Council Approves Rezoning Oppenheimer Commercial Property Lots To Mix Use Residential And Office Space

Ryan Markey of Los Alamos Professional Investment Partnership speaks Tuesday night to Los Alamos County Council about the plan to transform lots at 555 and 557 Oppenheimer Dr. from office space to a mix of residential and office space. Photo by Kirsten Laskey/ladailypost.com 
 
By KIRSTEN LASKEY
Los Alamos Daily Post
kirsten@ladailypost.com
 
The commercial property at 555 and 557 Oppenheimer Drive is in the process of getting a whole new look. Los Alamos County Council approved an ordinance to rezone the two lots from professional office to mixed use during its regular meeting Tuesday night.

The plan, said Ryan Markey of Los Alamos Professional Investment Partnership, which owns the property, is to have residential spaces on the third and second floors of the building and commercial spaces on the first floor. While the plans are still preliminary, according to agenda documents the application proposed creating two floors of 16 total new residential units.  

The ordinance passed 6-1 with Council Vice Chair Christine Chandler opposing.

Chandler said she did not oppose the developer’s plans but had concerns about County staff requesting approval of the rezoning ordinance before approving an amendment to the future land use map in the comprehensive plan.

She pointed out that the County previously emphasized how the public could weigh in on the future land use map and while making amendments to the map isn’t as “robust” a process as the original adoption effort, Chandler said the County had made a commitment to use the map as a policy guide. Changing the zoning map before the land use map “put the cart before the horse.”

Community Development Department Director Paul Andrus said the original plan was to present both items concurrently but County staff had failed to issue a public notice. He added that the legal department advised that the items could be presented separately.  

Councilor Susan O’Leary said she didn’t have strong feelings over which item was approved first, adding this project further helps the County increase its housing stock.

“I think this is a really creative way to increase housing in our community,” she said, adding that she appreciated how an existing structure was being redeveloped. She pointed out as vacant parcels get built, repurposing buildings will increasing become a viable option.

“This is a great idea; I am really excited to see it built and occupied,” O’Leary said.

Councilor James Chrobocinski also said he felt this project was beneficial to the community.

“Another much needed addition to our community … (housing) is one of our top priorities,” he said.

Councilor Rick Reiss also voiced his support for the project. While he felt process to get the ordinance and amendment to the land use map to Council was handled a little clumsily, Reiss said he believed it would get worked out and the process would be improved.
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