Letter to the Editor: Objection to UNM-LA’s Rezoning Waiver Request

By DAVID L. CLARK
Los Alamos
 
UNM-LA has requested rezoning the two block “student housing” property on 9th Street from “high density” to “very high density” so they can build a four-story apartment building (50 feet tall, two blocks long) from Iris to Myrtle streets. To accomplish this, they are asking Los Alamos County to waive the requirement for the minimum lot size for “very high density” zoning.
 
The new apartments will no longer be for student housing. The building will be built and managed by an out of state company. They will increase the number of units from 60 to 84 one- and two-bedroom apartments in order to afford their vision, and the units will be available to anyone.
 
This plan is inconsistent with common urban planning practices, where a “transition zone” exists between very high density (downtown), high density (apartments, shops), followed by residential buildings. The UNM-LA plan would place a very high density apartment complex directly across the street from residential single family homes.
 
As a 25-year resident of this neighborhood, I have several concerns:
  •  Loss of ground cover will increase storm water and flooding from this site. My property (at the bottom of 9th Street) has already experienced two major flood events of mud and debris during the recent Canyon Road “improvements.” Water from 9th Street runs straight to my driveway – I am concerned about increased stormwater from the site, and future flooding during construction, and after the replacement of grass/sod with asphalt, roof, etc. This will increase runoff from the site.
  • At 50-feet tall, two blocks long, this proposed very-high density building will dominate the skyline, increase traffic, add to an already crowded parking situation along 9th Street, increase noise and light in our residential neighborhood.
  •  Concerns of the neighbors have largely been ignored. UNM-LA notified the minimum number of people required (those who live within 300 feet) and has done little to engage with the rest of those who live in the neighborhood. After some criticism, UNM-LA is now hosting their puiblic meeting Monday, and put a notice in the Los Alamos Daily Post. This is a positive development from UNM-LA, but gives little time for community dialogue prior to the Planning and Zoning committee meeting Feb. 26.

 

For the record, I support UNM-LA, student programs and higher education. Unfortunately, having lived in this neighborhood for 25 years, UNM-LA has not been a particularly good neighbor. They have failed to reinvest in their own property, allowing it to fall into such disrepair that only one of the two buildings is suitable for occupancy. It has been an eyesore in the neighborhood for the past decade.
 
I support UNM-LA cleaning up and renovating their property. However, asking for a waiver and rezoning to squeeze a four story, two-block long apartment building into a residential neighborhood is not an appropriate answer.
 
Zoning requirements were put in place for a reason, and should not be tossed out for the benefit of a single entity over the objection of the majority of neighborhood residents.
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