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Planning commission turns down high-density apartments off Agua Fria

SANTA FE, N.M. — This article has been corrected to provide the proper identification of the members the Planning Commission who voted against the rezoning and plan amendment for the proposed apartments on Agua Fria Road. The identification of the commission chairman also has been corrected.

SANTA FE – Amid strong opposition from neighbors, the city of Santa Fe’s Planning Commission denied requests for a general plan amendment and rezoning that would have allowed for a 450-unit apartment complex west of Frenchy’s Field on Agua Fria Road.

About 50 people – most of them opposing the plan – spoke during a public hearing at the nearly five-hour meeting that lasted late into the night Thursday.

Objections primarily centered around concerns over increased traffic on Agua Fria Road – a three-lane road with one lane of traffic in each direction and a turning lane in the middle – and concerns that the size and residential density of the complex were out of sync with the area’s character.

A portion of the 16.5-acre site used to be occupied by the now-defunct Ecoversity, an educational nonprofit that worked to promote sustainable living. Other parts of the property are owned by the Prajna Foundation, a related nonprofit.

While city staff recommended approval of both the general plan amendment and the request for a zoning change, each item was defeated by a 4-2 vote, with commissioners Lisa Bemis, Dan Pava, Brian Gutierrez and Renee Villarreal making up the majority. Angela Schackel-Bordegaray and John Padilla voted for the changes, while Lawrence Ortiz was absent and chairman Michael Harris only votes in case of a tie.

The request came from Blue Buffalo LLC, made up of brothers Eric and Kurt Faust and their partner Keith Gorges, who presented a plan to build 10 three-story buildings along the Santa Fe River and renovate an existing building to develop an apartment complex aimed at providing affordable housing that would appeal to millennials. Rental rates for the apartments were to range in price from $750 per month for a studio to $1,500 per month for a two-bedroom unit.

City staff had supported the plan, saying the project was consistent with city administration’s goals of job growth.

After the public hearing, the applicants asked that their case be postponed to allow more time to address neighbors’ concerns.

Former City Councilor Frank Montaño, who spoke against the plan, recommended that the commission deny the request, and a motion to that effect was made by Villarreal.

Tamara Baer, a planner manager with the city, said the applicants could appeal the planning commission’s ruling, but as of Friday afternoon they had not indicated they would.