LL to start re-purchasing water credits

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The Los Lunas Village Council directed staff to start the process to re-purchase water rights credits from Huning Ranch developer Curb South, LLC.

Mayor Robert Vialpando was not in attendance at Thursday's village council meeting, so Mayor Pro Tem Richard Lovato presided.

Curb South can now pay some bills and begin further development on its existing Huning Ranch lands, south of its subdivision, or west of Jubilee, where it has more property holdings.

No actual cash would be transferred from the village to the developer because the transaction would take place only when a buyer is ready to purchase the water rights, and the Office of the State Engineer approves the deal.

Curb South has water credits with the village because it purchased more water rights than it needed.

"Those credits on those water rights were bought by Curb South originally, and given to the village for the purpose of a subdivision," Griego said after the meeting adjourned. "The village has an obligation to provide those water rights to Curb South. We're looking at selling the water rights to buy the water credits back."

The purchasing ordinance stipulates that 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.

"That is the main concern," said Griego. "It has to be a reinvestment back into development within the village."

The ordinance also states that the village shall pay the applicant the average price for the excess water rights credits less 10 percent for the purchase of 200 acre feet of water credits or more.

Curb South has an excess of 256-acre-feet of water credits with the village.

At the last meeting, attorney Richard Leverick, representing Curb South, said the price being offered is $13,750 per acre foot.

With the 10 percent discount, the village stands to gain about $350,000 in revenue.

In a phone interview, Stan Strickman of Curb South said he has an interested buyer for the water rights.

"We had to have the water to keep moving, but then the market just stopped," Strickman said. "We have so much water, that it's better we use the proceeds from the water to maintain the debt we have on the land we have out there."

If the state engineer approves of the sale, the village will transfer Curb South's water credits and the developer will sell the water rights.

"The proceeds that Curb South receives would have to be reinvested in their development," said Griego.

Curb South is currently developing a master plan project, and has a charter school foundation that is interested in one of Curb South's lots, as well as other sales, said Leverick.

"We have surplus water credits that we would retain that allow us to develop 150 homes in the future, or to work with a charter school or other projects to meet their water dedication requirements, so that they can tie into the village's water utility," he said.

In other business, the council:

• Approved the fiscal year 2013 Open Meetings Act. The OMA follows state law, and the 2013 version has no language that was changed;

• Approved the 2013 village calendar for council meeting dates and holidays. The holiday schedule is set up according to the state holiday calendar;

• After the executive session, no decision was made about hiring a public works director.

In the previous meeting, the council:

• Approved a $288,200 contract with Vis-Com Inc. for intersection improvements at N.M. 263 and N.M. 6 to include turn bays, new signal head, and wheel chair ramps on the sidewalks;

• Approved a $298,000 contract with Star Paving to improve storm water retention ponds and replace sidewalks on portions of John Drive, Marie Street and Calle Madero;

• Approved a zone change from C-1 to TOD-MU (mixed use) for land at 803 N.M. 314 on the other side of the Transportation Center. The Planning and Zoning Commission recommended approval, saying it is consistent with the comprehensive plan.

Resident Anthony Williams questioned why a zone change was needed, because he believed the village had already adopted a zone change for the area, and said he thought the village ought to take the next step and adopt a zone change for the entire Transportation Center area including the mobile home park, because of the area's high density mixed use potential.

"There is a zoning ordinance for the TOD, but the properties themselves were never re-zoned," said Christina Ainsworth, the village's community development director.

She said a survey will be done;

• Approved a $179,300 contract with Rio Grande Landscapes for site improvements in PHASE II of the village administration site, which will include a completely automated state-of-the-art irrigation system and landscape plants;

• Approved a long-term agreement with NMDOT for village parks and recreation special events parking on NMDOT land at N.M. 6 and N.M. 47 by Heritage Park;

• Hired solid waste laborer Anthony White;

• Proclaimed November as National American Indian Heritage month, and honored Los Lunas East Youth A Football league super champions week of Nov. 12 to 16 champion week;

• In the public input forum, Michael Jaramillo presented a certificate of appreciation and letter signed by the mayor and council to Ben Gomez, manager at Home Depot and his associates who worked on making improvements to the historic train depot and VFW Post 9676 with the assistance of Commander James Garley.

"We really pride ourselves on being a community store that has the backing of a billion dollar company," Gomez said. "With us being a community store, we're able to do special projects for those less fortunate and those who are in need."

The Home Depot program that allowed the work on the VFW Post is called, "A Celebration of Service," and has committed to giving more than $50 million for projects that benefit veterans and service people as individuals and organizations.

"We are going to continue to do additional work on the railroad station and seek out other projects within the community to do," he said.