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Santa Fe Council OKs controversial development

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – After several hours of questions and debate, it wasn’t until the early hours of Friday morning that the Santa Fe City Council voted to approve multiple measures that pave the way for the controversial Zia Road development to finally break ground.

Up for debate was a series of amendments to the city code necessary for the development’s current iteration to become reality.

That included allowing buildings to be three stories tall along the St. Francis Drive corridor, while city code currently restricts buildings to two stories. The rule stems from a code approved in the 1980s aimed at preserving views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains from the highway.

The project will also see developers move Galisteo Road farther west to prevent traffic congestion.

The 21-acre mixed-use Zia Road development is one of the largest projects approved in Santa Fe in years. Developers say the project will create nearly 400 residential units, along with multiple shops, offices and open space.

Councilors tackled multiple aspects of the project on Thursday, with affordable housing and density being particular points of scrutiny.

Councilors also added a requirement preventing any of the housing units to be used as short-term rentals, a controversial topic many in Santa Fe argue has contributed to the city’s current housing crisis.

The project, which has been under discussion for more than a decade, has consistently received push back from some residents, especially members of the Candlelight Neighborhood Association, who argue it will increase density, traffic and create a lower standard of living.

Association President Ed Aku Oppenheimer said he was “extremely disappointed” by the process and that the association may appeal the council’s decision to district court.

“We’re really in shock,” Oppenheimer said.

The hearing was the second held this last week on the proposed project. A public hearing on Tuesday saw dozens of residents speak for or against the development.