Council candidates reveal stand on Trinity Site Project

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By Carol A. Clark

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second of a series of questions asked by the Monitor to the five candidates running for County Council. The candidates responses run each Sunday leading up to early and absentee voting, which begins Oct. 7. The election is Nov. 4.

Vincent P. Chiravalle, 34, is a Technical Staff Member in the Applied Physics Division (X) at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Chiravalle holds a Ph.D. in Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering from Princeton University in Princeton, N.J., a Master’s Degree in Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering from Princeton University, and a B.S.E., in Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering also from Princeton University.

Chiravalle’s special interests include running, weightlifting and reading.

The Monitor asked all candidates the same question: Are you for or against the Trinity Site Project and why?

Chiravalle: I would like to see more retail choices for the citizens of Los Alamos County and the voters have already spoken in favor of proceeding with the development of the Trinity site, by approving Ordinance 529 for bonds to help finance the construction of the Airport Basin facilities and the clearing of the land at the Trinity site itself.

As a county, our goal should now be to ensure that we are not spending more money than absolutely necessary to accomplish these tasks. In my view, the total amount of $75 million that Council has allocated for the Airport Basin work and clearing the Trinity site is excessive.

We are spending far too much to build the warehouses at the Airport Basin. Furthermore it is not unreasonable to expect the Trinity site developer to assume some of the cost to clear the land at the Trinity site.

As we proceed with both the Airport Basin facilities and clearing the Trinity site, it is essential that we hold the line on the budget. In my opinion, we should not be spending more than $50 million for these two tasks.

Having a new Smith’s Marketplace as the anchor store would be a good thing for our community. I think the business plan for a Smith’s Marketplace, which is similar to a Wal-Mart store, is sound because consumers would be able to purchase a full selection of groceries in addition to a selection of clothes, household goods, electronics and other goods, which are currently not available in Los Alamos County. I think this is the best opportunity that has come along in years to expand retail options in Los Alamos County and having this kind of retail in our community would make it easier for families and working people to obtain the goods they need.

Ken Milder, 59, is a Technical Staff Member in X Division’s Information Assurance Team at Los Alamos National Laboratory. He has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Computer Science with a concentration in science and mathematics from the College of Santa Fe and an associate’s degree in electrical engineering from Columbus State College in Columbus, Ohio.

Milder’s interests include performing arts, community service, skiing, hiking and backpacking.

Milder: In numerous surveys the community has expressed the need for a more vibrant local retail sector and shopping opportunities. What role does government play in making this happen? Simply passing laws won’t work.

The best contribution government can make is to help create an environment conducive to growth and sustainability of retail businesses. Within that environment it is up to the entrepreneur to provide both quality products and services.

For nearly 30 years the county’s primary contribution to creating such an environment was to release land for housing. In the early years housing was needed for more than just economic development, yet such efforts have not been successful in growing and sustaining retail businesses.

New “out-of-the-box” thinking is needed. On the Hill, that’s the Trinity Site Project. A similar approach is needed in White Rock. (Unfortunately, none of the candidate questions address needs of the White Rock community.)

With the Internet and the proximity of big-box stores in neighboring communities, we must find ways to broaden the local customer base beyond only residential.

The goal of Trinity Place is to do just that. Other communities that have mixed commercial office activities within its retail sector have been successful.

Being limited to only 250 words, I cannot go into a detailed discussion of why this works. I can say, however, that the customer base is not only broadened by local residents working those offices but also by the commuting workforce and people doing business with the people working in those offices.

Sharon Stover, 49, worked most recently as Juvenile Justice Advisory Board coordinator from 2004-2007. Stover holds a two-year administrative degree from Santa Fe Business College.

Stover’s interests include working on special projects with area teenagers, running and doing jazzercise, cooking and spending time with her family.

Stover: I support the Trinity Site Project. The re-development of the Trinity Site area has been identified as a council goal for well over the last decade; it is a better use of the county/school land.  It is also a project the Schools can benefit from.  Previous councils have been working on how to diversify the economy and address our aging infrastructure.

Our retail leakage is 60-70 percent and it is projected that Trinity can capture up to 10-15 percent of that leakage.  In addition, community surveys for the past several years have all stated as their least favorite attribute about living in Los Alamos, “lack of shopping.”

I believe the Trinity Site project with retail shops, pedestrian walkways including a trail to connect west of the airport, residential housing (30 percent required affordable), and stunning views from the canyon edge make this an excellent project to improve our quality of life.

The funding for the Trinity Site project, specifically the demolition, was supported by citizens through the 529 referendum. There is no property tax increase planned to pay for the project and all costs to build will be incurred by the developer.

There are several steps that still need to occur before Trinity Site can proceed, including the approval of the final lease, review of the traffic impact study, and review by the State Board of Finance to affirm that the school district lease is in compliance.

Trinity Site is a responsible project; it introduces new economic opportunities in our community.   

Michael Wismer, 52, is group leader for Classified Matter Protection at Los Alamos National Laboratory. He holds a Master of Public Administration Degree from Troy State University, Troy, Ala., a Master’s of Science in criminal justice from Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Ken., and a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from the University of Delaware in Newark, Del. He also is a graduate of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Academy.

Wismer’s interests include teaching college classes in sociology, running and biking.

Wismer: I support the Trinity Site Revitalization Project. The project includes the development of the Airport Basin Site which is a four phased project designed to include  the site preparation work necessary for building new facilities for both the county and the schools, construction of the warehouses, shops, fleet/bus barns, storage yard and buildings for the county and school district’s operations currently housed on Trinity Drive, consolidating and moving the county/schools operations and resources to the Airport Basin and, demolition of the buildings at Trinity Site.    

After an exhaustive search, the Boyer Company was selected to design and develop “The Trinity Place” as The Gathering Place in Los Alamos. The Trinity Place will use approximately 42 acres for economic development and will include 140,000 square foot anchor retail, 45,000 square feet dedicated to retail, 70,000 square feet of office space, 12,550 square feet dedicated to restaurants and approximately 15,000 square feet for entertainment.

Additionally, Trinity Place will offer a mixed residential component complemented by a boardwalk along the Canyon Rim. The synergy created by all of the components of this revitalization project will help bring much needed economic diversity and vitality to our community.

Manuel J. Baca, 44, is the CEO and practice manager of Corazon del Oso Healthcare, LLC, where his wife is a doctor. The practice is at 3917 West Road, Suite 138. Baca studied theatre at the University of New Mexico from 1995-1998. He holds a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in theatre from Towson University in Towson, MD.

Baca’s interests include acting and directing little theater productions, he is a licensed Foster/Adoptive Parent in Los Alamos and Rio Arriba counties and he enjoys working with youth.

Baca: This is a question that is difficult to answer because it’s already been set into motion. Though contracts still need to be signed on some parts, it’s a done deal.

When Ordinance 529 came up for a vote I was one of the citizens that voted to approve it. However they say hindsight is 20/20 and in this case I believe that.

I believe that what was promised to this community by all the advertisements and propaganda spread through town will not be what the final product is.

We were told we would have an urban plaza style market place that would have a large anchor retail outlet and several smaller retail and dining facilities with a few office spaces and of course the ever popular housing development. We also had the West Jemez bypass road attached to that vote.

What it has become is a possible Smith’s Marketplace and lots of office space and housing and a $15.4 million road that we don’t need but must have in order to save face.

The design has changed and the entire plan that was sold to us has a much higher price tag now. If this project in its current form were presented to me today for a vote, I would have to vote no because I don’t see it as being the benefit to the community that it was promised to be.