A controversial housing development by a well-known successful hotelier at Chavez Road and Guadalupe Trial in Los Ranchos was approved by Village Trustees at their meeting held Weds., Nov. 9.

A New Place to Call Home

The 16-home project is being put forward by Jim Long of the Heritage Hotels and Resorts fame. Long is also a longtime Village resident. The parcel consists of about 9.2 acres. The conservation pilot project plan includes 2.5 acres of open space adjacent to Guadalupe Trail and Chavez Road with 100% of this space visible to the public. This corner has been a beloved and popular spot for folks to see cranes, geese and other birds so this plot will continue to be a refuge. The single-story, approximately 4,000-square foot homes will be cluster style and will have access to nearby acequia walking paths.

Happy/Not Happy

There were plenty of comments from both sides. Long spoke about the changes that were made to the plan after meeting with residents. Some folks in opposition interrupted him while he was speaking. Several times Mayor Don Lopez and other Trustees had to ask the opposition crowd to be civil while others talked.

Those in favor of the development say this is the type of housing Los Ranchos needs. A number spoke of the integrity and excellence of all of Jim Long’s projects. Several speakers spoke about the need for housing of all levels in the Village so that it does not become a community of McMansions. One said that, after decades of living on a larger lot with lots of upkeep, it would be nice to be able to downsize and still stay in the Village. “It is so important to offer housing solutions. Los Ranchos should not become the Tanoan of the west,” said one of the speakers. “There are few if any options in the Village for working professionals,” said another.

Those opposing the housing plan said this was not an appropriate type of development, questioned the legality of the zoning and said that it is not in line with the “rural” nature of the village. “Our village was founded in 1958 to prevent exactly what is going on,” said one speaker. Another questioned the zoning and master plan as being legit. And another said if Trustees approved this then they would, “leave a legacy of being the worst Board of Trustees since incorporation.”

The Vote

The vote went down 3-0 with Trustee Gilbert Benevides being excused. Some of the questions tossed at the board by the opposition were answered by Village attorneys and staff. They said this project is not spot zoning but meets all requirements of the master plan. With 1.7 dwelling units per acre, the project will have less density than much of the surrounding area.

Who Are You?

There seems be an identity crisis in the Lavender Village. The most vocal is a group called The Friends of Los Ranchos, a nonprofit organized to partner with the Village to preserve open space. It seems the Friends are opposed to just about any affordable housing development anywhere in Los Ranchos right now. Some group members tend to interrupt Trustee meetings with boos and comments while others are speaking. It was good to see a number of folks from the pro-side turn out to the meeting to speak in public about the need for diversity and more housing choices, yet also in support of preserving open space.

A recent groundbreaking for the Fourth and Osuna Village Center project included key folks from Bernalillo County including Bernalillo County Manager Julie Morgas Baca, who is also a Los Ranchos resident. In May, the County approved $29 million in project-revenue bonds for the affordable-housing phase of the 13-acre Village Center project. Morgas Baca said Los Ranchos needs this project which will bring in much needed diversity. Affordable housing will allow more people to enjoy living in Los Ranchos, she said. Members of the nonprofit carried protest signs, even one saying that the developers and politicos are “raping the land” with this development. One really should not use the word rape in such context. Fourth Street has for hundreds of years been a trade route with people, houses, transportation modes and businesses bustling about.

In September, the Friends filed a lawsuit against the Village to stop the Fourth and Osuna project which is already under construction. A hearing date has not been set. The Friends have also filed government conduct complaints in every state agency they can think of to get someone to find some wrongdoing. Heck, if the Mayor, current Trustees and all the government actors involved over the last 15 years are as corrupt, underhanded and sneaky as this group is alleging, then their shadiness will be found out. If there was no government misconduct involved, then that must be gracefully accepted as well.

More Open Space Please

Los Ranchos voters from both sides of the development issue came together to overwhelmingly pass an $8 million bond to purchase open space in the Village. The money will be used to purchase parcels of land to be kept open for birds, wildlife and for the public to enjoy. Now let’s see if everyone can play nice in order to decide which parcels should become open space.

For more information on all the projects, upcoming meetings and other Village information visit losranchosnm.gov.