An Open Letter to Bernalillo County Commissioners on Santolina by David Vogel

Thank you to the New Mexico Mercury for publishing this powerful and insightful letter written by David Vogel.

[Link to letter at New Mexico Mercury:

santolina estrella map

As you can see in the map above, Santolina is not the only development in the horizon for the West Mesa.  Approving the Santolina Master Plan is a green light to the rest of the “string of pearls” as referred to by the developers.

string of pearls

Dear Commissioners,

I am writing to urge you to NOT approve the Santolina Master Plan and hope you will vote against this Proposal. Some of the most compelling reasons for rejecting this expansion include:

1. The geographic expansion that has dominated the County’s growth pattern over the past several decades has contributed substantially to the economic stagnation and quality of life erosion for Bernalillo County citizens. The benefits that have accrued to private developers have been at the expense of essential urban infrastructure development. Approval of the Santolina Master Plan will further dilute our already scarce resources and hinder Bernalillo County’s prospects for the kind of economic & infrastructure development critical to our well-being thereby further eroding our prospects for becoming a thriving metropolitan area in the future.

2. Neglect of the core urban infrastructure that is essential to support the County, the City of Albuquerque and adjacent urban areas will relegate our County to bottom tier status in perpetuity, thereby consciously (or unconsciously) forcing us to struggle at the bottom of all too many “lists” of desirable places to live in the US and the Southwest. Is it our destiny to follow the precedent of Detroit?

3. Most contemporary urban planners have concluded that increasing urban density and reducing urban sprawl and its unsustainable, costly infrastructure are key “criteria for success” for creation of thriving 21st Century metropolitan areas. Shifting our planning strategy now to one that is in line with contemporary urban planning principles holds the prospect that future life in the Bernalillo County metropolitan area will be attractive not only to those who already live here, but perhaps even more important, will become a compelling attraction to the coming generations of citizens who will be choosing where to live.

4. We already know from extensive studies that the younger generations of professionals prefer to live where they and their families can thrive in a healthy, vibrant and sustainable community, where good jobs are plentiful, the cost of living is reasonable and their increasing demand for carefully planned, highly developed urban infrastructure is readily met. This means that Bernalillo County must prioritize investing in its core urban infrastructure, including development of excellent public education, excellent public transit, convenient & beautiful parks, reasonably priced & convenient housing, and all the other essential infrastructure components that thriving communities throughout the US are already striving toward. It is impossible to understand how the Santolina Development will do anything but undermine Bernalillo County’s ability to meet these essential priorities.

5. Our water resources are already being taxed beyond their future limits, a fact that if not taken seriously by our leaders will destine us to being one of several major urban areas in the US (e.g. Orange County, CA, Las Vegas, NV, etc.) that are finally realizing that their very existence is in jeopardy. We can no longer ignore headlines such as, “San Juan Water Dries Up for First Time in 40 Years”.

It is time for us to have serious discussion about our priorities as a County and place the “quality of life” in the existing populated regions of the County as the primary criteria for all subsequent development. I hope you will lead this discussion as you consider the Santolina Master Plan, which contradicts almost every informed contemporary urban development principle.

Thank you for your on-going service to our County and its citizens. Your vote on this critical issue will have a major impact on the future quality of life in our County.

David Vogel, Bernalillo County Citizen

Screen shot 2015-03-08 at 6.30.10 PM

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