SF Planning Commission takes up height limits - Albuquerque Journal

SF Planning Commission takes up height limits

The Santa Fe Planning Commission is to consider the creation of “innovation districts” that would allow buildings of up to 75 feet, or five storeys, in height. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – In ordinance changes sponsored by outgoing Santa Fe City Councilor Roman “Tiger” Abeyta, the Santa Fe Planning Commission will consider Thursday night the creation of “innovation districts” that would allow buildings of up to 75 feet in height, or five stories, in certain areas.

Abeyta, who lost his reelection bid this month, could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but, in a recent published opinion piece, he wrote, “For those concerned about taller buildings throughout the city, you can rest assured this legislation doesn’t allow that.”

Still, encroachment is exactly what concerns such opponents as the members and board of the Old Santa Fe Association. That group has been adamant in opposition to past projects it says change the historic nature of the city.

“This debate has gone on for decades in Santa Fe,” said Barbara Harrelson, current member and former board member of the association. She said the historic districts, mostly downtown, also reach into residential neighborhoods outside the city center.

“We also believe there will be encroachment if they change it for that part of town and, right now, it’s limited to commercial zones, but we believe it will be very easy for them to come back and say we need this for jobs,” said Harrelson, in a phone interview Wednesday.

In an op-ed in the Santa Fe New Mexican, Abeyta countered that “those who spread fear about taller buildings in town” don’t understand the legislation or don’t want the city to grow on commercially zoned land.

“This distracts us from what’s important: jobs, housing and good land use,” he wrote.

In response to questions from the Journal, city Land Use Department Planning Manager Noah Berke said in an email, “This ordinance change would only apply to properties 50 acres or larger.”

The Santa Fe Association is alleging insufficient public notice and wants the planning commission to either postpone or deny the proposed ordinance changes.

“Text amendments to Chapter 14 (the ordinance) do not require Early Neighborhood Notification meetings,” Berke counters. “They only require hearings at the Planning Commission and the Governing Body. My understanding is that some meetings have taken place with the neighborhood associations in the area.”

Harrelson believes taller building will block views of the landscape, but Abeyta notes in his opinion piece that a 75-foot building is just 4 feet higher than the existing Presbyterian Healthcare – Santa Fe Medical Center.

“We don’t want these elevator buildings is another way to describe it,” said Harrelson. “We feel we are heading in the direction of Phoenix, Austin … Albuquerque. These high-rise buildings, that’s not Santa Fe. That’s not what we want for the future of Santa Fe,” said Harrelson.

Abeyta also has an eye to the future, writing, “We need to diversify our economy to create jobs and protect future generations.”

Old Santa Fe Association board President Randall Bell and others are expected to address the commission.

Berke said he expects a recommendation from the commission, but the final decision will be made by the Santa Fe City Council.


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