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County approves incentive package for Sandia mountain coaster, restaurant

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Government meetings aren’t exactly a thrill ride.

But the Bernalillo County Commission voted in favor of one Tuesday, adopting a

Sandia Peak Ski Co. has been talking to Wiegand Sports about development of a mountain coaster. This is a shot of one of the company's "alpine coasters" taken from its website. (Courtesy of Wiegand Sports)

Sandia Peak Ski Co. has been talking to Wiegand Sports about development of a mountain coaster. This is a shot of one of the company’s “alpine coasters” taken from its website. (Courtesy of Wiegand Sports)

package of tax breaks for a “mountain amusement ride” and new restaurant atop Sandia Peak.

The plans involve a mountain coaster – a roller-coaster-like cart that would whip riders down through the forest and then back up the mountainside. It would plunge about 380 feet over the 2,825-foot descent.

The commission on Tuesday unanimously adopted a $7 million bond package for the restaurant and $2 million for the mountain coaster.

The public isn’t on the hook for repaying the bonds. The transaction, however, is expected to provide about $260,000 in property tax breaks over the next 25 years for the companies involved: Sandia Peak Ski Co. and Peak Dining LLC.

The commission unanimously approved the deal – sponsored by commissioners Wayne Johnson and Lonnie Talbert – during a meeting late Tuesday.

But there was plenty of debate about the details.

Commissioner Debbie O’Malley proposed an amendment that would require local contractors and residents to be hired for the project, when practical, but the commission narrowly rejected the idea.

Commissioners Johnson, Talbert and Art De La Cruz argued that it was better to craft a permanent policy on local hiring preferences that would guide future bond transactions, rather than add one to Tuesday’s proposal.

Johnson said he had no doubt, in this case, that the companies would hire local residents.

Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins joined O’Malley in favor of the amendment, which failed 3-2.

The mountain coaster would run on the east side of the Sandias, starting near the top of the tram and running in and out of an area known as “Rob’s Run,” according to a map submitted to the county. It would be between chair lifts one and two and operate year-round.

U.S. Forest Service approval is required.

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