Unified Action – May 2007 – Deny East Mesa Annexation Plan

Deny East Mesa Annexation Plan

Sponsored by Quality Growth Alliance
Contact person: Stephen Fischmann
When you have completed this action remember to send “I did it!” to unifiedaction@pva-nm.org

 The Issue

Las Cruces City Council is scheduled to consider the Vistas at Presidio annexation and zoning at their meeting on Monday, May 21. The annexation involves 9 square miles of land in the shadow of the Organ Mountains. The plan could triple the population of Las Cruces in 10 to 15 years and lead to a host of problems for our community.

The Quality Growth Alliance has three major concerns with the proposal:

  1. The master plan itself has critical shortcomings with regard to open spaces, water, conservation, affordable housing, schools, etc. (Plan details)
  2. The process has not been appropriate for the magnitude of the plan. There appear to be many irregularities in the way the State Land Office has dealt with the developer, Phillip Phillipou. (Process details)
  3. Meaningful citizen input has been absent from the plan.

What we are asking

E-mail the State Land Office and the Las Cruces City Council members and urge them to take the following actions:

1. Remove the current Vistas at Presidio annexation, master plan, and zoning from consideration by the council.
2. Initiate a new East Mesa planning process. Implement procedures for annexation and master planning. Set up an open, transparent public process sponsored by the City of Las Cruces and the State Land Office for planning the East Mesa properly.

ALSO

If possible, attend the Las Cruces City Council meeting scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. Monday, May 21, in council chambers at City Hall. Councilors probably notice a large crowd standing in front of them.

Ask your friends to participate in this critical action.

Contact information for the Land Commissioner, City Council, and the Mayor

1. To send a message to Land Commissioner Patrick Lyons, use plyons@nmstatelands.org.

2. To send your message to the entire council and the mayor use CityCouncil@las-cruces.org.

3. You may call or email individual council members as follows:

District 1 Jose Frietz 541-2066 556-1620 josef@las-cruces.org
District 2 Dolores Connor 541-2066 541-2066 dconnor@las-cruces.org
District 3 Dolores Archuleta 541-2066 642-1680 darchuleta@las-cruces.org
District 4 Steve Trowbridge 541-2066 526-4039 strowbridge@las-cruces.org
District 5 Gil Jones 541-2066 202-0770 gjones@las-cruces.org
District 6 Ken Miyagishima 541-2066 571-2440 miyagi@zianet.com
Mayor Bill Mattiace 541-2067 mayor@las-cruces.org

Upon completion this unified action, please e-mail “I did it” to unifiedaction@pva-nm.org.

Further Information

The Quality Growth Alliance is developing a Web site with information on all aspects of the annexation.

A summary of master plan and procedural issues and a sample letter are included here.

Master Plan Issues

1. A proposed buildout rate that could quadruple the population of the city in 10-15 years when coupled with existing development projects.

2. Threats to existing property values through over building.

3. A traffic plan sufficient for 33,000 dwelling units coupled with zoning for up to 91,000 dwelling units and no guarantees of a building cap.

4. No consideration of infrastructure requirements and costs created outside the immediate development area.

5. Leap frog development design that will increase city service costs and infrastructure maintenance costs.

6. Apparent need to draw down agricultural water rights to serve the project.

7. Failure to plan for potential use of valuable east mesa geothermal resources.

8. Grossly inadequate plans for recreation and open space. No regional open space planning.

9. Failure to guarantee adequate school land.

10. Lack of appropriate design standards for arroyos intended to serve multiple uses.

11. Zoning that provides little assurance that the development will evolve as the mixed-use proposition it has been promoted to be.

12. The apparent lack of development and zoning codes in Las Cruces that enable production of a meaningful master plan of this scope.

Procedural Irregularities

1. Published State Land Office requests for planning lease bids and subsequent failure to accept bids.

2. Acceptance of the Philippou bid without competition.

3. Suspiciously timed campaign contributions, and travel perks from developer Philip Philippou to the Land Commissioner.

4. Questionable legality of the Philippou business planning lease.

5. Sale of a section of state trust land to Philippou slated to be phase one of the Vistas project under procedures apparently designed to dramatically reduce the price.

6. Questionable legal interpretations by city staff that have not applied to other projects and appear to be for the benefit of Philippou.

7. Failure by Councilor Gil Jones to recuse himself despite family connections that create the appearance of conflict.

8. City persistence in treating this development like a 50-acre subdivision, rather than the massive community planning project on taxpayer owned land that it is.

Sample Letter

Dear Commissioner Lyons and Las Cruces City Council,

I am writing to ask you to remove the current Vistas at Presidio annexation, master plan, and zoning from consideration by the Council.

A growing list of irregularities in process and increasing evidence of inside dealing make it impossible to move forward with any confidence that public interests will be served. In addition, the master plan carries so many qualifications, vague provisions, and poorly thought out land uses, that it functions more like a blank check for potential developers than an instrument that will guide quality development for Las Crucens.

Apparent process abuses on the Vistas deal within the State Land office could cost public schools tens of millions, or more, in revenues from Vistas land sales. They also set a dangerous precedent for management of the additional 10,500 acres of Las Cruces area State Trust Land that are slated to be sold under similar circumstances. These faulty procedures could impact land management throughout the state.

Holes in the Vistas at Presidio Master plan itself stand to cost Las Cruces and Dona Ana County Taxpayers millions more in maintenance of unnecessary infrastructure, impacts outside the development area, and strains on city services. More importantly, they threaten a host of urban ills that are not anticipated or planned for.

Issues continue to mount and answers are scarce. There appears to be no reasonable argument to push forward with the current proposal given all the question marks. Let’s rewind and do this right.

Send a message to all of New Mexico supporting honest, open and fair government process. Deny this ill-conceived proposal and implement appropriate procedures for annexation and master planning. Set up a public process co-sponsored by the city of Las Cruces and the State Land Office for planning the East Mesa properly.

Sincerely,

 

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