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Proposed building next to Loretto Chapel rejected again


This story has been changed from a previous version to clarify that the Historic Districts Review Board did not take final action on the latest plan to build next to Loretto Chapel and instead postponed a definitive vote and called for more design work from the developers.

SANTA FE — The city’s Historic Districts Review Board rejected the latest proposal for a retail/residential building next to the historic Loretto Chapel in downtown Santa Fe Tuesday night, despite new changes to the plan from the property owner.

Board members were still concerned over issues including the mass of the proposed four-story, 30,821 square-foot building and streetscaping along Old Santa Fe Trail.

The board’s vote was not an actual rejection but postponed final action to allow the developers to come back with yet another redesign.

The board’s staff had recommended approval of the building with a height exemption to allow it to be 49 feet tall. The new plan has expanded setbacks on upper stories — “wedding cake” style  — intended to lessen visual impact on the chapel .

Applicants Maggie Andersson and her father Jim Kirkpatrick were clearly frustrated with their seventh attempt at board approval over at least 14 years. “I don’t know what that meant,” Andersson exclaimed in the chambers just after the vote. The family also owns the Loretto Chapel, which was completed in 1878.

Board members seemed to accept the planned height for the building proposed at Old Santa Fe Trail and Water Street but were still concerned that it “crowded” the chapel. In September, the board also voted on and denied the project, but that decision was appealed to the City Council, which sent the application back to the board for more consideration.

Kirkpatrick, in his his 80s, said in an interview, called the board action “kind of sad” and said the family is considering taking the issue back to court. The Kirkpatrick family believes, based on a 1996 court ruling, that a height exemption was not required but asked for one anyway at the request of city staff.

“If we come back next time meeting one person’s objections, somebody else will have another one,” Kirkpatrick said. Of five board members, only Buddy Roybal voted against the denial.

A half dozen people spoke before the vote, with one woman who lives on Water Street supportive of more development. Randall Bell, of the Old Santa Fe Association, said six criteria needed to grant the height exemption had not been met. “I do not see how you can do this,” he told the board.

The staff’s report said, “The proposed design responds to the requests and concerns expressed during the review process and emphasizes protection of views of the Loretto Chapel from Old Santa Fe Trail and maintaining streetscape harmony.” The fourth story “will not block existing views of the chapel from the west or northwest,” the staff report stated.