State Trust Land is now available for commercial lease in the Entrada Business Park area. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
An agreement between the State Land Office and Santa Ana Pueblo signed by Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard September 27 reveals how Santa Ana contracted with the Land Office to purchase three parcels in Los Alamos, which were conveyed to the Land Office along with a parcel in Bernalillo in exchange for State Trust land for Santa Ana.
A sign appeared before Thanksgiving at the entrance to the Entrada Business Park advertising the availability of State Trust Land through the State Land Office’s Commercial Resources Division. Research through the Los Alamos County Assessor’s Office indicated that three parcels on Entrada formerly owned by Main Gate, LLC, were now owned by the State Land Commission but no details were provided to indicate that there was another owner in between – the Santa Ana Pueblo.
The Los Alamos Reporter reached out to the Land Office’s Commercial Resources Division and spoke to Director Jim Bordegaray who explained that the Land Office was given millions of acres of land through the Enabling Act of 1910.
“So we currently have about 9 million surface acres around the state and 14 million subsurface acres. In general our position is that we don’t sell land and we don’t buy land either, but there have been instances over the past 100 years where the Land Office has exchanged land for various reasons and that’s how these parcels came to us,” he said.
Bordegaray said the parcels were part of a “tribal exchange” and that the Land Office was interested in them from a commercial perspective. It was acquired by the tribe, he said so it wasn’t a direct sale to the Land Office. He couldn’t remember which tribe was involved.
“We’re also involved in another exchange with the BLM right now, so it’s not an unusual or clandestine type thing. Of course it’s public and there’s no nefarious things going on here,” he said,
Asked if the “tribe” reached out to the Land Office, Bordegaray said that was his understanding.
“My division is the commercial division so what we try and do in the commercial division is find commercial value; so we’re looking for parcels of land, we’re not looking but we own parcels of land where we do commercial development or we assist with commercial development,” he said.
The Entrada parcels are now owned the Land Office which is looking to lease it to people who will presumably build on it. Asked who would have control over what’s built on the parcels, Bordegaray said the Land Office would.
“Any kind of lease that we enter into we require that the developers follow the law of the local county, federal, regulations, so despite being exempt from zoning, we don’t allow that. We require that anybody building on State Trust Land follows all the regulations and rules of whoever has jurisdiction,” he said.
Deputy Land Commissioner Tarin Nix said in an email Tuesday that the land acquired under the exchange “is the only plan to purchase land in Los Alamos with no plans to sell”.
No application for development of that land will be done without input from the Los Alamos County Council and residents, Nix said.
“As I tell people, we are the biggest landlord in New Mexico that you never knew existed. We manage over 9 million acres and sign relatively inexpensive leases on that land to make money off rental payments and development (economic and energy) for our beneficiaries – public schools, colleges, and hospitals,” she said. “We are excited to bring this affordable economic development opportunity to Los Alamos.”
Nix noted that Commissioner Garcia Richard represented Los Alamos for six years in the state house and that up until now, Los Alamos was the only county the State Land Office didn’t manage land in.
The agreement with Santa Ana Pueblo states that the Land Office had lands that have historical and cultural significance to Santa and had determined that it is in Santa Ana’s best interest to acquire that Trust land. It says that after evaluating the circumstances and conducting a public meeting, the Commissioner Garcia Richard determined that the completion of the proposed transaction “will be of substantial financial benefit to the Trust , including but not limited to potentially generating income from commercial development, occupation and use” of the property that exceeds the income historically generated from state Trust lands.
Santa Ana was to execute warranty deeds to convey all its rights in the Los Alamos property. The agreement also required that Santa Ana obtain the consent of the Entrada Business Park Association to an agreement under which assessable common are maintenance expenses are made the responsibility of the Land Office lessees rather than the Land Office.
The three parcels of state Trust land being transferred to Santa Ana are valued at $912,000. The Los Alamos parcels were valued at $170,000 for 20 Entrada, $205,000 for 40 Entrada and $350,000 for 15 Entrada. An additional parcel in Bernalillo County valued at $199,000 was part of the transaction and Santa Ana is required to make up the difference in cash.
The Entrada property was the subject of a lawsuit in 2015 filed against Los Alamos County and Los Alamos Commerce & Development Corporation, which dragged out until last year when the County settled the case with County funds for $240,000.