August 7, 2017
A community meeting was held on the evening of August 2, 2017, at the Unity Church located at 1212 Unity Way, Santa Fe, NM 87506. The meeting was hosted by Joseph Karnes, a partner of Sommer Karnes & Associates, LLP, lawyers representing Santa Fe 300 Investments, LLC (the “Developer”), whose principals are a group of investors led by Lyle Anderson, the former developer of Las Campanas, and the Bass brothers of Ft. Worth, Texas, scions of a Texas oil and gas dynasty. The Developer owns a parcel of land consisting of approximately 304 acres lying north and west of Highway 599 on both sides of Camino la Tierra (the “Property”). The Developer is seeking to get the Property’s zoning classification changed to allow it to develop a mixed residential and commercial project it has named “Plaza la Tierra.”
The Property is currently zoned RES-E (1 residential unit per/ 2.5 acres). Prior to 1986, the property was also zoned RES-E. In 1986, at the request of the owner/developer, the property was given a zoning designation similar to today’s MU (Mixed Use). Later, that zoning expired and the Property reverted to classification RES E. In 2013-14, when Santa Fe County was developing its new Zoning Map, the Property “mysteriously” appeared on the preliminary and final map proposed for adoption as MU, though no formal public process had occurred for that change. The residents of Tierra de Oro opposed that zoning change and the County reversed its position and left the Property zoned RES-E. The developer disagreed with the County over the zoning classification and went to court against Santa Fe County to have it zoned PD (Planned Development). Currently the court case is on hold while the Developer is attempting to go through the re-zoning process. Mr. Karnes stated that if the County does not rezone the Property to PD, the Developer will go back to court.
According Mr. Karnes, the meeting constituted the first mandatory step in the Santa Fe County process to rezone the property from RES-E to PD. According to Santa Fe County notice requirements, only the communities that immediately adjoin the Property were informed of the meeting. Las Campanas was not informed because it is not. Although a few Las Campanas owners found out about the meeting less than 48 hours before the meeting and LCOA notified the Owners of the meeting by email blast the day before the meeting, and a show of hands revealed that about 1/3 of the meeting attendees were from Las Campanas. There was an overflow crowd of 150-250 people who attended the meeting.
The Developer’s architect, Jeff Seers, provided a project description (see accompanying map). As currently planned, Plaza la Tierra would be composed of the following uses:
1) 40% (approximately 120 acres) designated for Open Space;
2) Low-Density housing (140 units on 155 acres) abuts the open space with homes on 1-1.25-acre lots (NOTE: the architect originally said 3-acre lots until an astute audience member “re-did” the math and pointed out a major discrepancy in their math, resulting in the smaller 1-1.25-acre lots);
3) Medium-Density housing – 60 units on 13.8 acres, units on less than quarter-acre lots;
4) High-Density residential – 50 units on 8.2 acres, resulting a unit per .16-acre lot. They did not commit as to whether these units would be apartments, condos or townhomes, whether they would be sold or rented, or how many floors they would be. This high-density portion might be in response to the County’s requirement for affordable housing but that was not made clear; and
5) Commercial – approximately 20,000 sq ft on the frontage road leading south toward Aldea and Tessera communities. Tierra de Oro has apparently negotiated an agreement with the Developer for no gas station at the commercial site. At this time, the plans call for tap into the City’s water system but water rights from the city have not yet been requested or granted. There would be no on-site wells and no septic. It was represented that housing designs would be within the context of the existing houses in the area.
Karnes and Seers opened the post-presentation discussion, and the key concerns expressed were, but not limited to:
1) Crime and litter coming to the area because the commercial development will focus on 599 traffic as well as Plaza La Tierra residents;
2) Traffic congestion (Note: the developer has not yet commissioned a traffic study);
3) Widening of roads and need for stop lights;
4) Commercial lighting – the Developer says it will abide by County codes;
5) Developer had not done Marketing studies to identify demand for this type of development;
6) Clarification on lot size for low-density housing;
7) Cost of lots not known;
8) Cost of homes not known;
9) 599 is designated a Safety Corridor to transport nuclear waste, and residents could be at risk from accidents and spills;
10) Existing neighboring homeowners feel threatened because the Developer’s attorney said it would return to court if the County did not agree to re-zoning; and
11) The re-zoned land could be sold and there would be no guarantee the original development plan would be followed.
An attendee asked the crowd for a show of hands as to who opposed the re-zoning; approximately 80-90% were against the re-zoning.
A note pad for was provided to attendees to enter names and email addresses with the intent of alerting attendees to the result of their early 2018 meetings, but there was no commitment to do so, and the Developer’s attorney suggested consulting the County website for notice of future meetings.
Mr. Karnes stated the next steps in the Developer’s rezoning application process will be submitting the request to the County hearing officer, then it will go to the Santa Fe County Planning Commission meeting followed by a public hearing before the County Commission for final approval. They anticipate that the re-zoning would be complete fairly early in 2018.
Las Campanas Community Affairs Committee
If you have questions, please email JHouse@lascampanasowners.com