Copyright © 2014 Albuquerque Journal
Like a phoenix, the Rio Rancho community some residents described as doomed is rising again.
Mariposa is once more the scene of home construction, “sold” signs and a deal is underway to bring the defunct community center back to life this summer.
Twilight Homes is in the process of building or close to closing sales on 10 homes in the master-planned community. Twilight is building in the Vista Santa Fe and Sierra Vista neighborhoods at Mariposa; Sivage Homes is also active in the community.
Developer High Desert Investment Corp. launched the northwest-area community in 2005 at the height of the housing boom, touting it as a luxury development. Then, two years ago, residents were devastated when High Desert pulled out, leaving them facing a ten-fold increase in the payments they were making on $16 million in bond debt the developer incurred to install a community water treatment system.
High Desert used the Public Improvement District, or PID, process that allows developers to finance infrastructure by issuing bonds backed by payments from property owners. High Desert had been subsidizing the bond payments but stopped when it left Mariposa.
A settlement reached last summer with the bond holders avoided a tax increase and capped the payments going forward.
Since then, activity at Mariposa has picked up, said Vinny Pizzonia, co-president and co-owner of Twilight Homes.
“Now that uncertainty over PID is behind us, people are coming out (to Mariposa) again,” Pizzonia said. “Things are really going well for us up there.”
Pizzonia said Twilight is also in the process of purchasing the community center and plans to sell it back to the Mariposa Home Owners Association. He hopes to have the center open by this summer.
When residents discussed the deal at a meeting last week, there were “multiple rounds of applause,” said Mariposa resident Martha Greenleaf.
“We’re all just so excited,” Greenleaf said.
Mariposa resident Paul Garver said reopening the community center should boost home values and attract new buyers to the community.
“I’ve really missed the community center,” Garver said. “It was a real selling point for us when we were planning to buy out here.”
High Desert borrowed $3.2 million to build the 9,870-square-foot facility that opened in 2009, featuring a fully equipped gym, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, locker rooms, office space and rooms for specialized classes.
After its decision to leave Mariposa, High Desert surveyed residents, asking if they were willing to assume the cost of operating the community center through increased homeowners association fees. A majority of residents who responded to the survey did not support the increase. High Desert than closed the center.
In October 2012, LPP Mortgage LLC, a Texas-based company that had inherited the community center debt from the original lender Charter Bank, sued High Desert for defaulting on the loan.
A District Court judge appointed a receiver and a foreclosure sale was scheduled for July 17, 2013, at the Sandoval County Courthouse. LPP Mortgage was the sole bidder at the sale with a bid of $750,000, according to a court filing.