The State Game Commission on Friday voted to reject the city of Santa Fe’s $2.1 million offer to buy 23 acres owned by the state Department of Game and Fish, a portion of which is needed to build the proposed Richards Avenue extension.
Commissioners came out of a closed-door session and, with no discussion, voted to reject the city’s proposal and to hire a real estate agent to put the property back on the market.
The city and the Game and Fish Department initially agreed on a $3 million sale price, based on the state’s appraisal. But the city did a subsequent appraisal that managers said put the land’s worth at about $1.4 million.
The two sides agreed to bring in a third-party assessor to review the differing appraisals. The result: City officials decided to offer the agency $2.1 million plus closing costs.
In an email, Game and Fish spokesman Ryan Darr wrote the commission declined the city’s offer because it was well below the appraised value obtained by the agency. All money from the sale will go to fish and wildlife conservation, Darr wrote.
“The commission is committed to ensuring that an acceptable value is obtained to support future conservation efforts for the benefit of all New Mexicans,” Darr wrote.
Now that the agency has rejected the offer, the Santa Fe City Council will discuss what to do next about the Richards Avenue project at a special meeting Tuesday.
Regina Wheeler, the city’s Public Works director, said Game and Fish officials have made clear they have no interest in selling just the portion required for the extension.
“They’ve already indicated they’re not open to that,” Wheeler said.
At a December meeting, city Asset Development Manager Terry Lease told the council the two appraisals used different data to determine the property’s value.
Game and Fish used property sales data from 2016 to 2018 and nothing newer than that, Lease said, while the city collected sales data from 2018 to 2022.
City officials have indicated much of the land could be used for projects such as affordable housing and a community center.
Several acres of the land are needed for the city to install a connector route across the Arroyo de los Chamisos to link the north and south sections of Richards Avenue.
The planned extension has been contentious from the outset.
Some residents have supported it because it would relieve traffic on streets in surrounding neighborhoods and provide a more direct route between Cerrillos Road and Rodeo Road, where Richards Avenue heads south to the Santa Fe Community College District.
Others have opposed it, saying it would funnel more traffic through their neighborhoods. A traffic study estimated the extension would escalate traffic on Richards Avenue to about 10,000 vehicles a day.
To slow and reduce traffic, city officials were leaning toward building a roundabout just south of the arroyo, where Richards Avenue, a fire station service road and Camino del Prado would converge.
But the proposed roundabout hardly placated the opponents of the extension.
This story has been amended to reflect the following correction. A previous version of this story incorrectly identified Regina Wheeler as the city of Santa Fe's planning director. She is the city's Public Works director.