ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The Bernalillo County Commission (BCC) will hold a special hearing on Tuesday, August 15 to consider several issues concerning the Santolina mega-development proposed west of Albuquerque.

This “Level B” process marks the last time under the county’s Planned Communities Criteria process that the BCC will be able to consider—or the public will be able to weigh in on—this part of largest development ever proposed for the county.

WHAT:  Bernalillo County Commission Hearing on Santolina development
WHEN:  Tuesday, August 15 at 5:00 pm. (To be continued on August 30 if necessary).
WHERE:  Vincent E. Griego Chambers, City/County Building, One Civic Plaza, NW [Map]

“The Santolina developers have failed to demonstrate that they can make their project a reality,” says Juan Reynosa with SouthWest Organizing Project. “When judged on its own merits, Santolina has failed in the courts, in front of the commission, and in the hearts and minds of the public. And yet, Level B could be approved because a bunch of wealthy lawyers and developers say it should. What kind of process is that?”

Issues under consideration by the BCC will include:

– Developers’ proposal that the BCC abandon conditions that require developers to prove their water before they can get Level B approval, i.e. provide a fully executed agreement with the Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority to water. (Santolina is estimated to need approximately 4.6 billion gallons/year at full build out, similar to Rio Rancho’s current use.)

– Two appeals brought by community advocates based on concerns about conflict of interest, improperly admitted evidence, and failure to adhere to the County’s own planning rules. The appeals challenge the County Planning Commission’s recommendation that the BCC approve the Level B.1 Master Plan, and its recommendation that the BCC allow Santolina to move forward to the Level C process without complying with water requirements.

– Developers’ first Level B Master Plan – a request to approve the Santolina’s first 4,000+ acre village site.

The Commission will also hear two appeals brought by:

The community advocates are represented by the non-profit, public-interest New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC).

The first appeal challenges a recommendation by the Planning Commission that the BCC approve the Level B.1 Master Plan, despite the failure of the developer to meet several requirements in the county’s Planned Communities Criteria.

The second appeal (see Part I and Part II) challenges the recommendation by the Planning Commission that the BCC remove conditions from its Level A approvals that would require Santolina to prove that it has water for the project before its Level B.1 Master plan can be approved.

“There have been several procedural issues with County hearings on Santolina,” says Jaimie Park, NMELC attorney for the groups. “Just as we did with our successful challenge of the initial zoning change for the development, we will pursue all procedural issues in court. Our elected officials should not be violating rules for the profit of major developers.”

For more information about this case, please see the NMELC Santolina Case Page, our fact sheet and timeline.

New Mexico Environmental Law Center is celebrating 30 years of fighting for environmental justice for the people of New Mexico. The NMELC’s mission is to protect New Mexico’s communities and their air, land and water in the fight for environmental justice.