Los Lunas can purchase water credits


Los Lunas village councilors passed an amendment to an ordinance that updates water rights credit compensation.

The amendment changes how and if the village can compensate a developer for unused water rights credits.

The village of Los Lunas requires developers to purchase water rights to accommodate any subdivision or building enterprise the developer wishes to build within Los Lunas. This is a common procedure among New Mexico municipalities.

Those water rights are then transferred over to the village. If there are any water rights in excess of what the developer needed for the subdivision, the village can purchase those water rights credits if it has the money, provided that the use of those village funds does not violate state law.

The developer must meet certain criteria to be eligible for the village to consider compensating water rights credits.

The developer must be currently and actively developing an existing subdivision within the village and want to use the funds to continue to develop within the village, where the acquisition of the water rights credits would benefit the village's economic development.

In addition, the ordinance states that the acquisition of the water rights credits by the village must not cause the applicant to be in violation of any village municipal codes.

The resolution doesn't obligate the village to buy back credits, even if an entity meets all the requirements outlined in the amendment, said village attorney Larry Guggino.

"It's purely a case-by-case decision of the council as to whether they want to do it or not," Guggino said. "Actually, (of) the council and staff."

Compensation for water rights credits in the old ordinance only allowed the village to purchase water credits at a flat rate of $2,400 per acre-foot, a rate that is grossly under current market value, said Christina Ainsworth, director of community development.

In the revised ordinance, the amount of compensation would be determined by averaging three of the most recent water rights credit sales in the Middle Rio Grande Valley.

The village shall then pay the applicant the average price for the excess water rights credits, but at a 7-20 percent discounted rate depending on the acre-feet amount of water to be purchased.

Los Lunas Village Administrator Greg Martin said the village received an email from Curb South developer Stan Strickman's attorney expressing support for this amended ordinance.

Councilor Richard Lovato said he thought the amended ordinance was a reasonable approach and compromise to what the council is trying to accomplish.

There was no public comment on the revised ordinance, and the amended ordinance was passed unanimously.

In other business, the council:

• Approved a resolution to enter into a $5,000 contract with EFG Creative, to design art pieces to be incorporated in the overall landscape enhancement project of the Interstate 25 project.

EFG Creative director Eric F. Garcia is a Bosque Farms resident and is involved with Albuquerque's Route 66 project, designing art pieces and architecture.

Some of the village's Interstate 25 project will incorporate Route 66 designs. Garcia will work with landscape architect Laurie Roddick and create design themes in accord with the Los Lunas brand as well as the Route 66 project.

The village has $400,000 for construction from New Mexico DOT for the project, and Ralph Mims, the village's economic development manager, said staff are looking for additional funding.

EFG Creative had the highest points out of six respondents. Scoring was calculated by a selection committee of four village employees. A public presentation of Garcia's designs is planned for the near future.

Mayor Robert Vialpando said he was always impressed with what former Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez did in Albuquerque at the Big I, and Garcia said this project will be similar.

• Approved travel for administrative staff to attend a conference.

• Proclaimed Presbyterian Volunteer Service Day on Nov. 5 to honor those who give their time to be of service to the community.

• Recognized October as National Cyber Security month.

-- Email the author at dfox@news-bulletin.com.