Separating fact from fiction. Pereaville story now separate from blog posts on pages listed in sidebar.
Bernalillo County Commissioner Wayne Johnson writes of his support for Santolina Master Plan in the Albuquerque Journal dismissing opposition, throwing around rotten red herrings and concluding:
Passion and an intense desire to stop new development in Bernalillo County simply aren’t enough for the commission to deny a property owner his or her property rights.
Aside from hyperbole, this indicates he misses the public benefit part of planning. Changing or denying Santolina wouldn't constitute infringement on property rights. But approving a plan without apparent public benefit and protections has big consequences for County residents. It also makes the Commissioners look like tools.
If you will imagine for a moment that a bureaucracy is an entity with hopes and dreams, it is clear the County wants to wear big boy development pants. This is reflected in actions over the past decade or so that have put Bernalillo County on more or less equal footing with the City of Albuquerque. Significantly, the legislature eliminated the planning and platting jurisdiction of the City about the time the Water Authority was created.
The separate Water Authority truncated water policy from planning by creating a new bureaucratic animal. Patterned on a Southern Nevada regional utility, the Water Authority, unlike municipalities, has no statutory basis for land use planning considerations. Water service is now a technical question of whether an area can be served, not whether it should be.
Eliminating Albuquerque's planning authority over the unincorporated area and creating a purely technical water utility was specifically intended to facilitate unfettered development of the unincorporated area.
The proposed Santolina Master Plan and massive rezoning (hello!) is the County's unincorporated land development responsibility. It is now solely within County jurisdiction. If approved, the County will serve this urban county population growth, as if it is a city.
But, if it isn't obvious already, the City is part of the County. Not separate. The County budget is made up, in large part, of Albuquerque's property tax base. The County may approve anything and the City gets no say. But the City, as the County's tax base purse, will pay for it.
This is true no matter what schemes and structures are used to finance anything initially. If the County approves Santolina, we all own it - Albuquerque residents will pay for the mistake for years.
If Commissioner Art de la Cruz, and the newspaper, and the real estate boosters and speculators want the County to play city, they should support the County's incorporation as a municipality, without the city and its tax base.
"The train pulled into Albuquerque in front of the famous old Alvarado Hotel. In contrast with the rain and cold of Kansas City, the air fairly zinged with warm sunshine. Both girls felt an instant lift of their spirits. To this day Millie maintains this was the most beautiful sight of her life.”
The arrival of 14 year old Mildred Clark Cusey in 1926.
He jumped the fence at the regular place and worriedly looked behind him. If cows jump over the moon, why not this fence?
The bull stopped short and snorted. Call me Ferdinand again, I dare you.
Heifer who likes her head scratched and plays with the water hose had noticed him first. More greeter than aggressor, she trotted right up to him and was a little hurt when he shied away. That caught the attention of the other two.
Little bull has strengthened his self esteem by pushing fallen tree trunks and a big telephone pole around the pasture and corral. He enjoys intimidating geese and joggers along the fence line, charging at them with his head down, snorting. His head and neck are growing as thick as those old trees.
He dreams of having a nice set of horns. But everyone who knows him is very thankful he does not.
Coyote circled and dodged. He seemed a little upset. He avoided the corner where the three cows seemed to be herding him. Sure, this is all fun and games until someone gets stomped to death.
The heifers had to stop - winded from laughing so hard. The bull's gratefully short attention span seldom extends beyond the heifers' butts so he stopped too. It was over before anyone got a camera out.
Coyote regained his composure but won't be back until that bull is gone. Now the chickens and guineas are getting a little too noisy and full of themselves.
The market decides. The government shouldn't direct development. This was basically what the Albuquerque Journal editorial board said in favor of approving the pending huge Santolina master plan.
This ignores reality. The market may follow but players arguing for water transfers and new roads determine where land development is profitable. Not the market. The Journal knows this, having successfully manipulated public funding and opinion to benefit their own development interests for years.
Priorities for public works without capital planning, which isn't done effectively in New Mexico, depend on who's asking. The adage about real estate location, location, location, might more accurately refer to location of public roads, water lines and storm drains. Location of these services determine value and profitable land sales. The only "invisible hand" is the one pulling utility strings at any given moment.
