Council paves way for apartment complex

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By Tris DeRoma

Los Alamos County Council unanimously approved the donation of county-owned land on DP Road Tuesday to Bethel Development Corporation, to pave the way for the development of an affordable housing apartment complex.

The land is parcel A-9, located at 120 DP Road, between the Knights of Columbus Clubhouse and a county firefighting training facility.

“We go to a lot of communities. This one has been so supportive in our efforts to redouble affordable housing in the community, that it’s refreshing to have that kind of support,” said Bethel President Daniel Terlecki, in his reaction to the vote.

Bethel wants to build a four building, 72-unit complex on the site.

The project would border a section of Canyon Rim Trail, which concerns Councilor Antonio Maggiore.

“When you talk about desert landscaping, does that mean a lot of gravel,” Maggiore asked.

Terlecki also said there will be greenery on the property.

“We lean toward a lot of trees for that shading factor,” Terlecki said.

Maggiore was concerned that the property would not have a buffer between the trail and the apartment complex.

Terlecki then said they were planning on putting a buffer of year-round pine trees in that section.

“We have the same concern,” he said. “We would probably want to make sure about the people walking on the trail looking back toward the apartments and the apartments looking onto the trail. It works both ways, it’s probably something we would do.”

At the meeting, Terlecki told the council that they did not choose Los Alamos, “Los Alamos chose us,” through the state’s affordable housing program. Terlecki said the program is based on a points system, and Los Alamos had a lot of what Bethel needs to qualify to build affordable housing in Los Alamos County. Bethel will submit an application to the New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority in June.

“On this project alone we estimated that our score would be about 98 percent of the total points available for a winning project. This is why we’re extremely excited to work with the (county) staff here on this project because it scores well and we think this will get done,” Terlecki said.

According to Terlecki, his research also shows there is a high demand for affordable housing in Los Alamos County, which will also help them in their application to the state. Another factor was the county showing its support by donating the land, worth about $1.6 million, to the company.

“Why are we here asking for it, because of that same scoring process,” Terlecki said.

“There are 10 points available if the community we are working on wants to invest in the project. MFA (New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority) wants to see a commitment from the local community. It’s a difference between winning and losing.”

Councilor Pete Sheehey wanted to know if Bethel would be paying property tax to the county.

County Development Manager Paul Andrus assured the council that since Bethel is a for profit company, that Bethel would be paying property tax. Terlecki said the company will also be paying about $680,000 to the state in gross receipts tax.

According to Terlecki, the project will cost about $14 million. The company has created 20 projects in Arizona, New Mexico and Ohio, where it is headquartered.

Part of the way Bethel finances its projects is through the tax credits it receives from MFA for creating an affordable housing  project. Bethel matures them for 10 years, then sells them to an investor.

Councilor James Chrobocinksi wanted to know why the company wanted to build on DP Road.

“DP Road concerns me as a place to put residential properties,” Chrobocinksi said. “I own a real estate company, and I’m having a hard time getting there that DP Road would be a good place to put homes. It has a history of being an industrial area and has had contamination up and down the road in different locations. Some still exists, some has been cleaned, including this site. I just wondered if you’ve looked at that aspect, and what conclusions did you come to in regards to that.”

Terlecki again referred to the state’s scoring criteria, and how the state looks favorably on developers looking to build on remediated land.
“There are five points available if you build in a brownfields site, and this is a brown fields site,” Terlecki said. “This is a brown fields site.”
According to Terlecki, the only thing his environmental consultant was able to find was that there were some underground petroleum storage tanks on the property and that they’ve been remediated.
Councilor Chris Chandler asked about management of the property.
Terlecki replied that there would not only be management on site, but also amenities and programs tenants can engage that will teach them about finance, how to create a path to homeownership and classes that help with career and job enhancement. There will also be an onsite maintenance person also.
He also said there will be security cameras on the site.
Just before the 6-0 vote, Sheehey called the project “a step in the right direction.”