9/19/2007

Pulte development could be last of its kind: Rio Rancho NM Observer, 8/15/07

City leaders not fazed by blighting restrictions

By Tom Treweek

Pulte Homes opened its model village last Saturday, signifying the beginning of home sales for the master-planned community, but because of recently passed state laws, it may be the last large-scale residential development in Rio Rancho.

The Loma Colorado community, situated mostly between Loma Colorado Drive and High Resort Boulevard, sits on 433 acres of land obtained through the city's use of eminent domain.

Earlier this year, the state Legislature passed, and Gov. Bill Richardson subsequently signed, a bill banning the use of eminent domain to provide land for private developers. The measure pleased local landowners, who worried the city would take their property, but Rio Rancho officials have always been more concerned with antiquated platting created by AMREP at the city's inception.

Now, however, two Rio Rancho mayors, both former supporters of the measure, are nonchalant regarding the restriction of eminent domain powers.

Mayor Mike Williams, appointed only three days before Pulte's grand opening, praised the process that led to the Loma Colorado project.

"What has resulted is the first master-planned community to be built by a single builder/developer in the metro area," Williams said before the ribbon cutting ceremony. "This approach has yielded an impressive community that will not only feature homes that have triple energy efficiency and conversation certifications, but will also include 90 acres dedicated to parks, trails and open space."

On Monday, however, Williams said community developments would happen on their own. The only obstacle, he said, was infrastructure, as there are many areas of the city with no roads or utilities. In order to foster development, Williams said, the city would be willing to consider special assessment districts.

"If we have to, we'll SAD the whole city - the undeveloped parts," he said.

Likewise, former Mayor Jim Owen, also a proponent of the use of eminent domain for economic development, said the build-out will still happen, only slower.

"It will not happen very quickly," he said. "Consolidating those properties is a difficult prospect."

Owen said the economy was as prohibitive to creating such a community as the lack of infrastructure.

"It would be difficult to have a master plan," he said. "With the housing market the way it is today, I don't see anyone jumping at that."


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