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Council committee endorses new open-space legislation

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Two open-space bills sponsored by Isaac Benton – one prioritizing the acquisition of land threatened by development, the other outlining a competitive process for future purchases – are headed to the Albuquerque City Council with a recommendation of approval.

 City Councilor Isaac Benton

BENTON: Sponsoring two open-space bills

The council’s land-use committee unanimously endorsed both proposals late Wednesday.

One measure says the city will prioritize the acquisition of lands threatened by development, such as parcels adjacent to the Petroglyph National Monument. La Cuentista, the middle branch of Boca Negra Arroyo, and the Northern Geologic Window fit that category and are mentioned in the legislation.

The bill also says that lands far outside city limits – such as the Northern Sand Dunes – will require City Council approval before any city money is spent to acquire them and that the city should coordinate with Bernalillo County. The lands would remain on the city’s priority list for acquisition.

A companion bill, meanwhile, calls for the city to establish objective criteria to guide future open-space purchases. It also allows the mayor or council to request offers from people who own land on the city’s priority list – a move intended to help the city get a good deal when deciding what property to buy.

Benton said the goal is “to try to inject a little bit of competition into the process.”

The debate over the future of the open-space program comes as the city is down to its last $1.5 million to spend on acquisitions.

A third bill, sponsored by Don Harris, calls for setting aside 3 percent of future bond issues for open space. That would provide somewhere in the neighborhood of $3.5 million every two years.

His proposal, however, remains in the council’s finance committee.

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