Height Limits For Santa Fe's Planned Zia Station Development Debated
The Zia Station proposal would consist of nearly 400 residential units, including apartments and townhomes, as well as commercial and open green space on a 21-acre site, just west of St. Francis Drive .
To move the project forward, the Planning Commission needed to approve a slate of general plan amendments and the preliminary development plan.
The most contentious item was an agreement to exclude parcels from the South-Central Highway Corridor Overlay. The overlay was created in 1986 to set development parameters along St. Francis Drive , including height requirements.
During a previous Planning Commission meeting, residents of the Candlelight neighborhood took issue with allowing three-story buildings in the development plan, leading to questions from commissioners over how the development would be impacted if it didn't include three-story buildings.
Commissioner Dominic Sategna said that while he liked the project, he did not like the way the commission was moving it forward.
"We are potentially compromising the integrity and continue to perpetuate a problem we continue to see, which is we are making special exceptions, and are piecemealing to try to get something through," Sategna said.
Commissioner Janet Clow agreed, saying: "We're essentially undoing the South-Central Corridor by making exceptions to it and carving it out. I don't think that's the appropriate way to deal with the corridor."
The proposed site alterations were brought to the Planning Commission on Feb. 4 but the commission opted to postpone the vote after close to two hours of public comments pushed the meeting late into the evening. Most of the discussion centered on height levels and the potential impact on the St. Francis corridor sight lines.
Vice Chairman Mark Hogan acknowledged Clow and Sategna's concerns, but said he felt the project, even with its proposed height, would be good for the community.
Are we compromising the future of our community by approving this project?" Hogan asked. "I think we would be negatively impacting the future [of] our community if we don't approve this project. It's a really important one."
Sategna and Clow voted against excluding the project from the corridor overlay.
Jennifer Jenkins , principal of the consulting firm JenkinsGavins Inc. , said if the development lost a third story, about 120 dwellings would be lost. If that were to happen, the project would not be as economically feasible and could not offer affordable housing.
"Affordable housing and density go together," Jenkins said. "In a multifamily environment, based upon the economic realities, you don't get affordable housing when you lop 120 units off the top."
Alexandra Ladd , director of the city's Office of Affordable Housing , said: "The more units in the project, the more ability there is to spread the cost across the other market-rate units. When you start cutting down on the number of market rates you have, you're less able as an operator to subsidize [the] cost of the affordables."
The development is complying with the city's affordable housing policy by offering 10 percent of its units — around 40 units for a period of 10 years — at affordable rates, and paying a roughly $150,000 fee to the affordable housing trust fund for the remaining 5 percent.
The development would be constructed by SF Brown Inc. in two phases, starting with the north 12.1-acre parcel, which would include 14 townhomes and 244 apartments. The southern 8.4-acre parcel, which includes the New Mexico Rail Runner Express Zia Station , would also include 14 townhomes as well as 120 apartments.
The southern parcel would also hold 84,000 square feet of office space and 36,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space between the northwest and southwest corners of St. Francis Drive and Zia Road .
The proposal, and the zoning changes, will need City Council approval. If approved, the project would be the first in Santa Fe to offer both affordable and market rate housing in the same development.
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