Land Transfer Proposal Concerns

Letter To The Editor_Pongratz Endorses Chris Chandler For House District 43 Seat (16)

Dear Editor,

I am writing to express concern over the recent proposal for transfer to the County of DOE lands located SSW of White Rock and Pajarito Acres, with the intention of developing these lands for housing, commercial, and industrial uses.  These uses are wholly inappropriate for the area and it appears that County government again needs to be reminded of the importance of our open spaces to the community.  Development of these lands represents an irreplaceable loss of natural areas that are cherished by the community,  and will bring a number of other negative impacts to the White Rock area, as well.  Of additional concern is how the decision was made by County government to proceed with the transfer request in the absence of community input and total lack of communication that these specific areas were even being considered for development.

While the Los Alamos townsite is blessed with an extensive trail network, outside of the areas being considered for transfer, White Rock is mainly limited to the Red and Blue Dot and River trails.  Loss of the land in question to development would mean loss of a wonderful network of trails extending from Potrillo thru Water, to Ancho Canyon; spaces in which the community enjoys the peace and beauty of some of the most striking canyon experiences in the county.  The extensive wildlife (deer, elk, bears, coyotes, bobcats, etc.), archaeological sites, and dark night skies to marvel at the universe, are enjoyed by hikers, cyclists, equestrians, birders, photographers, rock climbers, astronomy buffs, and simply appreciated as a much-needed buffer to the sprawl of Santa Fe and Albuquerque.  Since the COVID-19 onset, these areas have seen an exponential increase in use, further highlighting their importance and popularity as a community resource.

It is deeply concerning that the County is now planning to develop these areas for housing and commercial/industrial uses.  While housing levels are a continuing challenge in the county, more appropriate places must be found.  As a tongue in cheek proposal—has the county considered building in “appropriate” canyon bottoms surrounding the Los Alamos townsite, or even sacking the golf course for easy building sites?  Well, of course not.  Such suggestions would be rightfully viewed as ridiculous.  Why then is it considered any less ridiculous to develop in our treasured open spaces in White Rock? Loss of these natural areas would be accompanied by a complete change in character of the community, with sprawling development, dramatic increase in local traffic on poorly maintained roads, including increased heavy truck use, increased strain on infrastructure, increased noise and air pollution and loss of our dark night skies.

Equally concerning is the apparently secretive process by which County government fleshed out this proposal.   While the community is certainly aware of “Increasing Amount and Types of Housing Options” as one of the County’s 7 strategic priorities, as well as related communications expressing ideas of land transfer and generalized strategies for addressing this issue, to my knowledge no details have been given to inform the public that these specific areas were under consideration, nothing appears in any published agenda for Council meetings, and apparently no meeting notes are available for understanding the discussions and process that took place behind closed doors.  How could Council members possibly think a proposal that would nearly double the size of White Rock, while negatively impacting the area with sprawl and loss of open space, wouldn’t be a subject of sufficient importance and interest that they would neglect to invite public input and discussion?  Another baffling example of White Rock being an afterthought in County government.

Steve Doorn
White Rock