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Santolina Opponents Win a Court Victory

Santolina Opponents Win a Court Victory

The lawsuit claimed that opponents didn't get a fair hearing because, two days before the hearing started, County Commissioner Art De La Cruz published an op-ed piece in the Albuquerque Journal saying he supported the project.

Lawsuit Challenging Santolina Can Move Forward


A state District Court Judge has ruled that opponents of the 14,000-acre Santolina development on the West Side can move forward with their lawsuit challenging the Bernalillo County Commission’s decision to approve a Level A master plan for the project.

On Thursday, Bernalillo County District Court Judge Nancy Franchini denied a motion by the developer, Western Albuquerque Land Holdings LLC, to dismiss the case because plaintiffs didn’t have standing to challenge the decision. Franchini did dismiss one of the six plaintiffs, but the other five remain and the case can move forward.

“We are pleased with the judge’s decision and we look forward to continuing to litigate this case,” said attorney Douglas Meiklejohn of the New Mexico Environmental Law Center.

Opponents filed the lawsuit last summer after the county commission approved the Level A master plan, and a zoning change for the property, by a 3-2 vote. The lawsuit claimed that opponents didn’t get a fair hearing because, two days before the hearing started, County Commissioner Art De La Cruz published an op-ed piece in the Albuquerque Journal saying he supported the project. That meant that De La Cruz didn’t bother to give weight to the hours of testimony against the project, the lawsuit said.

Photo credit: krqe.com

Photo credit: krqe.com

“Hundreds of community members have spoken out against the Santolina development over the past two years,” says Roberto Roibal of the SouthWest Organizing Project (SWOP), one of the plaintiffs in the case, “only to be met with the developers’ half-baked presentations and misleading statements. The project continues to fly through county hearings, all the while, and the people who are going to be affected are watching, and asking, ‘When will one of these institutions protect us?’”

The Santolina development has generated lots of controversy. During hearings last spring, Santolina representatives told commissioners that they would not seek public subsidies to built the project’s infrastructure — streets, sewers and water lines. But this past February, WALH asked for around $2 billion in TDDS, or tax increment development districts — which would divert county tax money to WALH to reimburse it for its infrastructure costs.

Santolina opponents say WALH officials misled the commissioners in saying they wouldn’t seek public subsidies for the project.

Santolina supporters envision a development of nearly 40,000 homes and nearly 100,000 residents in the next 50 years. WALH recently asked the county to approve a Level B master plan for the project.

(Photo credit: santolinanm.com)  

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.

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  • Tomas
    April 30, 2016, 6:18 pm

    New Mexico is in bad shape. Albuquerque is in bad shape. I love our state and city and the corruption and short sighted behavior of the leadership is part of the reason. It makes me sad that such a beautiful place can be ruined by corruption and greed. or maybe just incompetence.

  • Mick McMahan
    May 1, 2016, 10:01 am

    Thanks, Dennis. Keep on top of this one. It’s just as important as the ART project in the city is.

  • Carl Logan
    May 5, 2016, 7:50 am

    Extending perimeters [of the City] creates overhead thus increasing taxes on existing properties…..lets get that income argument out of the way.

    With the excessive amount of undeveloped, underdeveloped, vacated, property available with the current City limits there is already, 50 years of opportunity to grow Albuquerque.

    Santolina is a continuation of exploitation that has plagued the entire country and, particularly New Mexico, since Statehood. Recent examples close to home start with the current City and counties bordered by Rio Communities, Horizon, Mesa del Sol, Rio Rancho, and ?CalWest?, the forerunner of Santolina.

    Jeff Garrett and Art del la Cruz are complicit in another New Mexico boondoggle.

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