Article in The Albuquerque Tribune: Los Ranchos fears overdevelopment

Eighteen years ago, June Gonzales moved to Los Ranchos de Albuquerque for its quiet, semi-rural character.

Now she worries that the tranquility she cherishes is threatened by longstanding plans for a residential and commercial center at Fourth Street Northwest and Osuna Road.

Village leaders have some of the same concerns, and they held a public meeting Wednesday night to discuss altering zoning regulations that were approved in the past but now are being questioned.

The regulations would allow a mix of businesses and residences long envisioned as a thriving destination vital to the village’s future.

But the potential development could go too far, some Los Ranchos residents have come to realize.

“We don’t want high-density development to be put into those existing neighborhoods,” said Terry Nighbert, planning and zoning director for Los Ranchos. “We’re trying to put it back to a village scale.”

That means exempting six homes along Willow Road Northwest – one of them belonging to Gonzales – from the Village Center Zone and reducing the zone’s size.

The zone is the area identified for development. Thirteen acres of private land within the zone are on the east side of Fourth Street Northwest between Osuna and Willow.

The zone would develop differently than a standard commercial zone. That worries residents, even with a proposal to ensure their homes don’t fall within its regulatory reach.

For one, it allows more “dwelling units” – think apartments – per acre in the Village Center than a standard commercial zone in Los Ranchos. Nighbert said 12 to 22 dwelling units are allowed under the existing regulations, whereas the standard in other village commercial zones in just six.

An apartment building is the last thing Gonzales wants to see near her home.

“Our space is mellow and mature,” she said. “Apartments would be just too much. Too many cars, too much music, too many late hours.”

It would create additional congestion near Fourth Street, which is already busy, Gonzales said, adding that it could drive away the roadrunners and other fauna she enjoys.

She’s more open to bringing additional businesses with green spaces as a buffer between them and nearby neighborhoods.

Cindy Sylvester, whose home is also being considered for exemption from the Village Center Zone regulations, said if Los Ranchos officials assured an apartment building would not go up, it would be easier to find support for the proposed development.

“I personally don’t think we need any more shopping on Fourth Street,” Sylvester said. “Making this village within a village . . . it’s in opposition to the rural aspects of our neighborhood.”

Nighbert said the village would consider altering the zoning regulations in numerous ways to ensure higher-density development doesn’t severely impact residential neighborhoods.

That could include increasing the size of the buffer zone between commercial and residential properties, limiting the height of buildings or disallowing any tall apartment buildings near the homes along Willow Road.

However, any decisions will have to wait until next week, when the village holds a public hearing on alterations to the Village Center Zone. Depending on how that goes, Nighbert said, an approval of the changes could come in a few weeks, a few months, or never.

Los Ranchos Mayor Larry Abraham said a mixed-use village center has been been a dream for 15 years.

He said there are no proposals to undertake the project yet, but he wants to make sure the area is as appealing as possible for developers, but also addresses the concerns of residents. Modifying the Village Center Zone is part of that effort.

“The zoning has not been consistent,” he said. “All we’re doing is trying to streamline the Village Center Zone so when development does come in, it makes sense and it fits in.”

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