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
BY DENNIS DOMRZALSKI
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.
“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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