The Bernalillo County Commission voted Tuesday against pushing back a decision on the Santolina Master Plan.
Commissioner Debbie O’Malley sponsored an initiative to allow an additional 90 days for more public input. The attempt failed on a 3 to 2 vote. Maggie Hart Stebbins was the only other commissioner to vote in favor of the delay.
O’Malley told New Mexico Political Report she wants to give members of the public more opportunities to ask questions and raise their concerns in a town hall-type environment.
“The sheer size of something like this, I thought, required a lot of public input,” O’Malley said. “We’ve already had meetings where they’ve asked questions, but really the format has been where they’re not going to get their questions answered necessarily.”
She said the reason for the proposed delay is that more opportunities for public engagement would take more time.
“It was not going to be a simple thing to put together, the 90 days was a result of the large undertaking,” O’Malley said.
Commissioner Lonnie Talbert sees it differently, in an email to New Mexico Political Report, he said there has been plenty of public input already.
The Santolina Master plan was submitted to the County back in 2013. Since then, there has been dozens of hours of hearings and public comment on this issue and I think the process has allowed for community input. I am certainly open to hearing more, but I think the most appropriate place for those voices to be heard is in a formal commission meeting before the entire commission. I want to talk about the real issues and facts in a public, transparent way that all the stakeholders can participate in.
During the meeting on Tuesday, Commissioner Wayne Johnson said he would not support the measure because he saw the commission meetings as the proper way to work with the public and hear their concerns. He added that questions and concerns about Santolina should be raised in official hearings where all involved parties can be present at the same time.
The Santolina Master Plan is a proposal to build a large new commercial and residential development in southwest Bernalillo County, west of Albuquerque. Proponents have said the plan is a smart way to expand and will help create jobs and more housing. Those who oppose the expansion have raised concerns about already stressed resources and said it is not smart growth.
Commissioner Art De La Cruz, who also voted against the delay, recently wrote about his support of the plan to expand development into land on the west side of Bernalillo County in an editorial in the Albuquerque Journal.
Because growth is inevitable, I consider Santolina to be appropriate progress for our county because we will determine what the development will ultimately become. Conversely, why would we allow our future to be that of unplanned, smaller hodgepodge growth?
By potentially denying Santolina or others like it, we send the message that new residents are not welcome here. This notion is not realistic because the population will grow and development will occur. Not properly planning for the needed homes, places to work, shop, play and learn would be short-sighted and negligent.
De La Cruz could not be reached for comment.
The County Commission is scheduled to further discuss the Santolina Master Plan during a zoning meeting on May 11.
New Mexico Political Report previously wrote about the history and concerns about Santolina and a video showed the thoughts of those in support and in opposition to the plan.