4 Investigates: Precious land spurs dispute between residents, developer
August 13, 2019 10:28 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – In the heart of Albuquerque, there’s a spot that some call the city’s version of Central Park.
It’s an area where the river, the Bosque, the Wetlands and a bluff converge.
Now, some residents fear the proposed Namaste housing development, near Coors and St. Josephs, will ruin the area’s ecosystem.
The bend in the Rio Grande forms the San Antonio Oxbow — a habitat for migrating birds and other wildlife that are native to New Mexico.
Dr. Susan Chaudoir organized a meeting for people who was to preserve the land.
“This space doesn't belong to the Oxbow, it doesn't belong to Andalucia or the West Bluff,” she told a group of about 100 people. “This belongs to the entire City of Albuquerque.”
Abrazo Homes wants to build 76 houses on 23 acres of land, which was owned for more than 50 years by singer and philanthropist Suzanne Poole.
She and her husband bought the property in the 1950s.
Dr. Chaudoir said Mrs. Poole named the street Namaste.
“She wanted people to take off their shoes, put their feet in the sand and just take in the beauty of the Wetland, the birds, beautiful sunset,” Dr. Chaudoir said.
Mrs. Poole died in 2012, putting the future of the land in question.
The land was eventually sold to a developer.
In December 2018, the city's Environmental Planning Commission approved the developer's site plan.
A land use hearing commission upheld the decision, despite concerns from people against the development.
Earlier this month, opponents of the project packed an Albuquerque City Council meeting.
Councilors listened for hours to the back and forth between the developer's spokesperson and the appellants.
Jim Strozier, who represents Gamma Development, claims the city said the property was not open for public access.
“Early on in the process, we went to Open Space, we sat down with them and said, ‘Look, we know this is sensitive. It's important, do you want it? Do you want us to dedicate it to the city,’ and they said no,” Strozier said. “This is not an area of open space where the city wants access. This is very limited access in this area. They do not want people walking down into the Bosque in this area. They do not want people going down into the San Antonio Oxbow.”
Strozier and the City Planning spokesman defended the approved site plan, pointing out that more than seven acres of the 23 acre spot will still be open space.
However, it will only be accessible to people who live in the development.
According to the site plan, the new homes will sit about 20 feet away from the Wetlands.
The other homes, already built in that area, are set back about 150 feet to 300 feet away from that edge.
The people opposing the development will have another opportunity to state their case.
The city council voted unanimously to send it all back to the Environmental Planning Commission for another review.
KOB 4 tried numerous times to talk to the developer directly, but our calls and emails were never returned.
Updated: August 13, 2019 10:28 PM
Created: August 13, 2019 12:05 PM
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