P and Z green lights WR's A-19 zoning

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The Los Alamos Planning and Zoning commission unanimously approved the rezoning of the 60-acre A-19 parcel from a P-L (Public Land district) to DT-NCO (Town Center Overlay) and R-1-5 (Single-Family Residential) during its Wednesday meeting. 

The rezoning brings the property into conformance with the 2008 White Rock Center Master Plan/Economic Development Strategy adopted by council in June 2008 by providing appropriate districts for the future development of the property.

The parcel was transferred from the federal government to Los Alamos County approximately five years ago for the express purpose of generating additional economic development in the White Rock area. The P-L designation was to serve as a placeholder until a plan for development could be formulated.

A core objective of the White Rock Center Master Plan is to create a viable town center with a public space and retail activity center. The rezoning allows for a range of residential and non-residential mixed-use that is compatible with the plan.

Justification for the rezoning was presented by Will Gleason, an associate at Dekker/Perich/Sabatini, the firm hired to help develop the site’s master plan. Gleason described 18 months of market studies, engineering studies, public meetings and consultations with the White Rock Master Plan Implementation Committee. 

“I feel strongly that the product we’ve come up with has a good balance of market reality and accordance with what the White Rock Master Plan put forth as its vision,” Gleason said. 

“The vision statement for the White Rock Implementation Plan was this active, vital, thriving focal point for the community. White Rock really does not have that right now, and I think that this project brings the promise of that and makes it a reality. This is a way to bring a new infusion of economic activity into a part of the community that really has not seen a lot of new development in the last 20 years.”

The retail component of the plan is focused toward small-scale retail and a restaurant. 

Commissioners asked about the impact on the current town center. Community and Economic Development Director Anne Laurent, who had been asked to speak on behalf of the WRMPIC, responded. 

“One goal of the master plan is to create retail vitality along SR 4,” Laurent said. 

Laurent noted that there is increased activity at the current town center with businesses that are more geared toward foot traffic, such as the Ponderosa Montessori School. The expectation is that businesses wanting higher visibility will be drawn to the new center. 

The housing component has the flexibility to encompass a broad range of options but is geared toward smaller, more affordable units that appeal to empty-nesters and work-force households making less than the county’s median income.

“Our market study really took a comprehensive look at what types of housing were available, what the rates were, what type of demand there was, and what type of disposable income the households had,” Gleason said. “So we have a high level of confidence that the zoning we’re proposing will accommodate that range of products the market study showed a potential for. I don’t think it will necessarily compete with other elements in White Rock.

“We made a very deliberate attempt to not replicate the types of housing that are prevalent in White Rock, and those are large lot estates.”

The rezoning was approved by the commission in an 8-0 vote. It is expected to come before council for approval sometime in late June. 

The commission also approved a special use permit allowing the North Shore Ice Company to operate a shaved ice trailer in the parking lot of the Clendenen Building at 3250 Trinity Drive. Devan Vest owns both the office building and North Shore Ice. North Shore Ice will rent one-third of the office space to provide adequate parking for the trailer and its clientele. 

Commissioner Catherine Mockler called the requirement to rent office space to assure adequate parking a bad precedent that would inhibit other food vendors. CEDD Associate Planner Dan Osborn said the nature of the location dictated that, but the same restrictions were unlikely to apply to commercial districts. The permit passed 8–0.

The final version of the revised sign code was also approved unanimously. That is also expected to come before council in June.