Santolina’s proposals get a boost from BernCo’s planning commission

Santolina Subdivision developers found no support for their new plans at the Bernalillo County Planning Commission meeting on Wednesday.

The subdivision is designed to draw 90,000 residents to Albuquerque’s far western mesa in the coming decades as water shortages resulting from climate change dominate conversations about growth and population in the area.

The developers wanted to make two changes to the master plan for the development: to speed up the time frame from 50 to 30 years and to add a recycling plant to the area.

The planning committee chose not to recommend these changes to the full county commission, siding with the overwhelming majority of people who made public comments at the meeting. Only one member, Joe Chavez, sided with Santolina.

Jim Strozier works with Consensus Planning, one of the companies working on the Santolina project. Strozier was Santolina’s representative defending the proposals at the meeting.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate for this commission to take a position that development in Santolina is generally not appropriate” because the master plan has already been approved and confirmed by the court, he said. declared after the vote on the resolutions. “It’s in place.”

The planning commission‘s decision does not end the Santolina project, and changes to the master plan could still be weighed by the full county commission. It’s unclear when these changes might be presented to the full committee.

Strozier mentioned plans to transport water to the area and create reservoirs while they build some of the industrial development, like the recycling plant. He pointed out that the new proposal did not include any requests for drawdowns from water supplies or water and sewer services from the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Authority (ABCWA).
Strozier insisted the developers would bring water to the area from “somewhere”.

When pressed by commissioner Angelica Solares whether the water would still come from a local source, Strozier didn’t share anything specific. “I’m sure there are a number of utilities that provide water for all the major construction projects, for example, that you see in the city and in the county. There are services that provide water for dust control, there are tankers for that.

Santolina is expected to cover 13,851 acres. It remains unclear how water services will be maintained as the drought dwindles resources, especially if growth in the region picks up.

The water issue is the key argument against the Santolina project. How can a place that is slated to house the third-largest population in the state function in a state that is already running out of water?

Tell us what you think…

Dozens of South Valley residents, including those who operate farms, have raised these concerns.

Mia Montoya, an attorney at the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, succinctly expressed her opposition.

“The proposed Santolina development is a proposal to build a planned community larger than Santa Fe on Albuquerque’s West Mesa, using billions of gallons of water and millions of taxpayer dollars,” she said. declared. This development is proposed at a time when the South West is experiencing the driest conditions in the last 1,200 years due to climate change.

Linda Starr said she has lived in the South Valley for 25 years and thinks the development would add to more traffic and pollution problems. She is also concerned about the water supply for the community of Santolina.

“It’s not sustainable development,” she said. “Farmers are being asked to reduce their water to plant their fields, and farmers are important. They are an important resource for our communities. And without them, we have no food on the table.

Marcia Hernandez is a local farmer who echoed concerns about water and how development could impact the environment for the community.

“I think we all know that Santolina is going to need a lot of water eventually,” she said, adding that she attended public planning meetings in 2013. “We didn’t have water. back then, and we don’t have any water now,” she said. “In fact, we have even less.”

Farmers and other producers in the South Valley have operated for many years with shorter irrigation seasons, Hernandez said.

Her family farm is generational, she added, and her grandchildren are now learning to irrigate and work with the water resources they have. The development, Hernandez said, is a threat to his very way of life.

“Truly, in my heart, I still fear that this is something that can die with me. Perhaps there will be no agricultural tradition in the South Valley beyond my generation. God forgive. “

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