Public hearings delayed

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By Special to the Monitor

Los Alamos NM – Two ordinances slated for public hearings later this month regarding the County/School District lease agreements for the Airport Basin Site are expected to be postponed. Hearings on Ordinances 540 and 541 were on the Council’s agenda for the Feb. 24 council meeting. However, the documents are still in the process of being finalized by the County and School District, and will then need a final legal review by the County Attorney’s office.

“These ordinances are the next big step forward for the Trinity Site Revitalization Project,” said Diana Stepan, Acting County Administrator. “They also lay the foundation for the future lease agreement between the County and School District for the facilities at the Airport Basin Site. We want to be sure we present a set of documents that will be clear and concise, not only for the public to review, but also because we know that the final documents must be approved by the New Mexico Board of Finance. The Board will be scrutinizing these documents closely, and we want to be sure that we cover every detail that will give us the best possible opportunity for the Board to quickly review and issue their approval to the School District to proceed.”

The legal advertisements for Ordinances 540 and 541 had already been published earlier in February in order to meet State legal requirements, according to Mary McInerny, County Attorney. However, the Council has the option to reschedule the hearings until a later date when they meet on February 24, she said.

Several County councilors, including the Chair and Vice-Chair, were in Washington D.C. this week to meet with members of the congressional delegation. They were joined by County Administrator Max Baker and Assistant County Administrator Anthony Mortillaro. McInerny said she conferred via telephone with the Council Chair, Baker and Mortillaro about the status of the documents this morning.

“We all agreed that it was best to delay the hearings and give ourselves a little more time to work out the final details in the documents before we proceed with the public hearings on the ordinances,” McInerny said.

Stepan commented today on the County’s decision to request the postponement, offering additional background and insight.

“Part of our public information plan was to make the documents available at least one week before the Council meeting,” Stepan explained, which meant the documents were slated to be posted to the County and School’s webpage and available at the libraries and 311 Customer Care Center next Tuesday, Feb. 17. Under the County’s Open Meetings Resolution, agenda documents are required to be available just three days before a council meeting, Stepan noted, which meant production of the documents and time needed for distribution had to move more quickly than might otherwise be expected for a typical council meeting.

“The amount of information contained in these agreements for the public to read and comprehend has taken us quite a bit of time to compile,” she said, “We want to keep our commitment to give our citizens the time for document review before the hearing – not cut short their review time in order to meet the February meeting agenda deadline.”

Ensuring that the County and School District are both comfortable with the documents and the final details was another consideration, McInerny added.

 “When this situation was discussed this morning, everyone agreed it might be good to meet with representatives of the School District next week to review the final details and make sure everyone is comfortable with the documents before they go out to the public,” she said.

Because the ordinances and public hearings had been advertised in the last two weeks, Stepan said she felt the County needed to take action today to notify the public that the ordinances are not expected to be considered on February 24. The ordinances would need to be re-published at least two weeks before any hearing could occur.

“The public needs to know that we won’t be holding the hearings on this date, in case they were planning to attend the meeting and give public comment,” Stepan said.

Stepan emphasized that the delay in the public hearings was only due to “process and public notifications”.

“I want to be clear that both the County and the School Board continue to support moving off the Trinity Site in order to clear the site for future retail development,” she said, “We feel very confident that we’ll be able to get this accomplished with just a little bit more time.”

The County and School facilities currently located at the Trinity Site, located across from MariMac Plaza, are still on schedule to move to their new location at the Airport Basin Site in early 2010. The Boyer Company, based in Salt Lake City, Utah, is the selected developer for the site once the former buildings are demolished and cleared. Boyer plans to build a lifestyle center called The Trinity Place. The first phase of construction is expected to feature an anchor retail store, restaurant, other retail shops and office space.

Once the Council has rescheduled the date for the public hearings, the County will issue an announcement and post the information on the County web page. The documents are still scheduled to be available for public review at least one week before the hearing date, Stepan said, and hopefully will be available even sooner.

Additional information about the Trinity Site Revitalization Project and the Airport Basin Site project is available on the County’s project website: www.losalamosnm.us or www.thetrinityplace.com.