For the last 12 years, the Candlelight neighborhood has been besieged with proposal after ever-worsening proposal to develop the empty lots at the corner of Zia Road and St. Francis Drive.

As many who travel through this intersection know, it often is congested and has been the site of many traffic, bicycle and pedestrian accidents and near-accidents. It has been rated as a “failed” intersection by the city for many years. Now a new proposal being considered will make getting in and out of this neighborhood even more difficult and dangerous.

In the 1999 Long Range Master Plan, these 20 acres were proposed for R-5 to R-7 zoning. This zoning corresponds to the current nature of this neighborhood. In addition, the area is protected by the provisions of Chapter 14-5-5, the Highway Corridor Protection Districts. This provision of city ordinance guarantees a “clear sense of visual openness,” “encourages architectural style and scale that is representative of Santa Fe,” “preserves clean air and a sense of quiet and reduce the negative impacts of noise, air pollution, lights, movement of cars, activities on site or other nuisances on adjoining properties.”

In other words, the 1999 Long Range Master Plan and the highway protection ordinance both recognize the kind of neighborhood compatible with our current Candlelight neighborhood.

The developers are proposing removal of all ordinances that would otherwise control this growth and are asking for zoning that would remove meaningful (or “all but the most minimum possible”) controls to density, height, building setbacks and permissible activities. Their proposal on 20 acres would add apartment buildings of two and three stories, 84,000 square feet of office space and 36,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space, plus two parking garages. This overbuilding at this corner must be stopped.

It should be noted that the Candlelight area is in the 87505 ZIP code. This ZIP code, along with our neighboring ZIP code of 87507, already is experiencing 72 percent of all the coronavirus cases in Santa Fe County. Following nationwide locations of this virus, the more congested the area, the greater the prevalence of disease. When you factor in the incredible congestion that will result from the proposed development, our neighborhood could become a COVID-19 hot spot that could negatively impact our lives even more.

The Candlelight Board has conducted two opinion surveys of the neighborhood. In both surveys, the neighbors prefer the R-5 and R-7 zoning and favor the provisions of the Highway Corridor Protection District Ordinance. I hope the neighborhood concerns are given a greater weight by the Planning Commission and City Council than that given to us by the developers and their representatives over the past 12 years.

We know city administrators are interested in affordable housing. There are many, many projects underway to meet this need. There is no need to compromise the Candlelight neighborhood.

We appeal to the Planning Commission and the City Council to at least hold firm on the provisions of the Highway Corridor Protection District Ordinance. This ordinance was in effect when the developer purchased the property, and all development should be required to comply with all of its provisions.

Barbara Levin lives in the Candlelight neighborhood of Santa Fe.

(3) comments

Stefanie Beninato

They also will tell you that the development needs less parking than required because it is close to the RR and a bus line....That was the argument at the monstrosity at Cordova and Penn Rd. I noticed people parking on the street rather than in the complex--why? Don't like having to go through a gate?

Joan Conrow

Barbara expresses the view of the majority of Candlelight residents. It’s important to note this proposal does not include affordable housing. In other words, the developer, Merritt Brown, and its representative, Jenkins/Gavin, want maximum density, design flexibility and profit while offering the community nothing but an eyesore and more traffic congestion. I hope the planning commission and city council reject this greedy, ill-conceived plan.

Stefanie Beninato

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