Las Cruces Sun-New EditorialPosted 8/18/2013 at the Las Cruces Sun-News
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 complies with 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.