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Water issue dominates hearing on development

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Bernalillo County’s planning commissioners asked the same question over and over on Wednesday as they debated a proposed master plan for an enormous development on the far West Side.

Where’s the water going to come from?

“If the applicant can’t address the water situation, we’re wasting our time,” planning commissioner Lenton Malry said at one point.Santolina

At another, commissioner Joe Chavez, who presided over the hearing, put it this way: “We want to know where this water is going to come from. … I don’t think this commission is just going to vote on a blind thing that says, ‘We’re going to get it.'”

The questions centered on the proposed Santolina Master Plan, which would cover 13,700 acres southwest of Interstate 40 and 118th Street. It’s the largest master plan ever considered by the county, planners said.

More than 90,000 people might live there 50 years from now, under the property owners’ vision.

The team representing Western Albuquerque Land Holdings LLC, which owns most of the property, had plenty to say about water on Wednesday, though the answers didn’t necessarily satisfy the planning commission.

Jim Strozier of Consensus Planning, which is working for the development team, said he anticipates that Santolina will be served by the city-county Water Utility Authority, and discussions are underway.

Santolina lies outside the current service area, but that’s not a barrier to getting water, he said.

The landowners and water authority will have to negotiate a development agreement in which Santolina will pay the authority to acquire water rights or provide its own.

Furthermore, Strozier and others working on the project said the development won’t necessarily be a source of population growth. Houses and industry will be built in Santolina only if market conditions support them.

Chavez and other planning commissioners pushed Strozier for more details on water, and the discussion will continue later this summer.

About 40 people attended Wednesday’s hearing. The commission didn’t make a final recommendation on whether to support the master plan.

The next Santolina hearing is scheduled at 9 a.m. July 30 in the city-county Government Center, One Civic Plaza NW.

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