We’ve all been offered something we didn’t want. More than 75 residents in City Council District 3 recently had that experience.
JenkinsGavin development management and Homewise are proposing a charter school and 96 domiciles be developed on 22.2 acres of natural parkland habitat. Homewise CEO Mike Loftin repeatedly has stated his commitment to give the residents what they want. Residents answered emphatically and to a person: They wanted nothing but to keep the natural parkland.
Nature has covered the surface of the parkland with natural juniper, chamisa, grasses and cholla cactus, among other native plants. Native animals, reptiles and birds have moved in as well. There exists a natural harmony that would be destroyed and could not be replicated by human attempts.
Neighbors have emphasized the problem of lack of parkland areas in District 3. Romero Park in Agua Fría, according to William Mee, village president, is overburdened because of development and the lack of neighborhood parks and parkland. Another developer, seeking city approval to build 59 homes on Kates Way, sandwiched between the Cottonwood Trailer Park and El Camino Real Academy, referenced Romero Park along with the Santa Fe River Trail to serve the new community. This adds to the 400-plus apartments on the academy’s east side. Meanwhile, the nearby natural parkland on South Meadows is within walking distance of the new housing on Agua Fría and the apartment complex adjacent to the academy. It offers public access.
Santa Fe’s Parks and Recreation Master Plan described District 3 this way: “Council District 3 had the lowest percentage of residents within walking distance of a park with only 15 percent of its estimated population within ½ mile of a park” (Sept. 30, 2017).
Traffic is a problem. Residents detailed jams due to high traffic volume and accidents on South Meadows Road during work-time commutes. Traffic is clogged beyond the Rufina Street traffic circle, nearly reaching the intersection at Airport Road. The city has plans to widen and improve the traffic flow at Agua Fría and South Meadows, but funds for the project only recently were allocated. To date, District 3 is about to receive approximately 400 apartments on South Meadows, 59 single-family dwellings on Kates Way and a cluster of Twilight Homes at the Cottonwood Trailer Park entrance on Agua Fría. Drivers will feed into the South Meadows relief route to N.M. 599. While traffic studies claim adequate capacity, reality appears differently to residents struggling to exit their access streets onto South Meadows or use a crosswalk.
Neighbors are faced with an inexplicable conundrum between Santa Fe County and the city of Santa Fe. More than 20 years ago, the 22.2 acres were designated as parkland by the county; it’s a matter of record. However, administrations change, money becomes reallocated and promises are unknown or forgotten. Santa Fe’s population grew in the southwest section, and the parkland was annexed into the city in 2014. Thus arose the conundrum; the county owns it, but the city controls it? No, wait, the city doesn’t control it because the county owns it. But the county doesn’t have jurisdiction in the city, yet the county owns it. No, wait, the county offered it to the city (in 2018), but the city didn’t accept the offer, so since the county can’t develop it because it’s in the city, and the city doesn’t want it, it’s for sale. Parkland? If you are confused and frustrated by the above, so are the residents who are trying to navigate this maze.
Both the city and the developer just want to give the residents what they want. The neighbors want to leave the 22.2 acres of natural parkland untouched. Please, give the gift of status quo, of nothing, of preservation of a pristine piece of parkland. It will be the gift that keeps on giving to the resident families in the surrounding communities. Neighbors, who walk this parkland daily to enjoy the view of distant mountains and the natural beauty, can continue to do so.