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Santolina proposal has shown merit

A failure to plan is a plan to fail. From small family businesses to large corporations, leaders realize that you have to know where you’re going and have an idea how to get there.

Rarely is that path set in stone, as shorter or better paths may present themselves. But you do have to have a plan.

The Santolina Level A Master Plan is one such plan. Like all plans, the Santolina Level A plan will require further refinement in order to meet changing conditions and future concerns.

Common concerns raised at the 13 public meetings held on the Santolina plan are: water use, sprawl/traffic congestion, public financing and jobs-to-housing ratio. While each is legitimate, it’s important to remember that the Level A plan is but the first step on a journey, not the end of the line.

Approval would not grant the developer permission to begin building. It would simply define where commercial, retail, residential, open space, schools, roads and other infrastructure would be placed should market demand meet projected growth.

Prior to any development and the issuance of permits, the landowner would need additional approval and the further refinement in a Level B or C plan. Each would have to go through the same public process and answer many of the same questions.

There’s been a lot said about public financing or TIDDs (tax increment development districts). The truth is the Level A plan under consideration does not include any form of public financing or TIDD. Further, approval of the Level A plan does not make it any more or less likely that the developers would receive a TIDD, nor does rejection guarantee that the developers couldn’t receive a TIDD sometime in the future.

The specter of a TIDD is primarily a distraction used to whip up opposition to the project and is not a meaningful part of what is a land use discussion.

Lack of jobs on the West Side has been a chronic problem. Unlike previous developments that focused primarily on housing, Santolina dedicates land for large-scale businesses – not just homes – and sets a goal of two jobs for every home. Granted, the goal of two jobs per home may never be reached, but even if half of the goal is achieved, Santolina will have almost twice the current jobs-to-housing ratio that currently exists on the West Side.

The first step in creating jobs is having the space for them. Santolina has that space.

There are those who believe that the only kind of “good development” is in-fill development. While there is a place for in-fill and parts of the city and county would benefit, in-fill development is not the only kind of beneficial development.

As currently zoned, the land that comprises Santolina can be developed. Simply put, there could be almost 14,000 homes – each with its own well and septic system.

If you’re concerned about water and sprawl, the Santolina Master Plan provides a more attractive alternative to piecemeal development.

The plan describes necessary infrastructure for a traffic system that minimizes congestion and for a water/wastewater system that the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority maintains it can support.

And if metro area growth meets projections, the question will be where water is consumed not if it will be consumed.

It’s said when you have the facts argue the facts. When you have the law argue the law. If you don’t have either, argue the process.

The county’s review process has been extensive. While the process could have been less confusing, there have been 13 public meetings with at least one to go and countless hours of staff work over almost two years.

To say that we are proceeding without ample public input is simply not accurate. And those councilors and board members who would weigh in on a county land-use decision are and would be doing so without the benefit of hearing all sides.

The county commission must decide whether or not to allow a landowner to put their property to what they believe is its highest and best use. Thus far, opponents have not provided an alternative – they’ve just said no.

Passion and an intense desire to stop new development in Bernalillo County simply aren’t enough for the commission to deny a property owner his or her property rights regardless of who that owner might be.