Airport Basin gets go-ahead: P & Z stamp sends project to council

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By Gabriel Vasquez

The Planning and Zoning Commission (P & Z) unanimously approved the proposed site plan for the airport basin development and elected a new vice chair during its meeting Wednesday.

It’s now up to county council to approve the   recommendations of P & Z to ensure that the project remains on course.

In order to fulfill the legal requirements of the development, the commission also approved a motion to rezone the Sunrise Mesa Lot-B parcel at the airport basin from a Federal Lands (FL) district to a Public Lands (PL) district, effectively making it available to accommodate local government and school district facilities.

“The re-zoning will achieve the comprehensive goal of upgrading infrastructure,” said Rick Bohn, community development director.

Bohn also mentioned that the airport site’s topography made it unlikely for development by the private sector, and that the county utilizing the site in the near future is consistent with the new PL zoning.

The parcel of re-zoned land is approximately 34 acres, according to the P&Z staff report presented on the case.

“It moves the plans that we have in the county along and I see no reason to oppose it,” said P&Z commissioner David Sherrill.

By “plans,” Sherrill referred to the redevelopment of the Trinity property, known as Trinity Place, which the county plans on using as a mixed-use site with retail, offices, services and residential units that would significantly “diversify the economy” in downtown Los Alamos.

Kyle Zimmerman, public works director for Los Alamos County, said the New Mexico Department of Transportation already approved plans to modify a section of N.M. 502 to accommodate an entrance for the airport basin site.

Access and traffic control with the two adjacent developments, IMTEC and Entrada Business Park, have also been resolved. Both sites will share the same entrance with the airport basin facilities.

Following the approval of the re-zoning, airport basin project manager David Apple guided P&Z commissioners through a 3-D tour of the proposed site development, and described in detail the future use of each of the new buildings.

According to Apple’s proposal, several of the buildings will be used to consolidate Los Alamos County departments, such as public works, utilities and the parks division, and also share space with facilities to be used by Los Alamos Public Schools.

“We anticipate starting work around August of this year if the weather allows,” Apple said. “We expect complete construction of the entire site in January 2010.”

During Apple’s presentation, some commissioners expressed concern over the preservation of archaeological sites and historic trails surrounding the airport basin site.

“We are taking measures to protect cultural resource sites in accordance with the State Preservation Office,” Apple commented. “We’ve been providing training to all contractors who will work on the site.”

Additionally, Apple said that training will be provided by either himself or other members of his staff to all county and public schools staff who will be working on the site in order to preserve such sites.

Currently, there are temporary fences in place to keep contractors from crossing over to the sites.

The last concern expressed by commissioners before approving the site was the increased flow of traffic on the already busy N.M. 502.

“The site will have pretty decent access even though the road (502) is already at capacity,” Zimmerman told commissioners.

A traffic impact study conducted on the area earlier this year analyzed the effects of a combined entrance to be shared by the basin site and surrounding businesses, and it was concluded that the entrance would not significantly impact traffic flow, parking and pedestrian access.

The P&Z commission approved the site-plan 5-to-0.

In other business, a new vice chair was elected to a one-year term in a unanimous vote, P&Z commissioner Steven Clarke. Previous vice chair Roger Snyder decided not to renew his term. Chair David Izraelevitz was re-elected, 5-to- 0, to continue serving as chair of the P&Z commission.

The other commissioners who attended Wednesday’s meeting were Maria Wolfe and David Sherrill.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the P&Z Commission is June 11.