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SF County won’t buy open space north of Cerrillos

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

After years of failed negotiations, Santa Fe County won’t be moving forward with its Mount Chalchihuitl Open Space Project.

The Santa Fe Board of County Commissioners voted to repeal its previous resolution, saying it would pursue the purchase of two properties – the Aitken and Glockhoff properties – to create the Mount Chalchihuitl Open Space north of Cerrillos Hills State Park. The vote was 4-1, with District 3 Commissioner Rudy Garcia voting no.

Mount Chalchihuitl is the largest known prehistoric turquoise mine in North America, according to the Office of the State Historian, with evidence of mining dating back nearly 1,000 years.

County Attorney Greg Shaffer and County Manager Katherine Miller said the county had reached a standstill negotiating the purchase because the Aitkin property owner disagreed with the county’s property appraisal. Shaffer said the two sides were a million dollars apart on the appraisal opinions.

Miller and Shaffer also said that the cost of environmental remediation for the properties was unknown but was anticipated to be millions, and that the county didn’t have the money to continue with the project.

The vote to repeal the resolution included an amendment offered by Commissioner Hank Hughes that said, “Nothing in this resolution precludes the county or its elected officials from potentially exploring or supporting alternative endeavors by others to remediate and/or protect the Mount Chalchihuitl mine site and the property on which it is located.”

Several commissioners said they had received a lot of emails from their constituents about the project. But no members of the public spoke on the issue during the meeting.

One person did try to speak but was told they weren’t allowed to at that time.

Earlier in the meeting, commission Chairman Henry Roybal opened the virtual meeting up for public comment but shut down the comment period after about 10 seconds. Voices could be heard in the background when the meeting was unmuted, but no one immediately spoke up, so Roybal moved on to the next agenda item.

On another matter, commissioners agreed to hold a special meeting on Oct. 6 to pick a replacement for state Rep. Jim Trujillo (D-Santa Fe), who formally resigned his District 45 seat Monday.

Trujillo had announced last year that he would not seek reelection, citing health issues, and he did not run in the primary election.

Commissioners said they were inclined to choose between the two candidates on the ballot for the Nov. 3 election, Democrat Linda Serrato and Libertarian Helen Milenski.