A-19 master plan in final stages

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White Rock > CEDD prepare for county approval and attracting developers

By Arin McKenna

Approximately 25 people attended a meeting in White Rock earlier this week to get a glimpse of the newest master plan options for the A-19 development.

“I think overall people are very engaged, and they want to see something happen,” said Housing and Special Projects Manager Paul Andrus. “I think they were very curious about the process, both the county’s planning and approval process but also what the stages of the development are expected to be.”

Dekker/Perich/Sabatini, the consultant charged with developing the A-19-a master planning study, presented two options for consideration. The major difference between concepts is in the design for the commercial area of the mixed-use development.

An open plaza concept has more space between buildings and would provide more visibility into the plaza from N.M. 4. The idea was to give a very visible, destination feeling for those driving by on the highway. The concept received little public support.

The more intimate internal plaza concept found several supporters. Many believe having the plaza protected by buildings in close proximity to each other would buffer noise from the highway and lend itself better to outdoor dining, concerts and other activities.

The design included some adjustments to the placement of the entrance and the roadway in response to changes the Army Corps of Engineers made to the Canada del Buey arroyo. It also added a parking area across the arroyo from the White Rock Visitor Center to accommodate both commercial district parking and overflow from the visitor center.

The Economic Development Fund has $1 million earmarked to defray some of the infrastructure costs as an incentive for developers. The plan is to build roadway and utility infrastructure in two phases.

Phase I encompasses open space and park lands, the commercial district, workforce housing and denser, attached dwellings on the eastern end of the development. In response to public comment, that area could also include some low-cost senior housing.

Phase II infrastructure for the western area, which is allocated for free-standing homes, would be built as income to replenish the fund is derived from the sale of phase I parcels to developers.

Although developers are free to develop their own design concepts, they will be bound by the zoning and master plan for each parcel. Areas earmarked for commercial, workforce housing, etc., would have to be developed as such.

As in earlier public meetings, questions arose about affordable housing for families and those working in the community.

“Part of the vision all along was to incorporate an element of workforce housing, either within a rental property/apartment and/or some other property that might be available for sale,” Andrus said. “So we are intending to move forward with the RFI and the RFP with those on our expectation list. We haven’t determined necessarily what the share of that will be or what the responses of the development community will be, but we will have that on our list of needs.”

If all goes well, the Community and Economic Development Department will seek rezoning and a Summary Plat approval from the Planning and Zoning Commission May 8 and from the Los Alamos County Council May 21.

CEDD will begin courting developers as it prepares for the P and Z hearing. It is planning a two-step process, issuing Request for Interest in April and Request for Proposals in July or August.

“It’s kind of a half step process that we’re taking,” Andrus said. “We just want validate some of the work that had been done, and see how accurate it still is in today’s market. Because it’s been a fluid market, as we all know, and it gives us an opportunity to get a little more information from the development community in so that it will help us inform our RFP a little bit better.

“Hopefully by the fall we would be in the position to have responded to some good proposals through the RFP and able to make some positions upon and move toward a selected developer.”

Andrus was pleased with the community response at the meeting.

“The overall sense to me was people were very interested and they were looking toward the next step,” Andrus said. “I think a lot of them in the audience have been through the process and are involved and engaged and are looking for those next steps.”

The option I and option II designs may be viewed on the county’s Open Forum website. Public comment is also being accepted until 5 p.m. March 4 on the Open Forum site (follow the link from the county’s homepage) or at A-19-a.info@lacnm.us.