Mayor Donald T. Lopez has three challengers in the mayoral election, two of them already serving as village trustees. Separately, there are three people vying for two seats on the board of trustees. Voters will help shape the future of the village, which works to balance its semi-rural atmosphere with prospects of development.
Village of Los Ranchos Municipal Election
Editor’s Note: Incumbent Mayor Donald T. Lopez did not respond it time to meet the Comment’s deadline. Other candidate responses have been included below.
Benavides: Trustee for the Village of Los Ranchos. Serve on the Alb BernCo Water Authority. Semi-retired engineer from Sandia National Labs.
Radnovich: Business Owner, Landscape Architect, Planner
Years lived in district?
Website or contact info where voters can reach you?
Benavides: Facebook: Gil4LosRanchos
Radnovich: grad4mayor.com or George@grad4mayor.com
What are your top three priorities for the future of Los Ranchos?
Benavides: After we, as a team, hire a new Village Administrator to replace the one that has resigned we can work on the following priorities. 1. To enjoy living in the Village it must be safe. We will increase our supplemental funding to the BCSO for equatable patrolling of all neighborhoods within the Village. 2. Continue to improve 4th street North to Ortega road while respecting our Village character. That is, no more three story large apartment complexes, no big box stores, however, we will encourage restaurants, small shops, art, and music. 3. Develop a comprehensive plan for the Agri-Nature Center to include the Anderson house and agricultural related events.
Craig: 1.)To restore trust, integrity and transparency in Village Government 2.) Manage traffic control, noise control and light pollution. 3. Hire an experienced village administrator and establish 5 year budget to quickly get a handle on of the out of control spending that is currently going on.
Radnovich: There are a number of issues that should be addressed, some of them are related to ordinances and resolutions and others are physical planning. My top three priorities would be: 1. The village of Los Ranchos is trying to move in too many directions at a very fast speed with little vision for our future. This turbulent direction is causing some difficult times for us as a place, the turmoil has to be calmed and trust has to be returned to the village administration. The greatest need is to heal the wounds brought about by development, lack of transparency, and the administration’s direction. I will do this by listening and realigning our priorities to a common direction. 2. Update of the Master Plan – while the current master plan was just completed, I feel that it needs to be updated due to a number of concerns that have been brought up by the public in recent years. This would include another look at the Village Center, the Transportation part of the Master Plan and other areas which need more public discussion. 3. Finish a few initiatives. While I have issues with the Fourth Street project, I have no plans to stop it, but I would take a very close look at the plans and pause plan development to do so. I think that the plan is to infrastructure centric and not enough community centric, and I would try to change that. The work of the villages current Citizen Advisory Committee is advancing and needs to be completed early on in the new administration; this work includes work on our conservation development ordinance and our village center.
Lots of rhetoric has been tossed around about “fixing” Village development issues. What are the problems that need to be addressed and how do you plan to “fix” the problems that you see in Los Ranchos?
Benavides: In regards to what has already been done, we need to be realistic about what we can and cannot fix. Yes, we have a three story 204 unit apartment complex on the corner of 4th street and Osuna that most residents do not like. It feels out of character and is just too much for a corner at an intersection that is already heavily congested. Dedicated parking for the apartments is insufficient and will result in parking complaints in the surrounding neighborhoods. It is not fair to those residents and I am willing to pressure the developer to greatly increase dedicated apartment parking places. Going forward, with the help of the Citizens Advisory Committee, we are changing Village code to be aligned with our Village character. In regards to business development, we are encouraging small businesses, that respect our Village character, to open shop in the Village of Los Ranchos. The vision for 4th street is a pedestrian friendly destination that has, valley ambience, shops, art, music, and a variety of eating establishments.
Craig: I believe that the Village should look at bringing a national level community planning firm in to look at the multiple high density and urbanization projects that have not been coordinated with a the village residents and semi-rural village identity.
Radnovich: Village development has to be looked at to conform as much as possible to all resident opinions. We have already worked on changes to the commercial corridor of the village on Fourth Street, and we have moved on to the conservation development ordinance and changes are upcoming to that one. Following that work we will work on the guidelines for the village center area. The second and perhaps larger issue is listening to the public and I would begin my term by doing just that. I would hold a series of public meetings that would focus on the issues noted and try to resolve the conflicts. I would also organize more citizen advisory committees to work on the tough problems of urbanization, transportation, and open space planning among others.
How will you approach the conflicts between Village residents that are supportive of affordable housing and other developments and those that are not?
Benavides: To be clear, it is not our job to alleviate the housing shortage for Albuquerque.The Village of Los Ranchos is unlikely to grow in size and there are limited opportunities to increase housing within the Village. However, there are some opportunities to build small scale apartments and townhomes around our commercial zone. There will be no more large three story apartment complexes in the Village. Generally, single family homes are and will continue to be much more expensive in the Village as compared to Albuquerque. Affordability means different things to different people. There is only so much we can do.
