County Planning Manager Tamara Baer
By KIRSTEN LASKEY
Los Alamos County Council unanimously approved rezoning the Entrada Business Park from heavy commercial to mixed use during its regular meeting Tuesday night in Council Chambers.
The difference between the two zones, County Planning Manager Tamara Baer explained, is heavy commercial allows automotive and automobile services that can generate noise and traffic, whereas mixed use allows residential development, is more pedestrian friendly and aims to encourage economic development.
Agenda documents describe heavy commercial as incorporating the most intensive commercial uses, which would include automotive/automobile related type services. Mixed use, according to the agenda documents, is more flexible and would allow for a broad range of uses to coexist, including residential.
As stated in the staff report, “MU (mixed use) is focused more on people – where they live, work and recreate.” As a result, it was argued during the meeting that changing the zoning may help with the County’s efforts for economic development.
Baer said rezoning the land may be the start of an “opportunity for development in this area that has kind of stalled … certainly following the intent and goals of the comprehensive plan … maximize use of County land … and to create a more viable market.”
Several councilors agreed. Councilor James Chrobocinski said he felt rezoning the land made sense to help bring vitality to the town.
Council Vice Chair Susan O’Leary said, “I think this is a really exciting proposal and I think we need houses.” She pointed out that housing is a huge priority for citizens and the council. Additionally, O’Leary said rezoning the land does not ensure housing will be built but makes it a possibility.
During public comment, resident Brady Burke expressed concerns about homes being built near the airport. He noted there may be noise problems as well as issues with the quality of the neighborhoods. He also noted that any potential residential development would be near a County building as well as one of the main thoroughfares into and out of town.
O’Leary said it appears a problem that doesn’t exist was trying to be solved. She noted if a developer doesn’t think houses will sell on this property, they won’t pursue the project. Also, if people do not want to purchase a home on this land, they don’t have to buy it.
The property Council has rezoned is at East Road and Entrada Drive. Baer reported it is just under 16 acres and consists of eight parcels. She explained that the Department of Energy conveyed the land to the County in 2003. The County owns one of the parcels, which covers 6.3 acres, she said. The Holiday Inn Express, Los Alamos Cooperative Market, Consortium and temporary office buildings are located on this property.
The topic of rezoning the land initially came up when a developer showed interest in building houses on the land, Baer said. According to agenda documents, the heavy commercial zoning did not allow for residential uses. There was some discussion to make certain parcels zoned for residential but was rejected, the agenda documents reported.
Baer said that when the property owners in the business park were approached with the proposed rezoning, their response was positive.
“Everyone was very supportive,” Baer said.