P&Z meeting on skate park cut short

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By Carol A. Clark

The room was packed and the mood tense Wednesday evening as residents listened to Planning and Zoning commissioners grapple with an unusual notification problem.

Commissioners were scheduled to hear a request for approval of a site plan for the urban plaza-style skate park to be located at 2400 Central Avenue on land between Mesa Public Library and Central Avenue.

Chair David Izraelevitz explained that property owners residing within 300 feet of a site plan hearing must be individually notified in writing by mail or in person.

However, because of an unusual county exception, residents of Oppenheimer Place and a neighborhood in White Rock did not individually receive notice of the hearing, Izraelevitz said. The notice was actually mailed to the home owners association, which posted it on a bulletin board.

“But that’s not sufficient,” he said.

Assistant County Attorney David Rennick advised commissioners to postpone the hearing and ensure every resident adjacent to the site in question is notified.

The crowd cleared council chambers quickly following the commission’s 7-to-0 vote to table the hearing until May 14. “The commission felt we should give everyone an opportunity to speak on the issue and now we’re giving everyone that opportunity,” Izraelevitz said.

The situation that lead to the site plan hearing is unusual, Izraelevitz said, because Los Alamos County, which owns the land under the proposed skate park, is one of very few municipalities to also be the applicant, requesting site plan approval.

“It’s as if the county wears two hats,” he said.

The P & Z has 13 criteria specified in the development code that it looks at, Izraelevitz said, which states what’s required.

“So we will collect evidence about the project from the public and county staff,” he said.

The county will present its case to commissioners, after which time staff and affected members of the public can ask questions. Staff does their analysis of the project just as they would for any other applicant, Izraelevitz said. Then the public has an opportunity to speak.

In the next stage, the commission holds public discussion during which staff and members of the public can ask permission to interject.

“One of the confusing points is we are one of the few municipalities where the county has to go through the same wickets as anyone else,” he said.

Another worry expressed Wednesday by audience members is the fact that the county is scheduled to approve the skate park’s 90-percent design plan May 13. Community Development Department Director Rick Bohn told the concerned public that there was no reason to worry. The P & Z process will still take place, he said.

Izraelevitz agreed, saying it doesn’t matter if the county makes changes to the existing site plan or not because the commission will judge the plan based on its merits. “We have to approve or deny the site plan based on whether it meets the 13 criteria set forth in the development code,” Izraelevitz said.