“Masterpiece Theater” couldn’t put more drama into a scene. It’s a David and Goliath confrontation from time immemorial. Bernalillo County Commissioners were rehearing an appeal for a zone change from agricultural to the planned community they voted for eight years ago that was remanded back to them by the New Mexico State Supreme Court.
On one side sits a community coalition represented by the New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC), which has been fighting for eight years to preserve the Atrisco Mesa in southwestern Bernalillo County from Santolina, a sprawling master-planned community slated for development. The coalition has been trying to stop New Mexico’s water from being sucked dry from climate change and unsustainable growth. They feel the impacts of Santolina are also an environmental justice issue. The development’s water plan includes a new river diversion and multiple new wells that will cause South Valley’s traditional farming communities to suffer worse shortages.
On the other side of the appeal sits Western Albuquerque Land Holdings (WALH), representing British Barclays Bank, which has been trying to build a 95,000-person development about the size of Rio Rancho, with daily water usage of over 10 million gallons per day.