Adam Thornton of A-19-A-1 Acquisition Group, LLC speaks to Los Alamos County Council Oct. 30 during its regular meeting. Photo by Kirsten Laskey/ladailypost.com
BY KIRSTEN LASKEY
Los Alamos Daily Post
A resolution to form the Mirador Public Improvement District narrowly passed Oct. 30 during the Los Alamos County Council’s regular meeting in the White Fire Station.
The resolution passed 4-3, with Council Chair David Izraelevitz, Council Vice Chair Christine Chandler and Councilor Antonio Maggiore opposed. Councilors Rick Reiss, Pete Sheehey, Morris Pongratz and Susan O’Leary voted in favor of the resolution.
By passing the resolution, A-19-A-1 Acquisition Group, LLC, the developer for Mirador, will be able to proceed with creating the Public Improvement District (PID). The PID’s purpose, according to agenda documents, is to “fund a portion of the administrative and formation costs of the district and to pay for a portion of the eligible costs associated with the construction of the public infrastructure that will serve the Mirador Subdivision.”
Additionally, the resolution calls to form a District Board, which will govern the PID. In the motion council passed, three members will be County Councilors appointed by the Council Chair. Other board members would include Adam Thornton of A-19-A-1 Acquisition Group as well as Scott Grady of Raylee Homes, a partner in the development. Two of the County Councilors and Thornton will serve six-year terms and the remainder will serve four. Pongratz, Reiss and Sheehey were appointed to serve initially on the board. However, since Pongratz’s and Reiss’s terms will expire soon, Council acknowledged they will need to appoint new members.
So how will the PID generate money in order to cover costs for administration and infrastructure? According to agenda documents, a special levy will be assessed on property in the development. Homeowners in the Mirador development will pay this levy in addition all other taxes and charges. The levy is only collected by the County and no homeowner, property owner or commercial property owner outside the development will pay it. In an earlier article published in the Los Alamos Daily Post, Community Development Department Director Paul Andrus said the cost to the homeowner will average about $200/month under the PID.
Developers pursued the PID due to the unexpected costs of removing basalt rock located in the development. Mirador is located on the north side of NM4. It covers 48 acres and will feature 161 single family homes.
It is stated in agenda documents developers anticipate the PID will generate $4 million. Representatives from Raylee Homes and A-19-A-1 Acquisition Group argued the PID will not only keep home prices lower but also allow them to continue developing a tract of land designed for mixed use, which will feature both commercial and residential properties.
Thornton said he wanted to deliver on his original intentions for the development.
“Without a positive outcome on this resolution, we lose our option to be able to offer housing to a greater demographic,” he said, adding as a native to Los Alamos he understands how hard it is to get into and out of housing here.
“I have to have you understand my original intent is still there,” Thornton said. “The original intent is to do this project, make it healthy for us, healthy for the community… that’s how we do business.”
Members of public spoke in favor of the PID.
Jim Hall said he strongly supports the development as well as anything that helps foster more houses and commercial units.
REMAX Realtor Kristy Ortega concurred; saying housing stock is in short supply.
“We need homes,” she said.
She added because of the low amount of available properties a lot of potential residents are choosing to live in Santa Fe and commute to Los Alamos.
“Any additional housing that can be added to the market can benefit this community greatly,” Ortega said.
Tony Fox said he has had a long history with this project going all the way back to when the Department of Energy transferred the land to the County. A lot of developers came and went due to the cost and the belief that the County would need to invest in it in order for the project to be feasible. Having the A-19-A-1 Acquisition Group stick with the project is a great thing, he said.
“I applaud them for not walking away,” Fox said, adding, he hopes the development will come to fruition and the “can doesn’t get kicked further down the road.”
Several Councilors spoke in favor of the project as well. Reiss pointed out that the bottom line is the land belongs to the developer and it’s their decision about what to do with it. The PID, he added, will either be the developer’s opportunity or problem and it is not the County’ responsibility or obligation.
O’Leary agreed. She said she felt the County’s role is fairly narrow and the PID was consistent with others in place in other municipalities. She also stressed approving the PID would help satisfy one of the council’s top goals: enhance housing.
“This is our opportunity to work with a developer who made a very (big) commitment to a very difficult piece of real estate,” she said.
Not all Councilors supported the PID. Chandler said she was looking at the public’s interest and while she shares the community’s desire to increase housing stock, she was concerned the resolution requested very little commitment from the developer to get the job done. Nor was it a binding obligation.
This has hurt the County before, Chandler said, noting as an example Smith’s Marketplace. The agreement for Smith’s Marketplace was to build out the whole site, yet that has not happened and there is also an empty building across the street in the Mari-Mac Plaza. In that situation, Kroger was not driven by market to develop the rest of the site or to sell the empty properties in Mari-Mac, Chandler said.
Without a commitment that housing will be built, “we are just operating on intent,” she said.
Izraelevitz said he appreciated that it was a private transaction and that it would be transparent to the buyer. Still, he was concerned about imposing on every buyer that moves in Mirador with essentially an expensive second mortgage that is non-negotiable and one that could not be refinanced. He added although not having PID may lengthen the time to complete the development, it would still get done.