Los Ranchos de Albuquerque is at a crossroads.
Village leaders — in serious consultation with residents — need to decide whether some areas of the northwest Albuquerque village can handle increased development while still preserving the community’s character. We think they can.
Just about everyone wants to retain the rural and agricultural lifestyle many residents have enjoyed since the village was incorporated in 1958. They want a village that’s open, green and semi-rural.
The village, which houses about 6,000 residents, has approved/is considering multiple new commercial developments, which would boost GRT revenues. It is also considering a denser housing project that could attract newer residents, especially younger families.
But controversy surrounds the four new developments, which are in the works or being proposed. Three of them are along the already busy Fourth Street corridor, which houses plenty of businesses, restaurants and strip shopping centers.
The fourth and most controversial development would be on a grassy nine acres at a semi-rural residential intersection a few blocks away that are a favorite resting spot for sandhill cranes and other wildlife. The village plan allows nine homes — one per acre — on the site at the southwest corner of Chavez and Guadalupe Trail. Earlier this year, village trustees approved an ordinance allowing conservation development pilot projects to have greater home density, with the village getting back a percentage of open space. Developers want to build 21 homes on the site, with two acres left for open space.
Michelle Smiley, who lives nearby, wants to preserve the entire grassy area for migratory bird habitat. “There’s all kinds of creatures in this little (nine) acres,” Smiley said during a recent trustees meeting. The problem is Smiley and other villagers don’t own the 9.26 acres. Neither does the village.
Meanwhile, construction is slated to begin on the Palindrome development on the SE corner of Fourth and Osuna, which will entail a three-story hotel, 204-unit three-building apartment complex, a specialty grocery store and up to 60 houses. Other home and apartment projects have been proposed for the Fourth and Osuna area.
More than 600 people have signed a petition requesting a moratorium on high-density projects until a survey determines how most residents feel about them. Village leaders say new residents will result in an economic boost and increased GRTs needed to pay for basic services.
It’s important to note first there’s a difference between fronting Fourth Street and being nestled in a residential area — Fourth handled just shy of 10,000 vehicles on weekdays in 2020; Chavez, 4,800.
Second, Mayor Donald T. Lopez notes two of the projects near Fourth Street have already been approved or meet ordinance requirements. A moratorium could land the village in court.
Finally, if the village decides it wants to preserve more open space for cranes, geese and other wildlife, the better option is to buy it at market price.
The village is facing a growth spurt small towns dream of. It can preserve its character and choose a path that’s both fair to landowners and one residents can live with.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.