October 1, 2008

Panel Gives Developers Green Light


Developers trying to erect a new subdivision near La Cienega have narrowly earned conceptual approval from the Santa Fe County Commission.

Commissioners voted 3-2 on Tuesday to give Santa Fe Canyon Ranch a green light for its master plan of 174 homes on about 1,300 acres. Now property owners Jim and Rick Borrego and David Schutz expect to spend the next nine months getting ready for the plat level of review, which will require another round of public meetings.

Tuesday's approval included the continuation of a public hearing that had stretched on for hours about two weeks ago. The vote was met with heavy sighs from some La Cienega property owners who have been fighting the proposal.

It took about three years to get through the master-plan process, including two failed tries at getting permission to connect to the county water system, and several adjustments in an attempt to pacify neighbors.

Led by Commissioner Virginia Vigil, who voted in favor of the development, policymakers even took a last-minute stab at extending county water lines again Tuesday before voting in the end to approve the proposed well-based community water system.

La Cienega acequia groups and residents just last week agreed to settle their protests to the development's water supply plan before the state engineer. A stipulated settlement has been approved by all the parties, but not by a judge.

According to Jay Lazarus, a contract hydrologist for Santa Fe Canyon Ranch, the agreement will allow developers to build their first phase, but requires a waiting period of at least three years before they apply for permission to use return-flow credits -- or water rights arising from the treatment of effluent.

It will take more than

10 years to build and sell the

80 homes that are part of the first phase, said attorney Rosanna Vazquez.

Commissioner Mike Anaya, among those who voted to approve the plan, said he recognized the landowners had reduced their original plan substantially. "This development has jumped through all the hoops and even more than other developers," Anaya said before his vote.

Commissioner Harry Montoya said he was voting in favor of the development because for the first time since it was proposed in 2005, county staff have issued a positive recommendation about whether it meets code requirements.

Developers declined to promise, however, that this master plan is the final plan for the site. Vazquez emphasized that every property owner has a right at any time to seek amendments to master plans and Santa Fe Canyon Ranch did not want to give up that right.

In the meantime, the landowners are also considering a proposal from a conservation-minded buyer who wants to purchase about 400 acres of the area, including a pristine creek-side parcel and part of a protected wetland.

La Cienega resident Christina Boradiansky was among area residents who oppose the development. Her property is about 30 yards from the proposed new homes, she said.

Boradiansky was permitted to testify Tuesday because she has filed a federal claim alleging she was denied access to earlier hearings because of a disability. She said after the vote that she sees several issues about the approval process that are ripe for appeal.

Commissioners Paul Campos and Jack Sullivan both voted against the plan, arguing it has the potential to create too much growth in the area.

Contact Julie Ann Grimm at 986-3017 or [email protected]

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