Letter to the Editor: UNM-LA Board Chair’s Response a Masterpiece of Spin

By GEORGE CHANDLER

I want to thank UNM-LA Advisory Board Chairman Boerigter for his thoughtful response to our letter regarding the UNM-LA development on Ninth Street. It is a masterpiece of spin.

Contrary to the letter’s implication that UNM-LA sought and responded to neighborhood input, UNM-LA had no intention of holding neighborhood meetings, in spite of the fact that we had suggested they do that over a year ago in casual discussions about the future of their neglected apartments. After the rezoning request was filed and we were notified in December, I approached county planners and in a series of meetings with UNM-LA and planners persuaded UNM-LA to hold a neighborhood meeting; I personally delivered the notices to people in the neighborhood. After that meeting, UNM-LA withdrew their application.

The application was refiled – without change – and the neighborhood was notified again, and with only a little prompting this time UNM-LA held a neighborhood meeting at which they presented a plan that was unchanged from the original.  It satisfied none of the criticisms that the neighborhood had leveled at the first meeting. Their input having been ignored, the neighborhood response was pointed and strong.

UNM-LA’s Denver developers were sent back to the drawing board and made minor changes which were presented at another meeting. Some of the problems associated with height and traffic pattern were treated in innovative ways, but contrary to the Chairman’s letter the major issues of density, setback, and lot size were not addressed, and a new problem of sight lines appeared in another part of the property.

In addition it emerged that only 21 units of the project would be assigned to student housing. Contrary to the Chairman’s implication that this is a student housing project, 59 units of market-based housing are proposed – without HUD subsidy, which means that this is not a “workforce” or affordable housing project either. In fact, neither the developer nor UNM-LA has done any kind of market study so the project may evaporate after the rezoning, leaving very high density zoning in place with nothing to prevent another developer from picking it up and building to the max. 

Also contrary to the Chairman’s sad lament that they just can’t do it, we believe it is possible to renovate the existing structures. Competent, interested owners of similar properties have done it and offered to show UNM-LA the way. Twenty years of negligence does not justify overwhelming a neighborhood with a non-conforming project.

Not all the problems here are of UNM-LA’s making. The County’s development code is a shambles in general, and in particular does not provide graded density options that would provide an intermediate density zone that would match the existing apartments. We have repeatedly proposed to reluctant planners an intermediate zone; in the face of official resistance I have with some of our neighbors drafted an ordinance for an R-3-H-30 zone, for which we are seeking a sponsor.  We would happy to jointly propose this ordinance with UNMLA.

The County’s processes are likewise a shambles: two of our neighbors pointed out to the county that they measured the boundaries for providing official notice incorrectly, so 10 families who were entitled to notice did not receive it. The County also improperly combined the waiver and rezoning hearings and after we pointed it out the first hearing was postponed.

This is an ill-conceived, poorly planned, poorly implemented project incompatible with our neighborhood. Chairman Boerigter spins a good story but the reality is that nobody’s in charge, the process is broke, and nobody knows the rules.  They should drop the whole thing and start over but only after having completed a valid market study and after true consultation with the neighborhood.

 

George Chandler

1208 9th Street

505 662-5900

geo_c@cybermesa.com

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