On May 13, in a classic "bait and switch" tactic, the City Council UNANIMOUSLY changed zoning for areas that were previously designated "Rural Residential".
So, we thought the worst that could happen was the actual annexation, perhaps softened by the RR. Think again. The City Council sided with the developers --actually, it was all planned in advance, before we got there. Wurtzburger pulled a fast one and presented an amendment to the RR that gives away the store to the developers, allowing three to the acre instead of two, plus the affordable housing density bonuses, which, with clustering, we heard could end up in some areas with 5DU (apart from "public open space.") Not only that, Councilor Bushee advocated against locking people into that zoning, arguing, in a moment of exquisite irony, that people should have the "predictability" of being able to request upzoning, i.e., even higher densities. Given that the city's top allowable density is 29 DU per acre, perhaps she feels that every property owner should retain the right to request that density!
City approves new rural zoning category
By Julie Ann Grimm The New Mexican
Residents who oppose annexation of their land west of the city limits are disappointed in a Wednesday decision by Santa Fe City Council, but say they will continue to lobby for changes to future zoning rules. Meanwhile, owners of large tracts in the area said the rules that were adopted allow construction of more affordable housing there. The council's unanimous decision means the city has a new "rural residential" zoning category aimed at complying with a lawsuit settlement between the city and the county that called for limits to development in certain areas. The zoning does not apply to any land yet, but is likely to get tacked on to two areas designated for annexation by 2013, including a large tract between Agua Fría Street and N.M. 599. The rules will allow a variety of development densities depending on whether municipal sewer and/or water are available. If the services are not available, development in those areas is limited to one home per 2.5 acres, whereas if the services are available and applicants meet other criteria, up to three homes could be built on each acre. The most-dense option was a last-minute amendment introduced by Councilor Rebecca Wurzburger, however, and conflicts with the wishes of neighbors who lobbied for less density. Several residents who testified at the hearing asked the council to table the matter so they could study the new idea. "I find it very troublesome that I am a resident of the county and I am here before the city," said Sid Monroe, who lives in the Coyote Ridge neighborhood, one of the areas slated for annexation. "I have no representation in the city, yet they hold the fate of my neighborhood and my home in their hands." Monroe said later he was shocked at how quickly the City Council approved the proposal and worries that it will mean his area will become more urbanized. "It is my opinion, and that of others who attended, that the city's actions (Wednesday) contravened the spirit and letter of the original annexation agreement," he said. "We are exploring all options available to at least maintain the original character of the agreement." County Commissioner Virginia Vigil, who helped craft the settlement agreement between the city and the county last year, said Wednesday that she approved of the proposal, calling it "brilliant" and "the best possible alternative." "It creates that predictability that is so much needed for the city and for the county and for the residents," she said. Large landholders in the area applauded the decision, breathing a sigh of relief after the meeting because their plans for housing subdivisions that include affordable housing could still be financially feasible under the new rules. Ed Crocker, who together with other landowners plans a project on about 275 acres in the area, said the earlier proposal would have placed a "discriminatory burden" on property owners there. The annexation agreement stipulates that no zoning changes be made in the area in question for 20 years, according to the city attorney. Settling the rural residential zoning rules is just one part of a long process between the city and county to annex about 10,000 acres over the next five years. Next, city and county officials plan to approve a zoning map that will show allowed uses for the entire "presumptive city limits." Contact Julie Ann Grimm at 986-3017 or email@example.com.