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Placitas residents debate proposed development for seniors

new map temp_feb_16A planned senior cohousing community has Placitas residents divided.

One side argues that the 18-unit high-density development will wreck the Placitas West neighborhood’s rural charm, while the other holds that it will allow aging residents to continue to live in their community.

Placitas Sage Cohousing is seeking a zone map amendment that would allow the development to be built on 6.18 acres in Placitas West. In addition to the one- and two-bedroom attached homes, the proposed development incudes a community center, religious space and a gallery.

The development would be located within the West Placitas Community District, which Sandoval County spokesman Sidney Hill said is zoned for rural residential single-family homes. Sage Cohousing is asking that the property be amended to a master planned zone district.

“What that means is that all the details of this community have to be spelled out in a master plan,” Hill said.

Placitas residents have flooded the county with letters both opposing and in favor of the community.

Those in opposition mainly express concern over the impact on the village’s character, along with worries about water use, septic systems, roads and the landscape.

“Over the past five decades, people have been attracted to, committed to and invested in West Placitas properties because of the low-density housing requirements and because of the non-urban lifestyle,” Denise Wallen wrote in a letter posted on the county website.

Janice Casby-Stearns said in her letter that she lives in Placitas West, and is worried about Sage’s potential impact on wildlife, the water table and light pollution. She also said that the small, unmaintained roads in the area may not be able to support construction equipment.

“(The roads) are basically not even wide enough for two small cars to pass each other,” Casby-Stearns wrote. She explained that she’s not opposed to a cohousing development near her, but believes only six homes should be built on 6 acres.

A letter signed by Tom Coulter argues that the “ill-conceived, ill-posed” development would “permanently and irreversibly change our lifestyle,” while setting a “dangerous precedent.”

Those who support the variance say that the development will allow aging Placitas residents who are no longer able to manage a large home to continue to live in the community where they’ve built their lives and formed bonds.

Joan Fenicle wrote that the opposition was a typical Placitas “not in my neighborhood” reaction.

“Why should people who love Placitas and have spent many productive years of their lives here have to leave just because they get old?” Fenicle wrote.

She wrote that she spent “two long years” on the Placitas Master Plan and didn’t agree that the development would detract from “what we love and want to preserve about Placitas.”

Lilith Ren, who lives nearby, wrote in support of the development. She asked that it not be the first of many high-density developments and suggested that the county improve nearby roads to accommodate additional traffic.

She wrote that many existing homes “along with their adjunct studios, casitas, sub rosa rental units, garages, storage units and assorted RVs” look more cluttered than the proposed development would.

A public hearing on the request before the Planning and Zoning Commission is scheduled for July 27.