SANTA FE, N.M. — A large-scale mixed-use commercial and residential development has been proposed at a prominent location on Santa Fe’s south side, just southwest of the St. Francis Drive and Interstate 25 interchange.
Referred to as “St. Francis South” in documents filed with the city and county, the development would be located on 68.9 acres just outside the city limits between St. Francis Drive and the Santa Fe Rail Trail, and bordered by the interstate and Rabbit Road.
The preliminary plat and development plan for the property based a water budget for the project on a build-out of 150,000 square feet of office space to be used by 450 employees, 300,000 square feet of warehouse space and 120 employees, 50,000 square feet for a rehabilitation center, landscaping to include 5,000 trees and 5,000 shrubs, and 200 multi-family dwelling units.
Earlier this year, the Santa Fe County Commission denied a request for a master plan amendment that would have increased the residential density to 250 apartments or condos. The initial plans call for dividing the property into 22 mixed-use lots.
The agent for the development is JenkinsGavin Design and Development, Inc., a land-use consulting firm that often helps usher proposals through the process on behalf of land-owners or developers.
“It’s an excellent location with high visibility. There are a multitude of uses that would work well there,” said Jennifer Jenkins, one of the consulting firm’s owners.
Jenkins said the market will determine what would ultimately be built and there is currently no definite breakdown among various possible uses for the site.
“There is a list of permissible uses in accordance with the approved master plan,” she said. “Nothing is planned. The key is to (first) get infrastructure and electricity.”
Jenkins reiterated that what was listed for office, warehouse and residential uses on the more than 2-year-old water budget for the property was only “conceptual.”
But the development came one step closer to fruition Wednesday when the City Council’s Public Utilities Committee approved an agreement between city government and Santa Fe County to connect water and sewer lines to the property.
The Memorandum of Understanding still needs approval from the respective governing bodies. It’s scheduled to come before the city’s Finance Committee on Aug. 15 before reaching the City Council on Aug. 31. A spokeswoman for the county said the earliest the MOU could be considered by the County Commission is at its Sept. 13 meeting.
The development’s multi-family units could help ease the Santa Fe area’s severe housing shortage. A recent survey conducted by the city government showed that Santa Fe, where more than half of the workforce commutes into town, was more than 2,000 residential dwellings short of demand.
“Obviously, we need more housing, so that would help,” City Councilor Chris Rivera, who chairs the Public Utilities Committee, said of the project. “It’s close enough to town that it could benefit both the city and Santa Fe County.”
Not everyone is happy about the development. Residents of the area have spoken out against it during public hearings held by the county.
The Campo Conejos Homeowners’ Association, whose members live in a 75-lot subdivision in the area, outlined their concerns in a letter last November. The letter states that the density of the development was incompatible with the area and the development would become an “undesirable presence” by increasing traffic and lowering property values.
Jenkins initially declined to disclose whom her company was representing with the development application, saying she didn’t want to speak about the project without her client’s permission. But she later confirmed that the name of the company is Vegas Verdes, LLC.
David Gurule, listed as operating manager of Vegas Verdes on county documents, did not return phone messages from the Journal. A company by that name does not come up on a search of corporations on the New Mexico Secretary of State’s website, nor does it have a business license with either the city or the county.
However, the county Assessor’s Office website shows that the property, officially listed at 199 Rabbit Road, is co-owned by Vegas Verdes, LLC and FFT, LLC. A memo of tenants-in-common agreement between the two was filed in the county clerk’s office in March 2014. It appears the property was purchased about the same time.
Sale prices for vacant land and commercial property are not recorded in the county Assessor’s Office. But the assessed value of this development site was $932,285, or about $13,500 per acre, on April 1, 2014, just a few weeks after the deed was recorded, and remains at that value today.
The Secretary of State’s website shows that John R. Fox is the registered agent for FFT, LLC. The West Marcy Street address listed for the company is occupied by the Sommer, Udall, Sutin law firm. Fox was a partner in the firm from 1991 to 2001 and is now president of Southwestern Title & Escrow, according to that company’s website. Fox also did not return phone messages from the Journal.
Secretary of State records show that Fox is also listed as a director of Phase One Consulting, Inc., which appears to be connected to Phase One Realty, Inc., whose secretary/treasurer is David Gurule.
Jenkins said her client would be responsible for paying costs to install the water line, if the project is approved, although city-county MOU agreement states that all costs to connect the city and county water systems could be paid for by either the county or the developer. The county would bill and collect from customers within St. Francis South and remit the amount collected on a monthly basis until the infrastructure expansion charges are paid off.
The city would own the master water meter, vault and appurtenances, according to the agreement, and the county would own the part of the installed water system on the county side of the meter. The county would also own and operate the public sewer infrastructure up to the point of connection with the city’s system.
But the county is not allowed to extend sewer or water services beyond the project’s boundaries. The county is obligated to pay the city monthly service charges.
The county’s request of the city to connect the infrastructure “outside the presumptive city limits” first gained approval of the Water-Wastewater Review Team, a panel made up of city and county staff, and formed as part of a 2008 settlement agreement between the city and county over annexation issues. The review team met in February and May, and determined the application was complete and met the necessary requirements.
By: T.S. Last (Albuquerque Journal)
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