developer seeks to resuscitate a housing project | Local News



Campbell Farming Corp. wants to revise a two-decade-old master plan to allow for piecemeal development of its 8,000 acres in the Edgewood area, and hopes to tap a different water source than the two basins where the new commercial wells have been used. been banned.

The Campbell Ranch development project, with two golf courses in original plans, has long been controversial, drawing strong opposition from neighboring communities whose residents say a project of this scale would strain the water supply. limited east of the Sandia Mountains, would increase traffic and cause overcrowding. which would ruin the bucolic serenity of the neighborhood.

The main concern of critics is that the plan, first drawn up at the start of what has become a 20-year drought, calls for the construction of 4,000 homes in an area that, like the rest of New Mexico, is facing to a decrease in water resources in the midst of a hotter and drier climate. weather.

“They want to put on too much,” said Mark Emery, president of the Sandia Knowles Neighborhood Association. “There isn’t enough water to do what they want to do.”

A key change in the plan calls for Campbell to slice up plots larger than 50 acres and sell them to developers without first having to make infrastructure improvements, said Tim Dvorak, interim planning and zoning administrator for Edgewood.

A developer who purchases a plot should follow all city codes for subdivisions, such as traffic, drainage, water availability and waste disposal, Dvorak added.

The city’s Planning and Zoning Commission will discuss this and other proposed changes to Campbell Ranch’s 2002 master plan for the massive development on Tuesday that would extend to Santa Fe, Bernalillo, and Sandoval counties, but primarily fall under the jurisdiction of the Edgewood jurisdiction because the city annexed most of the land.

Another significant change would remove one of the two proposed golf courses from the plan – and possibly the second as well – as part of a new vision to create more green space, common areas, buffer zones and greater freeway setbacks while conserving as much water as possible, said James Burns, Campbell’s program director.

More homes would be clustered together to preserve native vegetation and allow for more trails in the watershed, Burns said.

“The changes in the master plan include and take into consideration that this is a… piece-by-piece project, which makes the development somewhat of a smaller, longer-term footprint,” said Burns. “It won’t happen overnight. “

Selling smaller pieces would be more affordable for local developers and make it easier to set prices and design standards for the lots, he said.

It would also allow a variety of companies to bring in their own styles and concepts, leading to more diverse development, he said. Despite this phased approach, Campbell still hopes to eventually see 4,000 homes on the site, although there is no schedule for full construction, Burns said.

In fact, it is not known when the initial target of 150 to 180 housing units will materialize.

In the larger plan, most lots will range from half an acre to 1.5 acres, Burns said. Some lots will be considerably larger, and several hundred will be smaller, at one-third of an acre.

Uncertain water supply

The amended master plan also signals that the company has found a way around a legal obstacle to the development’s water supply.

In 2018, a Bernalillo County judge rejected Campbell’s request to pump groundwater for the neighboring Sandia Basin project, saying the proposal ignored climate change and was inconsistent with conservation efforts. of state water.

Campbell had sought to extract 350 acre-feet of water per year from the basin. One acre-foot equals about 326,000 gallons, enough to submerge a football field in a foot of water.

In December, the State Engineer’s Office closed the Sandia Basin and part of the Rio Grande Basin to new commercial wells. The Sandia aquifer has shown that water levels are dropping an average of 2.5 feet per year, a volume deemed severe by engineers.

The ban on new wells reinforced the judge’s ruling and highlighted concerns from area residents that regional groundwater was too depleted to support massive projects like Campbell Ranch.

Burns said Campbell appealed the judge’s ruling and noted that the state engineer’s decision to suspend new wells in the Sandia and Rio Grande basins may not last indefinitely.

In the meantime, the company will likely turn to a local water utility, Burns said, adding that there was no written agreement with any supplier yet.

Epcor Water and Entranoso Water and Wastewater Association are the main suppliers in the region. Entranosa, the larger of the two, draws water from the Estancia basin and carries it over 40 kilometers to its service area, where the water is placed in reservoirs for distribution to customers.

Entranosa CEO Jack Crider said discussions with Campbell so far have focused on providing water to a few hundred homes, but some people are acting as if full construction is imminent.

“You shouldn’t blow up proportions here and think they’re charging 4,000 homes on the road,” Crider said.

When asked how many homes the Entranosa system can supply, Crider didn’t give a specific number but said he can handle a lot, as long as the developers pay what they owe.

They must pay for pipelines, storage and pumps, and must prove they have the water rights for the amount requested, Crider said. “Our policy requires developers to pay their own way.”

And once the developers have funded and installed the upgrades to supply their water, they need to transfer those upgrades to Entranosa.

Emery said he doubts the Estancia basin could support nearly 4,000 homes, as it is already strained by the region’s growth and prolonged drought.

Anyone who builds a house has to show that there is enough water to support that dwelling for 75 years, an increasingly difficult task that seems impossible to do with thousands of houses, he said.

“Who knows what’s going to happen with climate change,” Emery said. “There is already a lot less water here than before. The groundwater therefore does not recharge. And people are moving here every day, building new houses. “

Deep pockets

Another community advocate asked how Edgewood would handle this growth and provide essential services such as policing, fire protection and emergency medical care.

“How can they provide these services in the future? Said Mark Moll, board member of the San Pedro Creek Homeowners Association.

Moll said one of the phases of the project would have a direct impact on where he lives. It would attract more people and traffic, and possibly lead to more stores to accommodate a larger population, he said.

His association isn’t opposed to reasonable development, but that’s not what 4,000 half-acre lots are, he added. “It sucks in huge amounts of water.”

In her 2018 ruling against the project’s water body, the Bernalillo County judge said the volume of groundwater Campbell sought would infringe on the water rights of others.

Burns noted that the Campbell family purchased the land in 1937 with the accompanying water rights. This makes Campbell the largest landowner and holder of water rights in the region, he said.

Emery argued, however, that there is enough water for the cattle on the ranch but not for thousands of households.

His neighborhood group is part of a coalition that has wrestled with the company in court for more than a decade over issues such as water. He estimates that they spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on legal fees and expert witnesses, and relied on fundraising efforts to cover the costs.

“We’ve been chasing them for years and years,” Emery said. “We keep winning, and they keep coming back. They have deep pockets.


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