Letter to the Editor: Missing Footnote to R-3-H-40 (Very High Density) Zoning

Former Member and Chair
Los Alamos County Planning and Zoning Commission

The R-3-H-40 Multiple-Family (Very High Density) zone was established 30 some years ago to accommodate senior citizen housing where the Aspen Ridge Lodge now stands. 

The R-3-H-40 description in the County Development Code was footnoted to the effect that this zone was created for senior housing, many residents of which were presumed not to own motor vehicles. In time, as the Development Code went through reprintings, the footnote was edited out. This oversight offered attractive opportunities to developers.

In the late 1990’s, a developer obtained county staff support for rezoning to R-3-H-40 (Very High Density) the lot on Oppenheimer Drive where the Las Ventanas condominium complex now stands. Upon protest from adjacent property owners, the Planning and Zoning Commission declined to approve the rezoning request. Las Ventanas is an attractive downtown residential development built to the full density of 21.8 dwelling units per acre permitted by its R-3-H (High Density) zone. It is instructive to visit this complex and to imagine what it would look like, especially regarding resident parking, were there to be twice as many dwelling units as there are on this lot.

In what gives the impression of spot zoning, county staff are now supporting a rezone of the UNM-LA apartment lot on 9th Street to R-3-H-40 (Very High Density). One hopes the adjacent property owners will prevail with their objections.

However this case turns out, citizens of Los Alamos County may wish to revisit the history of the R-3-H-40 (Very High Density) zone designation and have its original footnote returned in the Development Code.