstaking as it’s going to be, we need to hear this appeal,” he said.

A Gamma representative did not respond to Journal messages Monday.

The council on Monday also approved:

⋄ Adoption of the 2018 International Energy Conservation Code, which establishes energy efficiency standards for construction

⋄ Using another $300,000 in federal coronavirus relief money for grants to support retailers and restaurants as they expand outdoors

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