Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect the fact that the Sandia View Development is subject to the Los Ranchos de Albuquerque moratorium.
LOS RANCHOS DE ALBUQUERQUE – A pair of resolutions imposing moratoriums on high-density residential development in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque have been approved by the village Board of Trustees, but neither will affect most of the projects that stirred residents to protest in recent weeks.
On Monday, trustees passed a resolution that puts a moratorium on applications for the village’s Pilot Project and Conservation Development program until Sept. 30 and a second resolution that prohibits higher density residential development in the village’s C-1 (retail commercial) zones until Nov. 30.
The resolutions grew out of an outpouring of objections to four high-density residential projects in the village’s Fourth Street and Osuna Road area, but three of the four projects are not subject to the moratorium because they have either been approved or are under review.
Mayor Donald T. Lopez said the moratorium is about planning for the future. He said village residents are invited to attend a Board of Trustees work session at noon Sept. 8 at the Larry P. Abraham Agri-Nature Center, 4920 Rio Grande NW.
“It will be the first step in making changes to the future, maybe making changes to ordinances,” Lopez said. “We could, for example, make changes to height requirements.” He said both village residents and business owners on Fourth Street will be heard.
Lack of communication
Los Ranchos de Albuquerque was founded in 1958 to avoid annexation by Albuquerque and retain the village’s rural identity, agricultural heritage and small-town character. But many residents were shaken to learn that four high-density residential developments – one approved in 2020, one up for approval in September and two in earlier stages of the process – are in the works at or near Fourth and Osuna.
• Clearing work has already started for the Palindrome project at the southeast corner of Fourth and Osuna. It includes a three-story hotel; three apartment complexes, each three stories tall; a 14,000-square-foot specialty grocery store; and up to 60 houses.
• During its September meeting, trustees are scheduled to vote on the Nijmegen Plaza Development, a 12-unit residential project at Fourth and Willow, just south of the Palindrome site.
• The Sandia View Development would put apartment units on Sandia View, just west of Fourth Street and the Palindrome project. The application for this development has not yet been processed, however. It is the one project of the four affected by the building moratorium.
• At its November meeting, village trustees are scheduled to review plans for the Chavez-Guadalupe Trail Cluster Development that would place 21 homes on 9.26 acres at the southwest corner of Chavez and Guadalupe Trail. This project is the initial – and to date – only applicant for the village’s new Pilot Project and Conservation Development program, which requires developers to give a percentage of a project site to the village for use as open space.
Many village residents were unaware of these projects until recently, although village officials point out that agendas for Board of Trustees and Planning and Zoning Commission meetings are posted on the village website, as are videos of those meetings.
Joe Craig, president of the Friends of Los Ranchos, believes the COVID pandemic played a role in disrupting communications. During the height of the pandemic, village meetings were conducted via Zoom.
“COVID has had a big effect on all our lives,” Craig said. “It affected communications coming out of the village.”
‘Want something different’
Last month, however, word about the projects in the Fourth and Osuna area started spreading through the village. More than 600 people signed a petition requesting that the mayor and trustees institute a moratorium on high-density projects until a survey determined how the majority of residents felt about that kind of development.
At trustee meetings during recent weeks, residents turned out in force, sometimes spilling out of Village Hall, to voice opposition to high-density residential projects. Villagers filled the meeting room on Monday.
“I’ve never seen this many people come out to talk to you,” Craig told Mayor Lopez and the trustees.
Village officials say projects such as those in the Fourth and Osuna area are necessary to produce the gross receipt tax revenue needed to run the village, but residents believe those projects will generate traffic, noise and subdivisions and destroy the peaceful, green environment Los Ranchos was founded to preserve.
“What the village wants is not what you’re giving us,” resident Tom Donelan told the mayor and board on Monday. “We have obviously demonstrated we want something different.”
The vote was 3-2 in favor of a moratorium on applications for the Pilot Project and Conservation Development program. Trustees Gilbert Benavides and Allen Lewis voted yes. Trustees Sandra Pacheco and George Radnovich voted no. Mayor Lopez voted yes to break the tie.
Benavides moved to amend the second resolution so that it put a moratorium on higher-density residential development in C-1 zones throughout the village rather than to only those south of Osuna and Chavez roads. The amended resolution passed 3-1. Trustees Benavides, Lewis and Radnovich voted yes and Trustee Pacheco voted no.
Quality of life
Craig believes the most encouraging factor to emerge from the development controversy is dialogue between residents and village administrators.
“It’s got trustees and village residents talking, which I don’t think was happening,” he said. “It’s gotten the conversation back to where it’s about the village and not just about the money. This is the widest and deepest I’ve seen village residents coming out to protect our village, protect what we are trying to maintain. I am pleased our residents are saying we want to preserve our quality of life.”