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LAS CRUCES >> Don’t expect a mad dash to begin redevelopment of the former Las Cruces Country Club land now that City Council has approved rezoning of a 30.75-acre portion of the 110-acre property.
Robert Kyle, an official with the city’s Community Development Department, said Tuesday that even in a best-case scenario it would be “at least two to three months” before groundbreaking and construction begins on a medical campus — which will include a 42-bed private hospital, rehabilitation facility and assisted living center.
“Probably, more realistically, it could be another six months or so,” said Kyle, of when redevelopment of 30.75 acres of the country club property begins. “What approval of the rezoning has done is make several options available to the developer.”
Las Cruces developer Bob Pofahl, said Kyle’s estimations were spot on, and he anticipates it could be about six months before any action begins on the property.
“Oh gosh, just a day after the rezoning has been approved, I still have to meet with our engineer,” Pofahl said. “We would be fortunate to start by February.”
The final sale of the property, which had been contingent on zoning approval, also needs to be completed.
Monday, the council voted 6-1 to approve the rezoning of 30.75 acres at the former country club, 2700 N. Main St. It agreed to let the property be converted from single-family residential to commercial high intensity, with conditions for 23 acres where the hospital will be built. The remaining seven-plus acres will be zoned for multi-family housing to enable construction of the rehabilitation and assisted living facilities.
The most significant condition placed on the rezoning is that Pofahl will be required to provide city officials with a traffic impact analysis, or TIA, that would be used by the city and several reviewing agencies to determine what affect, if any, redevelopment of the 110-acre country club property could have on nearby city streets and adjoining neighborhoods. Kyle said before any construction can begin, such an analysis will be required.
“The TIA must be submitted and approved by the city prior to issuing any building permits or subdividing the property,” Kyle said.
Kyle added the traffic study would have to be submitted and approved, and construction to redevelop the property would have to begin within two years, or the entire property will revert back to its single-family residential zoning.
City Councilor Miguel Silva, the lone dissenting vote on the issue, said city officials should pay close attention to the traffic study once it has been been submitted. He said the New Mexico Department of Transportation conducted a preliminary review of a TIA that was submitted and concerns were raised.
“I’m not comfortable without a TIA,” said Silva, explaining, in part, why he wasn’t supportive of the rezoning. “Based on the information that’s been made available to me, NMDOT doesn’t feel comfortable with what’s been presented.”
Pofahl said the traffic study will be updated. However, the more pressing issue is to complete the research and work needed to submit a planned unit development, or PUD, application to the city for the remaining 80 acres of the property that will also be developed. That area is expected to include a retail area, townhouses and condominiums, a charter school, and walking paths.
“The process next for us is to prepare a subdivision map for the PUD,” Pofahl said. “It’s a long process that will have a lot of different things, a lot for us to complete.”
Kyle said if there were plans to subdivide the property, that could add time to redevelopment. Additional public hearings would have to be conducted.
Pofahl said it could take about a year to submit a PUD application to the city.
“We want to get the PUD established,” he said. “But right now, the assisted living center and independent living facility is the very first thing we want to get done.”
LAS CRUCES >> The emphasis of the Las Cruces City Council’s decision Monday to approve the rezoning of 30.75 acres at the Las Cruces Country Club was more about “what” than “who.”
Focusing on the merits of a project to build a 42-bed private hospital and associated rehabilitation facilities, the council voted 6-1 to rezone the country club property from R-1a, single-family residential, to C-3c, commercial high intensity, and R-4c, multi-family housing. Both zoning classifications carry conditions.
“The bottom line is, when you get right down to it, it’s a well thought-out project,” Mayor Ken Miyagishima said. “It’s going to be a huge injection into that neighborhood.”
The sale of the property, which was contingent on the council’s approval to rezone the property, is also anticipated to be huge.
The 110-acre country club will now likely be sold for millions of dollars that will provide the money for remaining country club members to make a serious effort toward buying a new facility.
But numerous residents who live near the former country club, which closed in late 2011, say they could also benefit.
In several hours of public comments heard by the council, during Monday’s meeting at City Hall, many of them endorsed the rezoning because they believe redevelopment of the country club could increase property values.
“I believe this is a good thing and will have a positive impact to my property value,” said Harry Hansen, who lives near the former country club. “This is an excellent plan.”
“We need to do something right with that property,” said Las Crucen Rich Ferrary, a country club member. “What we saw today was the right thing.”
Rick Jensen, who also lives near the country club and works in the medical profession, said he and Las Cruces will benefit from what Las Cruces developer Bob Pofahl has proposed for what — until now — has been the city’s largest green space.
