Campbell Ranch 

FULL STORY LINK: Campbell Ranch Gets Another 'No'

Thursday, 08 October 2009 10:13

Although the Campbell Ranch subdivision was shot down again by Edgewood Planning and Zoning, the saga is probably nowhere near its end.

At issue is a part of Campbell Ranch, an 8,000-acre master-planned community east of N.M. 14 and north of Frost Road. A preliminary plat for the first 92-home section of the development was given a final approval by the Edgewood Town Council in March 2008 with a time limit of one year to start construction. During that time the developer was asked to satisfy a list of conditions, one of which was that the subdivision find a legal source of water.

So far, it hasn't managed to do that.

The initial attempt to get water from New Mexico Water Service Co. was abandoned. There is now an application before the Office of the State Engineer to divert up to 1,500 acre-feet of water to the proposed subdivision.

David Campbell, the attorney representing Campbell Corp. at the planning and zoning commission meeting Monday night, brought a document outlining the progress of the well drilling that said a test well has been drilled 1,725 feet deep and that it is expected that operations will be completed soon. It said the drilling had not yet hit the deep water source.

Although the request for an extension was struck down, Campbell pointed out a few issues which may muddy the waters a bit. He also indicated the decision would likely be appealed to the town council.

The issue actually springs from directions the town council gave the planning and zoning commission. It instructed the commission to make all their motions in the affirmative, meaning that if the commission wanted to vote against the extension, as they did on Monday, they would have to move to approve it, then vote no.

That method makes it difficult to include findings of fact, or the reasoning behind the decision. Because the commission struck down the motion that was made, it was difficult to include the reasoning.

And the technical issue of communicating those concerns may have left an opening for a legal challenge.

"It creates a procedural flaw in your system, which, unfortunately, will be tested," Campbell said.

There were about five motions, each a different attempt to work around the issue. The commission ultimately made a simple motion, then explained its reasoning in a discussion before members voted.

The reasons for denial involved more than just the issues involving water. Among other things, the developer had not gotten an infrastructure bond for the project, and had not updated its preliminary plat or gotten a permit for road access with the state Department of Transportation, according to the commission's discussion.

The motion-making issue wasn't the only bit of legal confusion. At the start of the meeting Commissioner John Bassett said he was under the impression that this was a "trial de novo" or a new trial.

Karen Mahalick, who runs the town's planning department, informed him that this was actually a hearing to examine new evidence, not an entirely new trial, a subtle yet important distinction.

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