Julie Ann Grimm The New Mexican
A major expansion of Santa Fe's city limits is set to begin as soon as next month and wrap up within three years under a timeline for annexation officials recently announced. Even though a legal agreement between the city and county allows for a longer term of transition, nearly 10,000 acres that lie mostly along the city's southern and western edges are now slated to be within the city's boundaries — and subject to its rules — by 2012. City councilors rejected an even faster timeline proposed by staff earlier this month and instead decided on a three-pronged plan to spread out petitions that will be filed with the state Municipal Boundary Commission. "There is some advantage to getting it done sooner rather than later — to avoid confusion and for the city to be better in control of the development in those areas," said City Attorney Frank Katz in a recent presentation to city councilors. The first phase, slated for petition this year, will affect the smallest area and the least number of people. It includes about 500 households north of Cerrillos Road and south of the Agua Fría Traditional Historic Village; west and south of Nava Ade; east of Richards Avenue and north of Interstate 25 and some so-called "doughnut holes" surrounded by city land on the southeast corner of the present boundaries. Next, however, will the be the largest and most populated areas — places that are urban in nature but fall outside the city limits. They include land that is already home to about 4,600 households — or 13,650 people — and is adjacent to the areas the city calls its Southwest Sector. That petition, scheduled to be filed by 2011, comprises land between N.M. 599 and Airport Road, south of Airport Road and south of Tierra Contenta. Last, the city would file a petition by 2012 on a large swath to the east, between the eastern city limits and the Santa Fe National Forest, as well as an 1,800-acre parcel on the west side between Agua Fría and N.M. 599. Katz said each petition to the state will be followed by a series of public meetings about the annexation proposals. The city will notify each landowner by mail as the phase that includes his or her land is up for annexation. To meet those deadlines, the city needs to be ready to provide services in areas as they are annexed. An infrastructure analysis in the works now will shed light on how the city will accomplish that and how much the services will cost, said Katz. Early estimates said up about $2.5 million would be needed for additional police officers and firefighters, along with at least one additional fire station, more garbage trucks and other costly items. Conversely, the city would get revenue from annexations, most noticeably from those who would pay impact and permit fees for development. Last week, the City Council sent the phasing plan to the county for approval. It's expected to be up for discussion there next month. County Attorney Steve Ross said Tuesday that he does not anticipate the County Commission will object to the timeline, since it follows the earlier settlement. Ross said, however, that the city's schedule is "ambitious," given the work ahead. "That is still tomorrow," said Ross. "This is 2008. That's three years, so that is not a lot of time." The city and county have several more legal agreements to complete, including one that will define law enforcement roles through the transition period in the dense Southwest Sector. The other county undertaking right now is expansion of the borders of the Traditional Historic Community of Agua Fría, an outreach effort to allow those with adjacent land to join the community and preserve rural zoning. Both governments are also still tackling zoning in the area, which is currently in a joint jurisdiction. An agreement under way will dissolve the jointly administered Extraterritorial Zoning Commission. Future land-use decisions will go to either the city or the county, depending on whether property is within the presumptive annexation area.
Contact Julie Ann Grimm at 986-3017 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
ABOUT ANNEXATION More than 16,000 people would become new city residents under a plan to broaden the city limits by about 10,000 acres over the next three years. What follows are details about some services:
Well and septic tanks: The city does not force homeowners with domestic wells and/or septic tanks to connect to city utilities unless major development changes are proposed on a property. Those who want to connect must pay for line extensions and connection fees. Connection costs for a single-family home are $2,013 for water and $499 for sewer. The city already serves 3,500 of the 5,767 homes in the annexation area. Property tax: The county treasurer will adjust the tax bill for a home upward after annexation. Based on current tax rates, new city residents will pay about $50 more per $100,000 of assessed value, and businesses will pay about $82 more per $100,000 of assessed value. Trash: The city Solid Waste Department will serve all residents within the city limits. The service will be available as a phase of annexation takes effect. The city will notify property owners when dates are certain. Political representation: All city residents will fall into a council district, which has two representatives on the City Council. Redrawing of these boundary lines, called redistricting, is expected to occur a couple of years after the results of the 2010 Census are released. Farm animals: The city does not prohibit farm animals as long as they do not create a public nuisance or immediate health and safety concern. Fire and emergency-medical response: Local fire departments already operate on a principle called "mutual aid," which means dispatchers send the closest available and appropriate responders despite whether the call came from inside or outside the city limits. Police: Ultimately, city police will respond to calls within the city limits, and the county Sheriff's Department will handle those outside the city limits. For a period of up to three years, however, the city and county might agree to keep the sheriff's presence in some areas near Airport and Agua Fría roads.