By Jacque Moise (ES-CA Watchdog); October 26, 2016; Commissioners present were: Arango, Vester, Clayton, JoAnne Roake (new member), Maduena – not present. Makita Hill, Senior Planner represented staff.
There were three items on the Agenda. Commissioner Arango amended the Agenda so that Item C would be heard before the two items having to do with the Placitas Sage Co-Housing requests. Item C (CU-16-002) involved a 51.3 acre parcel in the La Jara community. This item was approved by the Commissioners.
The hearing commenced at approximately 6:15 p.m. on the two remaining items on the Agenda having to do with the Placitas Sage Co-Housing requests for a zone change and a variance (ZNCH-16-001 and V-16-001). Commissioner Arango noted that this was a continuation of a prior hearing that commenced back in May and/or June. He further noted that all testimony and correspondence from the prior hearing would be included and that anyone who spoke before would be allowed to speak again. It was the goal of the Commissioner to close testimony by 8:00 p.m. and adjourn by 8:30 p.m.
Joyce Thompson, from Sage Co-Housing gave a general history of how this project came into being and a summary of their requests. This was done for the benefit of the new Commissioner(s) and also the general public. She spoke at length about how this project was a model for living for seniors 55 and older.
David VanDriessche was the first to speak in opposition to both items listed on the agenda with regard to the Sage Co-Housing Project. Specifically, he addressed how it does not follow the Placitas Area Plan as adopted in April of 2009 and noted that the West Placitas Community District can only be developed in single family RRA one acre lots. Attached is a copy of Agenda and Mr. VanDriessche’s statement (click to view 26oct2016-pz-agenda_dv-ltr). His position was supported by many of those in the audience in opposition to this project.
A summary of other concerns about the Sage Co-Housing project follows: There was a concern expressed about spot zoning. Specifically, that the worship center as proposed would not justify a zone change. Concern was also expressed about the mixed uses, noting that many homes in this area have galleries and religious and/or spiritual areas. It was noted that a Conditional Use Permit would meet the residential use requirements and avoid this ad hoc spot zoning.
The road was also mentioned as being very dangerous with 3 separate 90 degree angles. Another concern about the road was whether it could handle all the construction traffic as well as the increased traffic to the development once the project was completed. Another person noted that the model on display did not reflect the terrain accurately and that there was a huge arroyo running through the parcel.
Many persons noted that they were in support of the project but the developers chose the wrong location and that there were other locations available in Placitas that were already properly zoned.
There were also many persons in support of the Sage Co-Housing project noting that they believe it would enhance the area and would allow persons over 55 to continue to live in the community they love at a reasonable cost.
However, it was noted by another person in favor of the project, but opposed to its current proposed location, that 52% of the Placitas population is already over 55 and that affordable housing already exists in Placitas.
Joyce Thompson was granted time for rebuttal. She appeared with an attorney for the Placitas Sage Co-Housing project, Christopher Graeser of Graeser & McQueen. Commissioner Arango asked if Sage Co-Housing was pursuing a claim under the federal law having to do with Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), 42 USC2000cc. Mr. Graeser did not commit either way and Commissioner Arango advised that if they were going to pursue that avenue, that they would have to make a new application.
Mr. Graeser did speak briefly stating that he was impressed with the proposed plan and the staff and believes that it is a high quality project that would give persons 55 and older an opportunity to stay in Placitas.
Arango noted that a number of questions would need to be answered before they could make any kind of a recommendation to the Board of County Commissioners. Those questions, in part, have to do with the following issues:
1. Is a zone change appropriate?
2. Does it threaten the health and safety of the area pursuant to Section 2 of the Ordinance?
3. Is the project properly placed on the lot pursuant to all the standards set forth in the Ordinance?
4. Is this a large project or a mixed use project? (According to Makita Hill, Senior Planner, this project does not qualify as a mixed use project because galleries and community centers are not allowed in Placitas West).
5. Receipt of an opinion from the County roads division regarding the road concerns expressed at this hearing?
Commissioner Arango said the next meeting of the P&Z will be confined to answering these questions before making any kind of recommendation to the Board of County Commissioners.
Next meeting of the P & Z, according to Makita Hill, will be November 30, 2016 at 6:00 p.m. Meeting adjourned at 8:05 p.m.