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Editorial: Get data, not drama, from Santolina ‘outreach’

On Tuesday, Bernalillo County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley will introduce a resolution to have everyone step back from a huge proposed development and take a deep breath and 90 days to “ensure that the Santolina master plan accurately reflects the community’s vision for long-term growth and development.”

That’s a smart time-out from what has become a too-emotional process – so long as the 90 days are actually spent gathering and disseminating facts and figures rather than providing venues for more venting, and games of “what if?” and NIMBY.

Because it doesn’t matter so much if some folks simply don’t want the Southwest Mesa developed. That attitude may delay a project, but in the end it can cost the public big bucks and the loss of public input.

Consider the defunct equestrian center in Taylor Ranch – taxpayers shelled out $136,500 to landowners after bad government development decisions. And Hinkle Family Fun Center – a $1.5 million bill. And ABQ Uptown – a whopping $11 million check. All after elected bodies caved to political pressure from constituents.

Bernalillo County should heed O’Malley’s advice and take a time-out from the marches and play money stunts to shame officials and instead determine exactly what the development would entail, what public resources it would require – and who will pay for it.

That’s especially vital now that a tax increment development district may be in the works. A TIDD would allow some Santolina tax revenue to be diverted to reimburse the developer for building roads and other infrastructure – and would thus limit the tax revenue that would go to things like law enforcement and fire response, parks, roads and sewers.

It would be better for the county to help craft a development that doesn’t unduly burden county residents than to create a problem that either fosters another squatter village like Pajarito Mesa or costs taxpayers big bucks in court but gets built anyway.

Commissioners should take the 90 days. And use them wisely.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.