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Albuquerque officials say they’re “optimistic” about negotiations to buy – and preserve as open space – a high-profile West Side property currently approved for residential development, though the window of opportunity may be narrow.
A purchase could mark the end of a yearslong battle over 23 acres above the Rio Grande wetlands known to many still as the “Poole” property after the former owners.
Neighbors have vigorously fought Gamma Development’s plan to build dozens of homes on the bluff at the east end of Namaste Road, arguing the proposal skirted density standards and could cause ecological harm. Opponents’ technical appeals to planning authorities have failed repeatedly, however, and Gamma received site plan approval for a 69-home development.
But the approval has not stopped the push to preserve the land via public acquisition.
Now the city – backed by millions in state money – says its attorneys are working with the owner’s lawyers on the final details of a purchase agreement.
“We are optimistic that we have reached terms that the owner will accept and our community will appreciate, especially all of those who have advocated to protect these lands,” city Parks and Recreation Department spokeswoman Jessica Campbell said in written answers to Journal questions. “This purchase will allow the city to preserve this land as open space for generations to come.”
Campbell would not disclose the proposed sale price, citing the ongoing negotiations, nor would she divulge the property’s value based on a recent city-funded appraisal.
Officials in Mayor Tim Keller’s administration have asked the City Council to fast-track purchase-related legislation, warning that time is of the essence. The legislation formally declares the Poole property a city open space acquisition priority. It would also notably free up millions of dollars to help pay for it.
The city already has $4.6 million for the purchase thanks to a 2020 New Mexico Legislative appropriation spearheaded by Sen. Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque.
But Keller’s recent proposal to the council includes authority to supplement that with up to $2.2 million in city Open Space Trust Fund money if necessary.
“The property owner has another offer and plans to close on that offer in March if the city does not make the purchase, and the city wants to be competitive as possible,” Campbell said.
Given the amount of money at stake, some city councilors initially bristled at the idea of accelerating the council’s standard deliberation and approval process. But the council agreed Monday to hear it at two separate committees next week, a route that could set up a final vote as early as Feb. 17.
A representative of Gamma Development did not respond to a Journal message about the potential sale.