People Representing Santolina Project Put Bizarre And Misleading Spin On Judge's Order
Here’s a question:
When is what a judge wrote and ordered not what the judge wrote and ordered?
Answer: When the people representing the massive Santolina project on the West Side put their bizarre and misleading spin on it.
On May 31, state District Court Judge Nancy Franchini, in a written order, reversed – I repeat, reversed – a zoning change for the 14,000-acre Santolina project that the Bernalillo County Commission approved in May 2015. The Commission changed the zoning from rural/agricultural to something called a Planned Communities designation.
But Franchini said the 3-2 vote approving the change was improper because then-commissioner Art De La Cruz had made up his mind in favor of the change before the hearing started. A zoning change hearing, Franchini said, is a quasi-judicial proceeding, and those making the decision have to be impartial judges.
Here’s what Franchini’s 20-page opinion said:
“The Court REVERSES the Board’s decision on the ZMA [Zoning Map Amendment] and REMANDS for proceedings consistent with this Opinion.”
That seems pretty straight forward, right?
Not if you work for Santolina.
In a document filed with the Commission on August 2, Santolina’s people came up with what can only be described as an attempt to mislead the commissioners on the matter.
Here’s what it said:
“As for the Court’s separate decision discussing due process considerations pertaining to the PC Zoning, it merely remanded the matter for further consideration by the BCC [Bernalillo County Commission], with direction that the members of the BCC assure themselves and their constituents that they are free of conflicts of interest and without partiality or prejudgment before further considering the approval of the PC Zoning.
“In fact, here the District Court decision merely remanded the zoning matter for further consideration by the BCC, upon appropriate assurances that unbiased fact finders will be making the definitive determination.”
Maybe Santolina’s people just can’t read. Or maybe they don’t understand what “reversed” means.
So let’s go through it again. Franchini reversed and remanded the zoning change. You can read her opinion yourself down below.
And, she didn’t enter separate decisions. She issued one 20-page memorandum opinion and order.
The document Santolina filed was a challenge to an appeal that Santolina opponents have filed to a decision from the County Planning Commission regarding the project.
When the County Commission approved Santolina’s Level A master plan in May 2015, it did so with the requirement that Santolina have a development agreement with the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority for water before its Level B master plan could be approved.
Santolina still doesn’t have that development agreement with the ABCWUA.
In June, at Santolina’s request, the CPC deleted that requirement from the Level B plan and pushed its own, the road to the Level C master plan process.
In other words, the CPC did the opposite of what the County Commission wanted.
Santolia opponents have appealed the CPC’s decision. So why would Santolina misrepresent what the judge wrote?
I can only guess that they want to confuse the commissioners who will be voting on more Santolina matters on Aug. 15, including the opponents’ appeal of the CPC decision.
The commissioners probably haven’t read Franchini’s opinion, and who knows what the county’s lawyers will tell them about it. So why not try to confuse them and grossly misrepresent what Franchini’s order said?
And it isn’t the first time that Santolina has blatantly misled the commissioners.
On May 28, 2015 attorney John Salazar, who represents Santolina’s developers, told the Bernalillo County Commission that the proposed 14,000-acre Santolina master planned community would not be seeking a public subsidy to build all the roads, sewers, water lines and other infrastructure the project will need.
“The developer has committed to pay 100 percent of the project infrastructure,” Salazar told the five commissioners 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 hundreds of millions of dollars of future county gross receipts and property tax money to the project to reimburse it for any infrastructure it builds.
In other words, Santolina asked for, and got a taxpayer subsidy.
So here’s a tip for the commissioners:
Whatever Santolina’s people tell you, know that the opposite is true.
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