Towne Park: Episode IV
By Marisa Demarco
A gated community in the Northeast Heights found resolution to one chapter of its epic tale. Some residents consider it a victory for free speech. To others, it's rampant solicitation, the kind the people who live in the 485 houses of Towne Park pay to keep out.
But let's back up. The Towne Park board is in charge of thousands of residents' dollars. Scott Varner drafted a newsletter to inform residents about a lawsuit filed by the landlord, the Sandia Foundation, owner of the 72 acres of Towne Park. Residents pay a monthly land-lease fee to the board, which collects the money and forwards it on to Sandia. The Sandia Foundation claimed it hadn't gotten all of its money for about a year, among other things. Varner thought residents needed to know.
Resident Judi Richardson grabbed a stack of the newsletters and set out about the neighborhood to distribute them on April 4. The board slapped her with a $75 fine for solicitation. Varner viewed the fine as a stifling of free-speech rights. An arbitrator ruled on July 24 that the board cannot prohibit the distribution of a newsletter and that such an activity doesn't fall under the heading of solicitation. The fine was declared void.
Thomas Bercher, one of the board members, says he's disappointed, but the board will abide by the decision. "We value our privacy here, and we value that we are not pestered by door-to-door salesmen or solicitors of one kind or another," Bercher says.
Varner was preparing another newsletter last week. "It's the first step to reestablishing democracy in Towne Park," he says. A team of four or five residents will be handing them out as soon as the newsletters are completed. "I hope there's no trouble," Varner says.
Read more about Towne Park in past articles on alibi.com:
Newscity, “Agro Meets Urban Bliss,” May 5-11, 2005
Neverending Stories, “The Ballad of Towne Park Plays On,” Aug. 4-10, 2005
Newscity, "Strife in Suburbia," May 4, 2006
Behold, The Water
Residents of a neighborhood near Paradise Hills on the Westside could have told you this was going to happen. Mary Stadler said in June all it was going to take was a good, hard rain.
Stadler lives 12 feet from the construction of a 50,000-square-foot, two-story Lovelace medical office building and accompanying parking lot at 10501 Golf Course Road. Part of Lovelace's construction plan included paving over a drainage pond that was used to hold water after a storm. The story appeared in the Alibi before the July rains [News Feature, "Through the Cracks," June 22].
Mark Wade, the principal architect behind the project, at the time said, "Most of the site drains just fine." Robin Mintz says otherwise. Mintz also lives near the hospital and began organizing the neighborhood into action after seeing damage to her home she believes was caused by the heavy pounding of construction. She painted a bleak picture of the area post-rains: "The retaining wall is now standing on its own. They've had to put up supporting beams. The whole thing is ridiculous. The parking lot is sloped, so of course there are torrents of rainwater. The utility drainage area has sunk in on itself. There are these huge craters and crevices ... To me, the whole thing looks like a huge safety hazard."
Wade says the project's ills are not unusual, considering the circumstances. "Many projects are experiencing the same kind of issues that we have because of the amount and the intensity of the rains." He added that his firm, a civil engineer and a hospital representative looked at the area last week to try and find a way to stabilize it.
The new Lovelace building was operating on a temporary certificate of occupancy, required by the city for use of the building. The certificate expired Friday, Aug. 18, but the city extended it due to the weather, says Susan Wilson, spokesperson for Lovelace. There is not yet a cost estimate for improving the area's drainage, she says.
Changing Harvard's Face
The plan is to knock down the funky little houses between (but not including) Winnings Coffee and NMPIRG on Harvard and replace them with a mixed-use complex of 42 apartments and about 7,500 square feet of retail space [News Feature, "And They All Fall Down," July 27]. John Gates, who lives on Cornell, wasn't happy about the plan. Neither were the more than 470 people who signed the petition he dropped off with the Environmental Planning Commission (EPC) [Neverending Stories, "University Neighborhood Fights Developer," Aug. 17].
"We've got tourists and other residents who come to this part of town to shop, to eat, to feel like they're in a neighborhood that resembles, in some manners, the historical nature of Albuquerque," Gates told six commissioners at an Aug. 17 EPC meeting.
The commission voted in favor of the project 5-1, with Jonathan Siegel voting against it. "I think it's an almost outstanding project," he said. "I will be voting to oppose it because I believe the project as a whole represents a loss of scale, of proportion and, for lack of a better term, a homogeneity of a large-scale project that I believe is destructive to this neighborhood and to University neighborhoods plural." Other commissioners voiced their strong approval of the plan, which they said emphasizes the best things about the area.
The 15-day window for appeals ends Sept. 1. The issue will then be taken before the City Council, though a date has not yet been set. Gates says he plans to be there.
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