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A tale of two municipal building sites

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Committee scrutinizes final alternatives for county seat

By Mandy Marksteiner

Participants drilled into the final two options for siting a new Municipal Building Thursday night.

FBT Architects gave a 3-D presentation that illustrated 10 possible designs for the two remaining locations.

The presentation was meant to help the Municipal Building Site Selection and Steering Committee make a decision between Site 6 and Site 13. They will present their recommendation to the County Council on Oct. 27.

Although the presentation included plans for parking, possible retail and office space, plazas and landscaping, Chairman Stan Primak reminded the Steering Committee to choose the site and not the design because there is no guarantee that the designs will be used.

Since May 2009, the Steering Committee has worked to narrow down 25 possible sites.  

After ranking each site based on a list of criteria, Site 6 and Site 13 scored 20 points higher than all the other sites.

Committee member Veronica Rodriguez said, “They are clear favorites.”

Site 6 is located directly east of the Bradbury Museum where the LA Apartments are. Art Tatem, from FBT, said that the pros of using that site are that it will have a positive impact on Central Avenue, it will be easily done and since it is a rectangle, it can be easier to break up into different components.

Site 13, which wraps around Los Alamos National Bank, will have a big impact on Trinity Avenue, as well as Central. Rick Bohn, county community development director, said, “There are intriguing possibilities for creating internal pathways between Trinity and Central.”

Committee members Kendra Henning and Michael Luna along with Michael DiRosa spoke with about seventy-five people at the Farmer’s Market about the issue earlier on Thursday.

Henning reported that many people were in favor of Site 6 because they assume that it’s better for Los Alamos, financially. The County already owns the property, while Elmo C. De Baca, the owner of Site 13, is asking for $3.8 million for his location.

However, during the discussion, participants said taxpayers would not have to pay extra if Site 13 is picked. The county already has $15 million set aside to develop the site. The money comes from gross receipt taxes from the lab and has been programmed into the County’s long-term financial plan.

Since the county owns Site 6 they can sell it and use the money to develop Site 13. The County cannot, by law, pay more than the appraised value of a piece of property. The appraisal of Site 13 will likely be less than the asking price.

That raises another objection to Site 13. Henning said, “There was significant concern about Viola’s.  People don’t want to lose Viola’s.  They love it.  It’s a home grown business that does well.”

Committee Vice Chairman, Carl A. Thornton said, “[by moving Viola’s] they would have an opportunity to enhance their business.”

The County Council might decide on whether or not to subsidize the relocation costs of businesses that will be displaced by Site 13 (if it is chosen), but the Steering Committee does not have that authority.

Sept. 30th is the last chance for people to contact the committee with any opinions on the site.