BY MAIRE O’NEILL
A group of Los Alamos County parents has started a petition asking the Los Alamos School Board to table a proposed memorandum of agreement (MOA) with Los Alamos County Council in connection with a proposed housing development on LAPS land adjacent to Los Alamos Middle School on North Mesa.
The petition established by Celina Morgan asks that the school board maintain control of the land and not sign the MOA with the intention of allowing the County and the County’s consultants “to be the provider of plans that may be in conflict with the goals and obligations of the schools”.
The petition states that the sale of LAPS land in White Rock to the Los Alamos Housing Partnership Inc., for the 1999 Piñon Trails development “only supplied a non-recurring and immaterial financial gain, with no protection against funding deficits from the state”. It claims Piñon Trails provided little relief to LAPS staff at the time and provides no current benefit to affordable housing.
“The school board has not provided any rationale or analysis which indicate a material financial or educational benefit to establishing a housing development or selling the land parcel on North Mesa,” the petition notes. “Furthermore, the school board and LAPS do not have qualified legal or financial consultants working to advise them in their interest that are separate and apart from the county’s interest.”
Morgan, who placed the petition online on behalf of the group, maintains state laws do not allow school districts to give teachers benefit such as housing subsidies and that LAPS has not provided “legal rationale “ to the public to ensure the affordable housing proposed for the development would go to teachers or staff. She is concerned that the school board “has not publicly, autonomously, discussed the MOA and housing development, apart from joint County sessions”, and that “the community would appreciate the opportunity to listen to the school board publicly discuss this matter without the County Council and County concerns present”.
“I believe that we have an excellent and reasonable school board. Covid has isolated us as a community and we’ve essentially been under a stay home order for eight months, with another lockdown ahead of us. I am hoping that this petition can be a tool for the school board to use in order to gauge public concern, as much as it is a statement of accountability,” Morgan told the Los Alamos Reporter Friday.
The full text of the petition may be viewed at: http://chng.it/6g7tcPPZTx
Morgan said that although two joint meetings of the school board and County Council have been held, she fears that many people in the community are unaware that there is a possibility of 360 housing units being built on North Mesa. She said she and others are concerned that the North Mesa property is the last parcel of land the school district has for expansion and that it should not be used as a one-time tradeoff for immaterial financial gain.
“I am concerned that the school board has not sought outside advice while the County has had its own team plus a team of consultants from Dekker, Parrich, Sabatini complete a comprehensive and expensive report on its behalf,” Morgan said. “The community has yet to hear from LAPS or school board members how this project would play out for the school district.