What took place in our governing bodies to arrive at a greater metropolitan transit plan with the addition of the Rail Runner in 2008 was a democratic and public process.

There were countless meetings to envision how the addition of a mass transit commuter line would change the fabric of our community. A great deal of input, public and private, was flushed out in deciding each station location and its role in the greater metropolitan plan. Hours devoted by dedicated citizens, elected officials, public employees and experts in the field to the advancement of a plan that would serve the best interests of our city. Today, as a plan for the development around Zia Station moves through our governing body, we must honor the process that took place. It is the integrity and wisdom of the process that will soon be voted on.

At the Transportation Policy Board meeting on Dec. 13, 2007, a vote was finally taken to approve Zia Station and the other stations that are currently on line. In attendance were commissioners, City Council members, the mayor, staff members, representatives from the state Department of Transportation and members of the general public. All whose faces were familiar after attending so many meetings together. The goal was to lay a roadmap for the functionality of each station to meet the regional transportation needs for Santa Fe.

Each station had its own specific advantages and complementary features to support one another. Zia Station was adopted as a “kiss and ride” stop to discourage auto trips on the failing intersection at Zia Road and St. Francis Drive. In public comment, Merritt Brown, the owner of the property surrounding the landlocked station, spoke: He understood the hesitation at Zia because of what went with it.

Brown knew of the zoning restrictions that went with it, he knew of the Central Highway Corridor Protection Act and he knew of the restraints surrounding Zia Station. He then added that any development would be at the “low end.” The meeting progressed with a great deal of discussion of the impact Zia Station could have on traffic, not only at that intersection but also the adjacent east to west corridors.

After all input, then-Councilor Matthew Ortiz motioned to move the designation of the stops forward to the governing body with the important contingency “that the Zia Station be specifically and narrowly tailored that would minimize auto traffic.” Zia was the only Rail Runner stop that was given a qualifier. It was seconded and approved unanimously. Stations were approved based on this democratic process, now part of public record.

The proceedings established clear guidance for Zia Station and the corresponding development. Perhaps in large cities, such as Dallas, the plan now moving forward would be on the “low end.” The beauty of the open process is the clear distillation of ideas into concise points. Only the essence remains after hours of expert testimony, planning and meetings.

So when we look back at the record, the muddle and mire is stripped away and we are forced to take pause, to respect and honor the words that remain in the public record. After intense deliberation, the words were chosen very carefully to express the concerns of density and traffic around Zia Station.

Today the development under consideration around Zia Station is not narrowly tailored to minimize auto traffic, but the opposite. As proposed, it represents a gross overreach that completely disrespects the clear intent of the democratic process that took place.

Tom Agard, a longtime resident of Santa Fe, resides in the Candlelight Neighborhood.

(1) comment

Stefanie Beninato

Thanks for this editorial, Tom. I hope you have put it into public comments for the 6-7 April meeting on the Zia station development. Not only did the Planning Commission ignore this condition of approval for the station, it also ignored the Central Corridor Protection ordinance which according to the vice chair of the PC, somehow this part of the corridor was supposed to have been omitted but was not. Instead of applying the law as it exists, apparently the PC decided to ignore that Central Hgwy Corridor Protection law. There were indefinite answers about whether those with vouchers would have to pay out of their pockets in addition to the vouchers ("It depends"). When one PC commissioner whines about her son being on a long list for affordable housing and when you have people in the industry primarily speaking in favor including Mr Werwath and Mr Romero who think height restrictions and corridor protections should bow down in the name of affordable housing--what you have is a process tainted by bias and fueled by a developer's need to make a buck at the community's expense. Do you really need 10 ft high ceilings when you are suppose to be building green?

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