The Bernalillo County Planning Commission voted on Wednesday (June 7) to recommend approval of the Santolina’s request to strip water requirements from its Level B approvals. Developer, Western Albuquerque Land Holdings (WALH) has asked the County to disregard mandatory water requirements in its approval process because it does not yet have a necessary water agreement with the Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority.

At Wednesday’s Planning Commission meeting, commissioners considered WALH’s formal request to remove conditions that require it to prove that the development has water before it can obtain its Level B approvals. The Planning Commission’s recommendation now goes to the Bernalillo County Commission.

NMELC, its clients and allies vow to continue the fight against this ill-advised mega-development.

The decision to consider the request is baffling, given a ruling handed down last week by a Second District Court Judge that invalidates the developer’s zoning change from “rural-agricultural” to “planned community.” The Honorable Judge Nancy Franchini threw out the zoning change on the grounds that the approval process was unfair to the public and a denial of due process.

Because the now-invalidated zoning change is the foundation for the entire planning process, all of the Level A approvals for Santolina are now void.  This includes the Board’s approvals of the Level A Master Plan and the Level A Development Agreement, both of which are dependent on a valid zone map amendment.  Without valid Level A approvals in place, the County cannot proceed with Level B phase of development for Santolina.

In light of this decision, NMELC Staff Attorney Jaimie Park asked the Planning Commissioners to defer their consideration of Santolina’s water request until a valid zone map amendment and associated Level A approvals are in place.

“We obviously are disappointed that the Commission didn’t wait until there is a valid zone map amendment and associated Level A approvals in place, especially because the Court sent a very clear message to the County that its process should be fair to the public,” says Park. “We and our clients also are very concerned that—with few questions asked by the Commission and little consideration given to the concerns raised by dozens of residents at the hearing – the Planning Commissioners unanimously approved this scheme to sever land use planning from water management.” Go to case page.


Did you see hydrologist Norm Gaume’s recent editorial, “Santolina’s Water Use is a Ticking Time Bomb”?

Here’s a rundown on how the invalidation of the zone change affects the Level A approval process.

Here’s one planner’s alternative vision for sustainable growth in Bernalillo County.