Opposing a Proposal for Apartments and Businesses

by Sandy
(Sunland Park, NM USA)

Visitor Question: We live in a new residential neighborhood. Now a developer wants to rezone to commercial. He wants to add apartments and businesses on two sides of the neighborhood.

The main road leading to the neighborhood goes to Mexico and the New Mexico border crossing. Because of NAFTA, the road is busy with heavy truck traffic, so the city will not allow more entrances to this road. Instead the developer has an entrance to the neighborhood which has a round about.

This round about is used for student drop off. He wants to build two streets exiting the round about for entrances into the apartment complexes because apartments will be built on two sides of the entrance into the neighborhood.

Currently we have beautiful mountain views which will be obstructed when the apartment complexes are built. In addition there is not room in the schools for the children in the neighborhood and our children are being bussed to nearby towns. We live in a very quiet development.

The developer built two parks and instead of providing commercial grade playground equipment, he installed a residential playset, which the city removed because parents complained about the safety. This is just one of the cuts he has made to save money. The other park is a sloped ponding area in the middle of the roundabout. When it rains the park fills with water, which takes weeks to dry out and is a health hazard because of the terrible mosquito problem it has created.

We have been to two city council meetings and both times the council has sided with us. The third is coming up quickly and we need advice. This developer doesn't care about our quality of life and our $200,000 plus home investments.

Editors Reply: Your story about the playground equipment in particular makes us think that you are dealing with an amateurish developer who really only cares about a quick profit.

If the action you are facing at the city council right now is indeed a rezoning (and not some kind of site plan approval or development approval on already zoned land), you and your neighbors should review our rezoning opposition page. Comments there will be very applicable.

We can make a few specific observations about your situation. The strongest argument you gave pertains to schools. The lack of school capacity should be regarded as a major community problem, although sometimes a city council will ignore this issue. Student drop off in a roundabout sounds like a terrible idea to us, so you can speak to the safety of children also. Our only caution is that if you use schools as your strongest point, make sure that the apartments being proposed are of a size that would actually have the potential to add to the school population. For instance, families with school age children would be unlikely to rent 700 square foot apartments.

Although the quality of the parks should not really be relevant to the rezoning question, you are fighting a political battle here, so don't hesitate to bring up emotional topics such as this. But use the parks as an illustration of the fact that the developer appears not to be interested in quality. Most city councils can appreciate that a low-end developer is the last one they would like to see adding apartments to the community.

Your scenic view may or may not be a good argument. Bring that up only if the proposed apartment complex would be taller than single-family homes, or else you risk being seen as naïve home buyers who want the land not to be developed at all but didn't take the care to buy in a conservation type of development.

Check to see if your approved subdivision plat shows large parcels of land that are not divided into ordinary residential lots in the area where the rezoning for apartments and businesses now is proposed. A plat is an official subdivision layout map; the city will have a copy you can look at. If you see that the plat had large undivided areas where the developer wants the rezoning, that shows that this was the intention all along. But if you see residential lots of about the same size as yours, that indicates that the developer is changing his mind to the detriment of you property owners. In this case, make that argument very strongly to the city council.

If you feel sure that the city council really was agreeing with you during the first two meetings, and not just being nice to you, probably you will prevail. But do prepare ahead to time as much as you can, and get a good crowd of your neighbors out to the meeting.

Photos of the park situation, your current mountain view, and the school dropoff point in the roundabout could add to your argument. If your city council will have the capacity to view it, video of the children at the dropoff also could be helpful. If you do that, you would need a written parent photo release though.

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