The 2018 noncompliance of the city of Santa Fe with the District Court-ordered Settlement Annexation Agreement of 2012 was discussed at the Sept. 28 Santa Fe County Commission meeting. Here are some of the issues.
Some people in the newly annexed areas don’t get regular garbage service. The various city departments refuse to provide services over the phone when someone in a newly annexed area calls; they simply say, “Call the county.” Customer service is bad. City police officers refuse to respond to calls because they don’t believe the property is annexed.
The city’s cancellation of the building of the new fire station and police substation on the N.M. 599 frontage road will not help these issues. Public health and safety issues are ignored by the city. This affects 13,000 people (2012 count; it may be 20,000 to 40,000 now) in the newly annexed areas.
The agreement covered 18 separate areas, in three phases, so this piecemealing has made it difficult for city and county staffs to know what was happening. It set up a system where areas not yet annexed but soon to be were referred to as the “presumptive city limits.” People in the presumptive city limits since 2012 are in a state of limbo. Coyote Ridge Subdivision residents now call the state police for services because the city has refused to respond to calls.
Human needs of this area are being ignored: Schools are overcapacity; the roads are full at peak times; there are few parks; there is homelessness and areas labeled as food deserts. In 2020, Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center labeled Agua Fría Village and the 87507 ZIP code in 2020 as health crisis areas.
These forgotten promises by city officials and inattention to the settlement provisions also include the open space at South Meadows/Rufina and the improvement of West Alameda. There are dozens of these instances. Lack of communication between city and county officials isn’t helping.
The last city-county public meeting was on June 15, 2017. The meeting was inconclusive, and the city and county retreated from communications after it — even now.
The idea that private landowners would develop land in newly annexed areas and the city would benefit from the increased density through taxation is a fallacy, because the underlying infrastructure of water, sewer and roads has not been constructed. Some lots are “landlocked.” Since the 2008 Great Recession/housing crisis, banks have been hesitant to grant construction loans on raw land. The city needs to plan these areas out and offer Community Development Block Grants or federal funding like Opportunity Zones. These are some of the county’s poorest areas.
The whole promise of annexation is that the services offered to new residents will be better than what they had (this is not happening). There is a total lack of planning in the area, and in this regard, its residents are being held hostage.
Other issues: The 1999 City General Plan has not been updated; the city’s long-term planning office disbanded in 2019; the 2006 Arterial Roads Taskforce stopped; the Regional Planning Authority last met in 2009; the 2006 City-County Southwest Sector Plan is not updated; the Extraterritorial Zoning Area, Extraterritorial Zoning Authority and Extraterritorial Zoning Commission were disbanded in 2008, even though state law “suggests” them; the city manager and county manager have not had their one-hour-a-week meetings in more than three years. The joint city-county water planning talks stopped nearly three years ago.
All these things indicate a breakdown in city-county communications and an inability to produce results for citizens. Reinstatement of the Settlement Annexation Agreement would force the apple cart back on the road.