A Flood of Criticism
A proposed Westside land use resolution riles area property owners
By Mark Sanders
City Councilor Michael Cadigan wants Volcano Heights property owners to understand: He doesn’t want to take away their right to build homes. Yet that was the prevailing sentiment among some local homeowners at the Aug. 21 City Council meeting.
“One guy said I’d be judged by God for stealing his land,” says Cadigan, via phone. “At dinner, the other councilors were afraid to sit next to me.”
Hellfire and damnation fears aside, Cadigan admits he’s having a tough time convincing landowners in this rural part of his district that R-06-86, a proposed land use resolution, is ultimately in everyone’s best interest.
For Volcano Heights landowners, the resolution would mean that only a third of their land could be used for what Cadigan calls “impermeable surfaces,” such as homes, pools or patios (or for that matter, donkey stables). The councilor cites flooding concerns as the primary reason for the resolution, since Taylor Ranch sits directly downhill from Volcano Heights, a utility-less and otherwise infrastructure-deficient 3,000-acre expanse sitting above an escarpment near Petroglyph National Monument.
“Taylor Ranch is the most densely populated part of my district,” notes Cadigan, who recently won re-election. He adds that if Volcano Heights’ soil doesn’t absorb rainfall--and homes ain’t exactly sponges--Taylor Ranch will fill up like a bathtub.
Landowners remain adamant. “I own nine acres on the southwest side [of Volcano Heights],” says Joe Armijo, a member of the Volcano Cliffs Property Owners Association. “They want me to just build one or two houses, and that makes no sense.”
The problem’s been festering for years, which is why residents have now become outspoken. They feel jerked around.
“My land started out as commercial,” Armijo continues, noting that he bought his lot 35 years ago. “Then [the city] changed it to residential. Then they changed it to manufacturing. So the city never keeps their word.”
Cadigan says he’s more accustomed to dealing with developers than individual residents, which is a big part of the problem. Subdivision developers, who buy many acres of land at a time, know they’ll have to conform to various land-use guidelines (such as setting aside land for public use, or for no use at all). With 1,400 individual landowners, Cadigan says, explaining to each of them what developers often already know is, well, troublesome.
“People were really mad at me the other night at that meeting,” he says.
Nevertheless, the resolution is going forward; a vote is expected at the Sept. 6 City Council meeting.
This is a necessary move in planning sustainable communities, says the councilor. Having learned lessons from Rio Rancho, where runoff problems resulted from restructured arroyos, his biggest concern isn’t invoking God’s judgment, but rather avoiding a flood in his district on the scale of Noah.
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