Hijacked from Contra Santolina Facebook page
This morning the Albuquerque Journal published an editorial from yet another Bernalillo County Commissioner – Wayne Johnson. Comm. Johnson states that the Santolina Master Plan has proven its merit. Johnson’s editorial includes many false statements regarding the process and he distorts and discredits many of the arguments that have been presented by constituents, organizations, and experts.
The following is a letter written in response to Comm. Johnson by Paul Lusk, Emeritus Professor and former Principal Planner of the County of Bernalillo and City of Albuquerque:
Dear Commissioner Johnson,
I agree with the first statement in your ‘opinion letter’ in the Albuquerque Journal this morning:
“A failure to plan is a plan to fail.” However, many of the statements following this lead sentence, I believe, do not support this common sense assertion. I would ask you not to dismiss this letter out of hand, but rather, to consider the brief list of concerns that follow as it may guide your evaluation of the facts and your decision at the Commission meeting June 16, 2015. I am not able to attend the BCC hearings on the Santolina proposal due to home and health circumstances. Please consider this as my submission to that hearing.
- Master planning can be good, but the outcome must be a GOOD master plan, which Santolina is not.
It is a 1950-style pattern of development that would just exacerbate the accumulated effects of disperse, separated land uses, increased travel, air quality impacts, expanded water use, extreme soil /foundation problems. (Please see: PL to BCC, 4/22/15, West Mesa Development + attach.).
- “Level A plan is but a first step on a journey, not the end of the line.”
Unfortunately, this would be a journey in the wrong direction. Development on the West Mesa is possible, but it must fit the land, as well as the changing demographics, market preferences, changing economic and climate conditions of the 21st century, (Please see: PL to BCC, 4/15/15).
- “Approval (…) would simply define where (uses) would be placed should market demand meet projected growth.” However, in the MP there is NO plan for business attraction; it says it would rely on “State and County initiatives”. Further, the, DTA ‘Fiscal Impact’ consultant states, at the beginning of their report, that they did not independently assess the assumptions they were given (75,000 jobs, etc), i.e., they just projected the impacts ‘if so’. The fact that the projected total of 75,000 jobs would be 7.5 times the peak employment at Sandia Labs, and 15 times the peak employment at Intel is unsupported and quite unrealistic. (See: K. O’Donnell to CPC, 11/ 15,14).
- “Simply put, there could be almost 14,000 homes – each with its own well and septic system.”
This is a false comparison.
The ‘Santolina area is in single ownership. The depth to water ranges from 500’ on the East escarpment to more than 1000’ on the Rio Puerco escarpment. The standing depth to water at the (now) PNM Relay station is about 1000’; the yield in a 4” diameter casing (at the time of the interview) was about 10 gpm (personal interview during development of the original A/BC Comprehensive Plan). The idea that, somehow, if not Santolina, individual 1-acre homeowners would drill multiple, adjacent, deep, low-yielding wells to brackish, heavy-metal-laden water is patently absurd. The unspoken comparison and reference seems based on a veiled reference to the Pajarito Grant area just south of the proposed Santolina development.
The fact is that the Mesa-top area of the Pajarito Grant (the Ejidos) was captured (under questionable legal circumstances) and subdivided in the 1930s by a Los Angeles Realty firm – as oil speculation lots. This unfortunate pattern (a grid for property identification for oil-speculation sales all over the world) has been the reason for its inappropriate development pattern. It is NOT accurate to imply that this is a possible alternative pattern for the Santolina area (unless, of course, if the premature approval would be based on the erroneous assertion of some proponents that it is “either Santolina or piecemeal development and chaos”). The more likely sequence of events might be that the Santolina proposal, if approved, would fail due to the issues identified here and in public testimony – resulting in increasing litigation, declining marketability, and tax revenues NOT meeting bonded indebtedness. (Please see: PL to BCC, 4/22/15, West Mesa Development + Attach.)
- “There are those who believe that the only kind of “good development” is in-fill development.”
And: “Thus far, opponents have not provided an alternative – they’ve just said no.“
First, we are not “the opponents”. We are the public: the people who pay the taxes, and the people whom you, and each of the elected Commissioners, represent. We are NOT opposed to “new development in Bernalillo County”, and we do NOT believe that ‘”in-fill development is the only kind of good development”. Rather, we have submitted written, graphic and spoken testimony presenting ecologically, socially and economically superior alternatives for appropriately-designed development on the West Mesa to the staff, to the CPC and to the BCC since January 29, 2014. (Please READ: PL to Catherine VerEecke, and to CPC, 1/29/14, edited and re-submitted 5/18/14; PL to CPC, 3/22/14, Viable Alternatives; PL to CPC, 11/10/14, Options; PL to BCC, 4/15/15, Attachments; and PL to BCC, 4/22/15, West Mesa Development.
- “… the question will be where water is consumed not if it will be consumed.”
This is not true. Water consumption in a dot-dot-dot exurban development, especially using a dendritic-drainage-pattern subdivision (as shown in the Santolina MP) on bladed, unconsolidated fine Aeolian sand, nearly non-existent humus and low gradient, would be far greater than in a typical R-1 housing development (and in high-density ‘Centers and Corridors’ development) in the Adopted Development Areas.
We support GOOD, ecologically sound development, especially in the environmentally challenging conditions on the West Mesa. We do not support “Phoenix-style-exurban, separated-land-use, green-lawn, every home-a-castle, drive to work, NON-‘villages’ on this high-desert, sand-dune covered portion of the West Mesa. We ask that you please review the extensive material referenced above, and in public testimony, and do not approve an incomplete submission of an un-needed, poorly located, and potentially tax-base-consuming proposal.
Development on the West Mesa is possible, but only if it recognizes that to be truly ‘sustainable’, it must adapt to the rapidly changing patterns of climate, available water resources, economic conditions and social preferences of the 21st century.