Copyright © 2014 Albuquerque Journal
Mariposa property owners say the fight’s not over yet.
A group of them were in court this week to hear a state District Court judge give final blessing to a settlement that spares them huge tax increases.
But their attorney plans to continue seeking damages from Mariposa developer High Desert Investment Corp.
Attorney Christopher Bauman told Thirteenth Judicial District Judge James Sanchez the settlement brings “security to an otherwise out of control situation” but it doesn’t make up for the emotional and financial damage property owners have suffered since High Desert abandoned the community in far north Rio Rancho.
“The taxes are just one element of the damages,” Bauman said in an interview after the hearing, “It’s our contention that the developer’s default adversely affected property values beyond what just general market conditions would dictate. We believe that those damages are attributable as well to the developer. Our clients paid top dollar to purchase property out there.”
At the hearing, custom builder D.C. Durano told the judge he relied on the “stellar reputation” of High Desert, the investment arm of the private school Albuquerque Academy, when he bought three lots at Mariposa.
Durano claimed he has been offered pennies on the dollar for the lots since High Desert left in mid-2012 and has lost around $600,000.
Durano called High Desert and Albuquerque Academy’s actions regarding Mariposa “unscrupulous and dishonest.”
Others who spoke said home values and sales have suffered, and the development High Desert touted as high end has a reputation as a failed community.
High Desert borrowed $16 million in bonds to install community infrastructure using the public improvement district process, which allows developers to recoup the cost through tax payments from property owners. Property owners faced a tenfold increase in their payments to cover the debt when High Desert pulled out.
High Desert attorney Richard Alvidrez didn’t comment on the allegations. In an interview after the hearing, he said High Desert worked with bondholders to help make the restructuring agreement possible.
Last summer, the public improvement district board approved a settlement with the bondholders to restructure the debt, capping the payments close to the amount property owners were paying before High Desert left. The settlement was contingent on court approval.
It also allowed a group of 25 plaintiffs who were suing High Desert to proceed with their action. Sanchez issued an order in December certifying Mariposa property owners as a class for purposes of the settlement.
Bauman said he would file for class certification to continue legal action against High Desert and Albuquerque Academy.