The Village of Los Ranchos trustees approved a controversial housing development at Fourth and Willow, allowed one bed-and-breakfast to accept guests and deferred another one during their regular Sept. 14 meeting.
The meeting wasn’t without it’s own drama, as just before the meeting, the Village was slapped with an injunction lawsuit filed in state District Court to stop the already in-progress Palindrome Village Center Project at Fourth and Osuna.
Stop the Building Now
The Friends of Los Ranchos filed the complaint for declaratory judgement and injunctive relief. The Trustees held an executive session prior to the regular meeting to discuss such pending or threatened litigation.
In essence, the complaint says that the Village back in 2007 did not correctly declare the just under 13-acres under development as blighted. It also alleges that the Village violated the state’s anti-donation clause when it entered into an agreement with the developer in October 2020 to convey the land.
The Friends of Los Ranchos is a non-profit organization formed in 2018 in part to work with the Village to preserve open-space parcels. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in July 2021 there are about 5,866 people living in Los Ranchos. The group gathered 600 signatures in a petition to stop developments. One Trustee said at a recent open-house meeting that he would like to see the opinions of more than one in 100 residents.
All the nitty gritty will get sorted out by District Judge Erin O’Connell while the lawyers argue in circles. The injunction request goes back 15 years to second guess those making such decisions including former Mayor Larry Abraham, who died while in his fourth term in 2018. Most of the former Trustees, Village Administrators and other staff who were involved over the years in all the decisions it took to get this project to this point should still be around to answer the questions posed by the complaint. Get your popcorn and stay tuned.
Fourth & Willow Uprising
According to Village documents, this development is proposed to be 12 townhomes on .58 acres of vacant property. The townhomes are slated to have a bottom-floor footprint of about 610 sq. ft. for a total of about 1,850 sq. ft. spread over three stories with a roof deck. The developer, Nijmegen Plaza, LLC, says it is an infill development and will offer housing at a more affordable price point.
The location is the site of the former Gas Man filling station. It is within walking distance to an existing grocery story, pharmacy, restaurants and other services along the Fourth Street business corridor.
Trustees Sandra Pacheco and Gilbert Benavidez recused themselves from the vote. Trustee Pacheco is married to Chris Pacheco, the developer of the property, and Trustee Benavidez was on the Village Planning and Zoning when the project was vetted there.
Much of the civil public comment centered around opposition to this and any high-density development within the Village limits. Some residents said the rural nature of the Village is being eroded by allowing this development and three other current projects along or near Fourth Street. One resident said, “Hasn’t it come across loud and clear that we don’t want even one high density development?”
Squeaky wheels are not legal reasons to deny applications that have met all the requirements. As Trustee George Radnovich said they have “no grounds to do anything else but approve.” Trustee Allen Lewis said the developer had checked all the boxes according to current Village ordinances. Both Trustees said that Village density limits are something they will address quickly.
Stay Here, Not There
Another prickly topic for residents were a couple of bed-and-breakfast approvals. One of the requests was for a place just north of Paseo del Norte off Rio Grande Boulevard NW. This is the couple’s primary residence, but they want to rent it out for the upcoming Balloon Fiesta. They said they would clean up and move out and stay with in-laws for the duration of the rental. The Village P and Z folks recommended denying the application. It is always good to have your neighbors on your side: several spoke up and said they were okay with it. The Trustees reversed the P & Z decision and they can now charge big bucks to lodgers to watch hundreds of hot air balloons rise.
The other B & B was a bit more contentious with Mayor Don Lopez having to tell folks in the room to keep their personal neighbor problems with each other out of the room. This one is located mid-Rio Grande Boulevard. There was some confusion about this whole application even though the P & Z recommended approval. Trustee Pacheco led the charge to get this messy matter deferred until they can get more clarification. And maybe time to get their neighbors on board.
Show Up, Maybe
An open house is scheduled for 5 pm to 7 pm Sept. 20 at the Village Agri-Nature Center at 4920 Rio Grande Blvd NW to talk about the Palindrome Village Center project.
It is not clear if the meeting will still be held as it is now under pending litigation. But this was intended to allow folks to meet with the developer, the architects and landscape designers for the almost 13-acre multi-use project underway at Fourth and Osuna.
Trustees meet on the second Wednesday of the month. For more information on these projects and more Village business log on to www.losranchosnm.gov