Between the lawsuits challenging development, fix-it government meetings and the upcoming contentious election, the Village of Los Ranchos is in a preverbal tizzy.
There is a split in Los Ranchos over a couple of development issues. One is a large multi-use project at Fourth and Osuna that is being developed by Palindrome Communities from Portland, Oregon. This is the same developer that revamped the El Vado Motel, along Central Avenue across from our sprawling ABQ BioPark. Palindrome has also proposed a future multi-use development in the Barelas neighborhood.
This Los Ranchos massive project is on about 13-acres that was deemed blighted as a Metropolitan Redevelopment Area (MRA) back in 2007. Bernalillo County is partnering with Los Ranchos to the tune of $29 million to help fund the 204 affordable housing unit sections of the development. The rest of the development is small business spaces and rumor has it that a grocery store is considering the anchor site as well.
The other project is 9.26 acres of the original Chavez Farm at Guadalupe Trail and Chavez Road, west of the Palindrome development. This is being proposed to be a 16-unit housing compound with two plus acres of accessible open space. This would be a first built under the village’s pilot conservation development ordinance. The developer is Jim Long, known for his line of Heritage Hotels.
In The Hands of Judges
There have been four separate state District Court lawsuits filed by either the non-profit Friends of Los Ranchos or Joe Craig, president of the Friends of Los Ranchos against the Village, Mayor Lopez and others over these two developments.
Two lawsuits challenge the Palindrome project, one against the Guadalupe project and one is an Open Meeting Act violation complaint with a request for an injunction. The Friends group took a blow when a judge denied a writ of mandamus request to stop the ongoing construction at Fourth and Osuna. The other two lawsuits, one Palindrome and one Guadalupe, are pending hearing dates. Craig’s lawsuit alleges violations of the Open Meetings Act over its handling of the approval process for these projects.
And don’t worry if you’re confused. It’s a hot mess of lawsuits.
There are powerhouse attorneys on all sides of the issues. Palindrome is represented by well known attorney David Campbell, the Village has the Stelzner, Winter, Warburton, Flores and Dawes law firm on their side, Joe Craig and the Friends groups have the Mel Eves and the Peifer, Hanson, Mullins and Baker firm arguing their points and developer Jim Long is represented by The Rodey Firm. It's an impressive line up to debate whether government actors did the correct legal thing when approving these developments all these years.
At contentious Planning and Zoning and Trustee meetings, Village officials revisited the approvals for the Palindrome project. The original approval caused much of the problems because this was done administratively by staff and without public input. It seems that this is technically legal but never a good idea when the public is involved. The Village went back and ran the project though the public sausage making system so the public could weigh in on the matter. At a recent public meeting, the project was approved after much public comment from both sides of the issue. Some Los Ranchos residents said it is a good location for this type of much needed affordable housing and retail options as it is in the business corridor of the Village. Some say this large of a development goes against what Los Ranchos was incorporated to be and will ruin the rural character of the area.
At the Trustee’s table it was approved on a 2-0 vote with Trustee George Radnovich being excused because he is involved in the project and Trustee Gilbert Benavidez abstained for unclear reasons. This left Trustees Alen Lewis and Sandra Pacheco to give this already well under construction project the official green light.
Los Ranchos residents are looking to the upcoming elections to put in people in office who share their vision of where the Village is headed. Filing day was Aug. 29 and there are four people running for Mayor. Incumbent Mayor Don Lopez is being challenged by two sitting trustees Gilbert Benavidez and George Radnovich and by Joe Craig, who happens to be the president of Friends of Los Ranchos.
This is not the first face-off between Lopez and Craig. They vied for the mayor’s seat after then-Mayor Larry Abraham died unexpectedly in 2018 while still in office. This rematch appears to be where the real race will be as the two are facing off in court as well as the ballot box.
Chiming in to take two open seats at the Trustee table is Franklin D. Reinow, Jennifer M Kueffer and Shelleen Ann Smith. Alen Lewis and Sandra Pacheco are not running for reelection. Trustees do not have to give up their seat to run for mayor, until they win in November. This means that if both Trustees lose their mayor bid they will be back at the table with two of the three on the ballot. Stay tuned for more on the candidates and upcoming election.
The next regular meeting of the Trustees is set for 7pm Sept. 13. For Los Ranchos government happenings check out losranchosnm.gov To see what the Friends of Los Ranchos are up to go to friendsoflosranchos.com. Both sites have links to recent meetings so one can see the players in action.
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here