Dozens of protesters shouted, “Shame!” as Bernalillo County commissioners voted against three appeals of a planned community on Albuquerque’s Westside. The votes to reject the appeals all came on 3-2 votes as protesters, including those from the Contra Santolina Working Group, chanted to show their displeasure on Thursday night. Commissioners Art De La Cruz, Lonnie Talbert and Wayne Johnson voted to reject the appeals while commissioners Debbie O’Malley and Maggie Hart Stebbins voted for the appeals. The appeals heard at the meeting were filed by the South Valley Coalition of Neighborhood Associations, the South Valley Regional Association of Acequias and the New Mexico Environmental Law Center. Each appeal protested the Bernalillo County Planning Commission’s recommendation to approve the Santolina master plan for a variety of reasons, including a lack of transparency with how Santolina will use water resources, disagreements over Santolina’s job promises, a perceived inconsistency with the Mid-Region Council of Governments’ future transportation plans and more.
[box type=”info” style=”rounded”]JACQUE M. GARICA, MPH is a coordinator with Bernalillo County PLACE MATTERS. [/box]
Much has been made of America’s crumbling infrastructure. Rusting bridges and crumbling highways are only a part of our neglect. A much bigger part, and one that many of us don’t see is the neglect of inner-city communities, distressed schools and long forgotten playgrounds. The recent protests in Baltimore, much like Albuquerque’s protests last year, may have been triggered by unjust police violence, but are much more deeply rooted in decades of neglecting our families and communities, especially communities of color. When Governor Martinez was asked recently about the possibility of a special session to approve the financing of infrastructure projects, she said, “if it is, it’s got to benefit the private sector.” She made no mention of the needs of our families or communities, only the ‘private sector’. That was the reason that the bill didn’t pass in the first place! Lawmakers invested their capital outlay for projects like senior centers, tribal needs, and community colleges, much of what she stripped from the bill. The tax committees met nearly every day of the legislative session and every day they heard bills that would divert even more of our public tax dollars to the ‘private sector’. Nearly a dozen of those tax breaks made it into the final tax packages.
A Bernalillo County Commission special meeting on Monday didn’t result in a vote approving or rejecting the Santolina master plan, but commissioners said that a decision could come by the end of the month. The delay for the final vote came right before the commission began considering four appeals to the project filed by groups opposed to Santolina as well as one appeal filed by John Salazar, an attorney for the Western Albuquerque Land Holdings, the organization behind Santolina. Salazar’s appeal sought to change county recommendations in how Santolina, a planned community which would be built on 22 square miles in Albuquerque’s west side, will get its water. From the Albuquerque Journal:
The Planning Commission recommended that the county set a limit on how much water Santolina could use when fully built out: about 4.7 billion gallons a year. Salazar, however, said water-conservation requirements are more appropriately addressed by the city-county water authority, an independent agency that supplies water in the Albuquerque area.
When it comes to divisive central New Mexico land development issues, the planned community of Santolina gets all the attention. But other projects to expand Albuquerque’s West Side are also quietly moving forward. Tucked in the many provisions included in this year’s reauthorization of previous year’s capital outlay projects is an extension of a bypass road west of Albuquerque. Currently, the Paseo del Volcan bypass extends from Unser Boulevard to Highway 550 in Rio Rancho. This year, the state Legislature approved funds to purchase right of way for the unfinished portion of Paseo del Volcan from Unser Boulevard to Interstate 40.
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 Bernalillo County Commission is set to have another meeting on the proposed Santolina Master Plan on May 11. During previous hearings, commissioners heard from both those who support and oppose the development from Western Albuquerque Land Holdings LLC (WALH). New Mexico Political Report spoke with Roberto Roibal from the Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP) and John Salazar an attorney with the law firm representing WALH.
[box type=”info” style=”rounded”]DAVID VOGEL is a noted researcher, teacher, philanthropist, and former national management consultant. He is currently working on economic development projects in the U.S. and abroad, including the “Central Park of New Mexico” project of which he is the founder/project leader. This piece is written as an open letter to the Bernalillo County Commission.[/box]
Dear Bernalillo County Commissioners,
I am writing to urge you to NOT approve the Santolina Master Plan and hope you will vote against this Proposal. Some of the most compelling reasons for rejecting this expansion include:
The geographic expansion that has dominated the County’s growth pattern over the past several decades has contributed substantially to the economic stagnation and quality of life erosion for Bernalillo County citizens. The benefits that have accrued to private developers have been at the expense of essential urban infrastructure development.