“This medical campus includes a unique approach,” Jensen said. “Locally, Park Ridge will have a positive economic impact on Las Cruces. Personally, it’ll revitalize my neighborhood.
“We (Las Cruces) should plan for growth, not catch up with it.”
Las Cruces architect Steve Newby is also impressed with what could become of the property.
“This is the best example of smart growth that this city has ever seen,” said Newby, of Pofahl’s concept of an urban community that will include a medical campus, multi-family housing, walking trails, retail shops, a charter school and the removal septic systems that 18 townhouses are currently operating with.
The council’s vote mirrored public sentiments about the project. Although there was strong support for the project, there were some who expressed their concerns about it.
“The hospital part of the project doesn’t provide the health, safety and welfare of the area that it claims,” said Dr. Edward Sweetser, a Las Cruces orthopaedist. “Frankly, we don’t need a new hospital.”
Las Crucen Tamie Smith was also skeptical about the plans to redevelop the property.
“I think Pofahl’s development is quite a nice development. However, I also feel it is quite the wrong place for it,” Smith said.
Councilor Miguel Silva, the only council member to vote against the rezoning, echoed similar feelings.
“The traffic really does concern me,” said Silva, of the anticipated increase in traffic that he believes development could create. “We’ve got to look beyond walking paths, bike paths that will be there. There’s going to be a local impact.
“There’s also no evidence this is going to bring something to our community. It’s not providing any additional health benefit. …I agree with some public sentiments that this is going to be a shift of service. …I don’t feel comfortable changing something that could be something.”
LAS CRUCES, N.M. — Las Cruces City Council voted to rezone about 30 acres of the Las Cruces Country Club property so a developer can build a new hospital and other facilities on the land.
Council heard arguments for and against the Park Ridge development but ultimately voted in favor of the change with only Councilor Miguel Silva in opposition.
“We think the uses we’ve proposed are the uses that should be on that property,” said Bob Pofahl with the Park Ridge Development Project.
The zoning change will allow for about 23 acres of the property to be used for a 42-bed hospital and about seven acres for a retirement and assisted living facility that would be the anchor of the Park Ridge Community.
During the meeting Las Cruces Country Club Board of Directors President Robert Caldwell became emotional at the realization the property will never be able to return to it’s glory days.
The land is currently not being maintained or watered and most of the water rights have been sold.
“It’s important such a large piece of property in our downtown area does not sit blighted like it’s sitting now,” Caldwell said. “It needs to be developed.”
Some in opposition of the rezoning said it would allow for other types of construction if the developer were to change their mind on a hospital.
Pofahl said they are absolutely committed to the hospital.
“We’re not interested in building anything other than what we put on our master plan,” he said.
Pofahl expects the land acquisition to be completed early next year and hopes Park Ridge, once complete, will transform the vacant property into something for the people.
“This is their neighborhood, he said. “This is where they will live, work and play.”
Editorial from The Las Cruces Sun-News Posted: 08/18/2013 01:00:00 AM MDT
Residents who both support or oppose a proposed hospital and health-center development planned on the old Las Cruces Country Club property will have their chance to make their case before the City Council on Monday when the council is expected to vote on the preliminary round of zoning for the property.
Initially, developers are seeking a zoning change for just the 30 acres where a hospital would be located. Zoning changes for the remaining 80 acres would come later. Developers believe that if zoning is approved for the hospital, it would lure investment to the remainder of the property.
The proposed Park Ridge development has generated a great deal of both interest and controversy since its unveiling. We have a number of questions about the development, including the proposed entrances and exits, impact on existing roadways and plans to cut into Apodaca Park. Legitimate questions have also been raised as to the ownership structure for the hospital and the impact a new, private hospital would have on our existing hospitals.
We don’t think those questions merit a zoning denial at this point, which would put the brakes on the entire proposal.
Several months ago, when the city was considering approval for a proposed strip club, we argued that the zoning process should be strictly limited to ensuring that the proposed business complieswith existing regulations, without making value judgments as to the nature of the business. The same standard should apply here.
The city’s Planning and Zoning Commission approved the zoning change for the hospital on a split vote in June. The City Council held a first reading on the topic two weeks ago, but had no discussion at that time.
That changes Monday. Everybody who wants to be heard will get the chance, and we encourage City Council members to listen carefully and to ask questions of their own. Mayor Ken Miyahishima has suggested that time for public comments could be restricted if the crowd wishing to speak is too large. That would be a mistake, especially given that opponents of the development already believe they have been given short shrift by city officials.
