Santolina critics have said that WALH lied in 2014 when its representatives told the five-member commission that the firm wouldn't be seeking public subsidies for the project
$2 Billion in Subsidies Up for Vote
One Step Toward Massive Tax Break
BY DENNIS DOMRZALSKI
The Bernalillo County Commission will vote Tuesday on the first of a two-stage process to give $2 billion in tax incentives to the developers of the proposed 14,000-acre Santolina development.
Those incentives would come in the form of tax increment development districts, or TIDDs, and Santolina’s proposal to create 40 TIDD districts in its proposed development is on the commission’s Oct. 11 agenda. The meeting starts at 3 p.m. in the basement of City Hall.
In total, Santolina’s developer, Western Albuquerque Land Holdings LLC, has asked for $2.8 billion in tax incentives for the project, which it says will someday have 38,000 households and nearly 100,000 residents.
The commission will be asked to approve a resolution “declaring the intent of the Bernalillo County Commission to form the Santolina Tax Increment Development Districts one through forty,” according to the agenda of the meeting that was posted Friday night on the commission’s web site.
If the commission approves the measure, it would have 30 to 60 days to hold a public meeting on the issue. After the public meeting, it would then vote on whether to approve the TIDDs.
The proposal would divert up to 75 percent of future gross receipts tax revenues generated by sales of goods within the mixed-use retail-residential development, and up to 45 percent of future property tax revenues to WALH, according to the resolution.
Under WALH’s proposal, that money would build the public infrastructure for the project—roads, water lines, sewers and parks—up front with its own, or borrowed money, and then be reimbursed with property and GRT tax money that would be created by the development. The money would be diverted from the county’s general fund through the TIDDs.
WALH critics say TIDDS are nothing but a subsidy to the developer and that WALH should pay for the Santolina infrastructure itself, not leave it on the doorstep of taxpayers. Santolina critics also have said that WALH lied in 2014 when its representatives told the five-member commission that the firm wouldn’t be seeking public subsidies for the project.
“The developer has committed to pay 100 percent of the project infrastructure,” attorney John Salazar, who represents WALH, to the commission on May 28, 2015, during hearings on the Santolina master plan. And there’s no request for a subsidy. There’s been no request that the county provide incentives to bring this project to the county.”
Later, Salazar added, “There will be no subsidy for the developer.”
Just eight months later, though, Santolina officials asked the county to divert $2 billion of future county gross receipts and property tax money to the project to reimburse it for any infrastructure it builds. That request came in the form of a Feb. 29 application by Santolina for 40 TIDDs districts for the project that’s west of 118th Street and south of I-40.
WALH also asked for 40 public improvement districts, or PIDs, which are basically special assessment districts that levy a property tax surcharge on property owners that’s also used to pay for infrastructure. The commission approved the PID request this past August.
Dennis Domrzalski is an associate editor at ABQ Free Press Weekly. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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