Los Alamos Downtown Planning Requires Participation

Letter To The Editor_Pongratz Endorses Chris Chandler For House District 43 Seat (47)


Los Alamos downtown planning requires participation. On Wednesday, Aug. 19, Los Alamos County  will hold virtual forum to rewrite or at best, adjust the Los Alamos downtown master plan. I won’t try to guess how many times this has been done, but one thing for sure is that times have changed regarding what the residents of Los Alamos want downtown. Forget the pandemic as that won’t last forever, but because of the virus, this is an opportune time to address what is wanted downtown and express all ideas so the planners and residents have time to consider a lot of suggestions.

First, a distinction between the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the business community. The Lab could live without a business side of Los Alamos, but the business community can’t live without the Lab. That’s it! Everything going forward is based off that difference. Please remember, County services are not the business community. If that were the case, there would be no aquatic center, no golf course, none of the County benefits that are paid for with tax dollars. Businesses exist in Los Alamos because an individual sees a need, thinks they can make money, and takes a huge risk to see if the community will support their idea. That’s it! Nothing more, nothing less. I’m willing to bet Los Alamos could live without every business in town that has a store front. And the only complaint people would have is when the delivery up the hill is delayed. Sure it would be harder to get gas in Espanola, but not impossible.

If residents don’t want supplies or fun things in town, then ignore this opportunity to express your wants. Otherwise, the only store fronts other than LANL will be offices for lawyers, insurance, and banks. You need to speak up to the Council, the Chamber of Commerce, the County/city planners and that starts Wednesday.

Our business is J&L Storage. I’ll be the first to admit, not a glamorous business. However this town was originally built as a temporary living quarters for a common cause and then its people would go away. My dad saw a need and took a chance in 1971. The need has grown immensely and is evident in neighborhoods, but the amount offered is limited. And for good reason. No one wants storage buildings all over town. But the town is still here, and times have changed on the growth of population and what people want or need. For example, there are many recreational activities people enjoy which in good times or bad require services that don’t always end up being as exciting as an antique shop or clothing store. Remember to stay at home, we need the gas, the auto parts, storage, even a grocery store. Many are not as pretty or exactly where we want them. There used to be three super markets and none in White Rock! Talk about getting by!!

Please participate in our town’s future development. With LANL’s hiring spree, the housing need has never been greater. Remember, more people require more stuff. Pet Pangaea is the all around example of a need, but not a tourist stop. Cindy maintains that store for reasons I’ve discussed. Trust me, her landlord might see better revenue with office space for the Lab, and less headaches for Cindy. But at what cost? Let the pets starve for the ease of the office people to walk across to the Tub? Which by the way is another great success story in itself, but only because a group got together to make it happen. The landlord there could just as well have seen a better revenue source and the town would be without a watering hole.

Business ideas, don’t happen overnight. There is a tremendous amount of risk in opening a business especially in Los Alamos. Right now with the Lab’s concern of only hiring, no business person in their right mind will consider a shop in Los Alamos. Need we only recall the latest closures and realize too late what we miss? You need to encourage the planners to listen to what Los Alamos wants and hold them accountable when your ideas are not supported or put into action. Otherwise, you’d better buy gas cans from the hardware stores in Espanola.

John Courtright
Los Alamos