Sep. 29—Edgewood area residents grilled Campbell Farming officials during a hearing Tuesday night on revisions to its 20-year-old master plan for piecemeal development of an 8,000-acre property, which neighbors fear would congest the rural area with traffic and further strain the tightening water supply.
The town Planning and Zoning Commission was still in the throes of discussion at midnight, with many area residents strongly opposing changes Campbell requested — showing the potentially massive housing project is as contentious as ever.
Finally, the commission called a recess with plans to reconvene at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday to work through a couple of snags — the main one being Campbell's proposed language about water availability requirements for new subdivisions within the giant parcel.
Commission Vice Chairwoman Janelle Turner thought the language was hazy on how developers would apply to take over tracts to subdivide.
"I can tell you from past experience, when you don't nail those things down, it becomes confusing," Turner said.
Residents made clear when cross-examining Campbell officials and in comments posted on message threads as the hearing was streamed live on the town's Facebook page that they opposed anything that might help the project move forward.
Still, the main presenter for Campbell tried to keep a congenial tone.
"It's been in hiatus for a while," said Steve Kellenberg, a Campbell planner. "It's come back alive. We realized there were a number of updates that we felt were appropriate to share with you, and see if you agree."
The land Campbell has owned since 1937 and began planning as a mega-development in 2002 — with the aim of building as many as 4,000 homes — abuts Santa Fe, Bernalillo and Sandoval counties.
But Edgewood has annexed most of the land and gets to determine how its portion is used. A section called "Village 1," which has been put on hold, is under Bernalillo County's jurisdiction and, in turn, its more stringent development rules.
Edgewood's authority to decide the fate of an expansive development that extends well beyond its borders was a sore spot for residents of surrounding communities, who contend they'll feel most of the impacts.
A key change to the plan calls for Campbell to carve out parcels larger than 50 acres and sell them to developers without having to make infrastructure improvements first.
This permanent waiver is necessary because the town eliminated "minor plats" that enabled such transfers of smaller parcels for development, Kellenberg said.
A developer who buys a parcel would have to meet all of the town's codes for subdivisions, such as traffic, drainage, water availability and waste disposal.
This proposed change became a sticking point that led to the recessed meeting.
Kellenberg and other officials emphasized they were moving toward greater water conservation, which included removing one of the two golf courses from the plan.
Campbell also sought more flexibility in lot sizes and configurations so it could cluster homes of various sizes to create open spaces, larger setbacks and drainage fields where necessary.
Having the ability to vary the size of dwellings and properties will allow developers to create neighborhoods for working families, and not just spacious estates for the wealthy, Kellenberg said.
Water consumption was a chief concern for many people as the region grapples with diminishing supply amid a changing climate.
"I just don't see how you're going to get water for 4,000 homes," area resident Barbara Herrington said. "I just think the development is too big."
But Campbell CEO Robert Gately said each subdivision proposed by a developer must have sufficient water.
"If we cannot get water for 4,000 homes, then 4,000 homes won't ever be built," Gately said.
Commission Chairman Glenn Felton expressed concerns that under Campbell's proposed change, a developer wouldn't have to prove sufficient water availability upon buying a parcel.
Kellenberg, however, said the developer would have prove adequate water existed before building. It's more practical, he argued, to plan out a neighborhood first to pinpoint demand and whether there will be enough water to meet those needs.
Felton indicated he preferred consistency with planning rather than tailoring master plans for different projects.
"It does not sit well with me that we grant waivers here and there ... to suit your needs rather than have one standard in our subdivision ordinance," Felton said.