Craig: The “Village Center” that is now an affordable housing project is not what was planned in the 2020 Master Plan (I was an author) nor with the original planning of 4th Street. Affordable Housing or just developments need to be near the schools and near good mass transit. This housing project is neither.
Radnovich: This is a very tough question. Like our neighbor Corrales, affordable is relative to location and land costs are very high in Los Ranchos which means affordability may be different here than say the city of Albuquerque. I also believe that affordability near the Fourth Street area is again quite different than it might be along Rio Grande Boulevard or even Guadalupe Trail. Los Ranchos is also much less homogenous than other villages and towns in the state in terms of demographics, we have wealthy constituents and much less wealthy populations within a very small village. This topic also needs to come to the public in a much more robust way than it has in the past. Public meetings and public education become key to solving the dilemma, we must define what affordable housing is in Los Ranchos and what we can do to make land and housing more affordable to those who might want to live here. I think we also need to look at other places in the country as precedents for handling the question of affordable housing. I don’t have a silver bullet, but I will listen to ideas and discussion, and we will formulate plans based on best practices and reason.
With Albuquerque blowing smoke on all sides and Rio Rancho sprawling on the hill what can you do, other than purchase open space property, to preserve the semi-rural character of Los Ranchos?
Benavides: First of all, we want to welcome Albuquerque and Rio Rancho residents to visit the Village of Los Ranchos. We are doing our best to preserve our Village character so that it looks and feels different than the city where you may live. Yes, purchasing open space is a big factor towards preserving our semi-rural character, however, we are doing much more than that. We have an amazing network of tree lined ditches for walking and exploring. Most of our residential roads have no sidewalks yet are friendly to pedestrians, bicyclists, and horseback riders. We have agricultural events open to the public such as, Lavendar Festival, Matanza, and more to come. We embrace our rural historic heritage which is inclusive of Native Americans, Hispanic settlers, and Anglo influences.
Craig: Our Village businesses are “destination business” Our Village government survives on gross receipts tax from those businesses. We need to focus on an environment that preserves the businesses and the community. The Village was established in 1958 to prevent the mass urbanization that is trying to change the “semi-rural environment. We want people to come and enjoy our semi-rural feel, not create a North East Heights.
Radnovich: This question is also very important. I think Los Ranchos needs to protect itself from sprawl, while at the same time determine who it is or maybe who it wants to be. When Los Ranchos first started down the path of creating its own municipality, we were a more rural place. Then, through annexations, we mixed those more pastural environments along Rio Grande Boulevard with a “grittier” corridor along Fourth Street. It’s like a Tale of Two Villages. The first Fourth Street Revitalization project changed that to a large degree, but more needs to be done to present Los Ranchos as more unified in character and meld the two “villages” into one cohesive place. This should be done through good planning and better implementation. I feel that much of Los Ranchos needs overlay planning to solve the problem, we need Mainstreet, not More Street. We also need more strengthened regulations for development that holds the goal of cohesion in the highest regard as well as that semi-rural character.
How can the town balance growth and economic development?
Benavides: We may be at the limit of growing the boundaries of the Village and the remaining buildable residential lots are limited, however, small commercial opportunities are plentiful along 4th street. The Village is financially secure and can afford to grow our commercial district in a responsible manner. 4th street is no longer the low rent district it once was. We have exciting places to visit like, Hops Brewery, Los Ranchos Bakery, Dan’s Boots & Saddles, Vernon’s Speakeasy, Busy Bee Frozen Custard, Color Wheel Toys, Kelly Jo Designs, Plants of the Southwest, and more.
Craig: Our business are destination business. I have supported them with social media and will continue. We have to deal with traffic and public safety for our residents and our businesses. Mass urbanization is not the solution to protecting the historic and rural environment that has created some of Los Rancho’s most successful businesses.
Radnovich: This question also needs to be looked at more closely. Growth is important but that growth needs to be quality growth, and balanced growth. All of our growth needs to contribute to our direction and character as a village. At the same time, we have no property taxes specific to Los Ranchos, only Bernalillo County tax, and so Gross Receipts Tax (GRT) becomes a lifeblood in our village which means we need healthy businesses and a healthy commercial corridor if we want to get things done that improve the village. We tend to rely on funding from the state, but that funding comes with strings that don’t always contribute to our character. I don’t have an interest is starting a property tax in Los Ranchos but at some point, we are going to have to decide how to balance economic development and growth with only GRT and state funding to work with, and there are people in the village that want to reduce our reliance on GRT. That too should be decided in the court of public opinion and through good government and that, will be a tough row to hoe!