Sprawl profiteering is exactly why Rio Rancho wants another road to nowhere paid for by taxpayers. It is not a chicken and egg dilemma. There are no land sales without road easements.* There is no land valuation that wouldn't include the inherent value of various public services available.
The market does not decide. But apparently developers do.
* Except illegal subdivisions like those on Pajarito mesa.
There is a strong disconnection between the Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority and the County Commission's decision regarding the proposed "Santolina" development and it will prove costly in the future.
The county planning commission has recommended approval with little or no information about the consequences of that decision on water supply. As surprising as that seems, it is also not at all unlikely the Commission will approve Santolina without that data. Because they can. No state or county law says anyone must prove water availability until subdivision - until the land is further chopped-up for resale. But it'll be too late to say no then.
This is by design and it is contrary to what proponents for Santolina have argued. They stated in testimony before the legislature that water and land use decisions are connected now and everything is working well. For them, maybe. The argument is that having some of the same members on both bodies some of the time magically coordinates decisions. No examples were presented, as I'm certain none exist.
Because, as I've stated before, the statutorily defined responsibilities of the boards are completely separate. The utility, the city, and the county have no coordinating, or even overlapping, planning functions. And planning isn't even required of those entities. To say that planning happens and that it is coordinated is a jaw-dropping gross misstatement.*
The water utility will make a technical decision of how to serve whatever development gets approved by the County. The consequences will rest on all of us. Sort of like:
Give us the water. Sorry about your farms. Maybe you should have thought of that before you said we could have 34,000 houses out here.
* Or a lying liar's lie.
Everything is just ducky with water and water planning in New Mexico. Land developers and business interests especially like the way things are working with the state's largest water utility. SB 609* would change the Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority to an elected board.** There was more testimony Monday from the big guns.
The legislature created the ABCWUA in 2003. Present membership is a musical chair arrangement of city councillors, county commissioners and the mayor. Busy elected officials with competing responsibilities and assertive staff mean oversight is lax. Most residents and legislators are unaware of problems. Most information is characterized by the congratulatory back-patting about lower water consumption.
Meanwhile debt has ballooned from $260 million to $920 million since the authority's creation. And that isn't for fixing what's breaking. Expenditures have exceeded revenues for the past six years. Goals and objectives presented to the authority board are moving targets. There have been OSHA and civil rights complaints and multiple EPA discharge violations. Executive decision making has little oversight and the chief executive sits on the only state board that might otherwise rein in the city's voracious water appetite through control of transfers - the Interstate Stream Commission.
Yet one lobbyist used the word "wonderful" over four times to describe how well the water authority is working, especially at coordination between water and land use. The authority's own lobbyist stated that it was created because residents of Bernalillo County's north and south valley were not getting served.
At this point truth took a meander, in other words.
When the water authority was dreamed-up, policy makers were concerned about water and sewer extension, but not to valley areas. Albuquerque's policy of requiring annexation for service hook-up was long-changed and valley service extensions to existing residents, funded by the legislature, had proceeded at a brisk pace for years before that. It was service to undeveloped western Bernalillo County that was contested.
It was also the threat of coordinated land use and water policy that led to creation in the first place. The city's Planned Growth Strategy that began in 1997 provided the impetus. PGS would have used water and sewer fees to manage growth just as it would eventually use impact fees to a much reduced, and now largely defunct, effect.
Unlike cities and counties, the authority's statutorily defined functions don't include land use planning or following land use plans.*** And commissioners and planning hearing attendees are regularly reminded they don't get to decide water service areas or availability.
The water authority doesn't have land use review responsibility and the city and county don't make decisions about water anymore. It is difficult not to conclude that this separation wasn't deliberate, especially given the timing with the city's large-scale planning effort.
Without a trace of irony, the representative for Western Albuquerque Land Holdings, owner of the proposed "Santolina" plan, said changing the water authority board to elected representatives might mean control by "interest groups with an agenda different from the general public."
I think he really means different interest groups.
*Senate Rules Committee passed the bill Monday and it will be heard in Senate Conservation Thursday. It mirrored a House bill I wrote about here, killed by Representative Ezzell's House Ag and water committee earlier in the session.
**My fervent hope is that a new board would also change the name.
***Not that municipalities or counties do, because NM has incredibly weak laws and bad precedents in this regard, which only sharpens my point.