A final solution for the now-deserted country club property has been a lingering issue for our community for years. Now, with a proposal pending that would drastically alter the nature of the neighborhood, is not the time to limit debate or rush the process.
The council is not required to vote on the zoning change Monday. Members can seek more information from staff or the developer if they have unresolved questions.
Earlier in the process, we urged the city to proceed with caution on this project. That advice still holds. But proceeding means approving the initial zoning for the first phase of the project Monday.
By Steve Ramirez
Originally Posted on The Las Cruces Sun-News: 08/17/2013 07:50:14 PM MDT
LAS CRUCES >> The Las Cruces City Council is scheduled to vote Monday on a rezoning application for what could well be the largest in-fill development project in the city’s history.
At Monday’s 1 p.m. meeting, the council could vote on the rezoning of 30.75 acres at the former Las Cruces Country Club, 2700 N. Main St. Council’s approval of plans for a private hospital will determine if the developers of the Park Ridge Retail/Residential/Medical Campus will close on a multi-million dollar sale of the property. If the council votes against the rezoning, the sale of the 110-acre country club property the sale would likely fall through.
The city’s Planning and Zoning Commission voted 3-2 in June to recommend approval of the rezoning. That came after lengthy testimony for and against the project, which could convert the former golf course into what developers have called an “urban community,” that would include a hospital, physical rehabilitation facility, townhouses and condominiums, and shops, stores and restaurants.
Plans, also call for walking paths and trails that would be linked to existing facilities the city has nearby, an addition of as much as seven acres of land to adjacent Apodaca Park, and sewer-service hookups for 18 homes near the country club property that have been connected to septic systems for years.
An organized effort to oppose the zoning change, led mostly by residents who live near the proposed development, has raised several objections: among them, that the ownership structure for the hospital, as laid out in information presented to the city, is illegal under federal law; the medical group behind the hospital would be unable to get a license in New Mexico because of past Medicaid violations; and proposed changes to Apodaca Park could not be done without federal approval.
Despite those objections, there appears to be growing public support for the project. A petition with as many as 800 signatures from residents has been submitted to city officials endorsing the project. It was forwarded to the council in a large packet of information, details and background on the proposal.
“I support the Park Ridge Project for a number of reasons,” said Tim Zagurski, who has lived in Las Cruces since 2006. “First and foremost, I believe that private spending is the best way to revamp neglected areas. If investors can pick up the bill, all the better for the rest of the tax-paying population. I feel that the mixed-use plan for Park Ridge is the future of successful developments.”
Some residents living in the country club neighborhood have said their neighbors who have raised concerns or have publicly spoken against the project do not speak for them. Some of them told Planning and Zoning Commission they believe the proposed improvements will increase the values of their properties.
“We have conducted numerous, multiple public meetings to inform and educate people about the project,” said Jake Redfern, an associate broker with NAI 1st Valley, the real estate company hired by country club members to help sell the property. “Recently, the developer of the project, Bob Pofahl, conducted a family day at the country club to answer questions and provide details about the project, and there was probably between 500 to 700 people who came. The takeaway from that event was that there was a huge exchange in favor of the park.”
Not all agree.
“There’s still too many unanswered questions, not enough details to suit me,” said Las Crucen Rebecca Graham. “This has been a nice, quiet neighborhood for a long time, and now it seems they want to put in a lot of things that just may not fit with our community. A lot more thought by everybody needs to go into this.”
Las Crucen Greg Suarez is also a bit skeptical about what’s been proposed so far.
“Like a lot of people, I would have preferred that area stayed a green space. Until the last year or two, it was the largest green space the city had. I don’t think it’s too late to keep it that way. I want to see more attention paid to that.”
Robert Caldwell, president of the country club board of directors, who are petitioners for the zone change, said redevelopment of the property will once again enable it to be a positive contributor to the community. Since the country club closed in late 2011, it has gone into stages of disrepair, and country club members have done what they could to maintain its condition, Caldwell said. But there is consensus among residents that what was once a nice green area of the city has declined.
Caldwell said the club needs to sell the property for its survival, but they can also empathize with what the country club has meant to many other Las Crucens.
“Unfortunately, at this location, there will no longer be a golf course,” Caldwell said. “This saddens the LCCC membership for many reasons; we do not have a home to play golf, the nonprofit activities and events supported by the Club had to find other avenues to fundraise, practice and tournament facilities for our youth were reduced, public-use facilities such as a voting or polling place was moved after many years and the community lost a place to celebrate weddings, graduations and anniversaries.”