It was a meeting so long that it recessed for the night sometime after midnight and reconvened the next day, ending with unanimous approval of an amended Campbell Ranch master plan, which was first approved by Edgewood in 2002.
Edgewood has jurisdiction over part of the Campbell Ranch master plan area, which extends into Bernalillo and Sandoval counties as well, after a controversial annexation of Campbell Ranch not long after the town’s incorporation in 1999.
The amended master plan gives no development rights to Campbell Ranch, which sought and received several changes to its 20-year-old concept—which in its new form would develop clusters of housing on small lots surrounded by shared open space, including medium-range housing price points.
In spite of the length of the virtual meeting, more than 200 people had called in, with about 50 more watching a livestream on the town’s Facebook page. Both streams were plagued with technical difficulties, making it difficult or impossible to hear or see the proceedings at times, especially on the first day.
The meeting of Edgewood’s planning and zoning commission included a public hearing on the request by Campbell, and was a quasi-judicial proceeding. That means the commission is acting almost as a courtroom; witnesses are sworn in and the parties are able to cross-examine each other.
This reporter heard no one sworn in to testify, although an attempt was made at a blanket swearing-in on the first night by chairman Glenn Felton.
While the presentation by Steve Kellenberg, one of Campbell Ranch’s design team, showed a vision of walking trails, agriculture and shared spaces, keeping the overall density as it was 20 years ago, most of the people who commented or had questions for Campbell focused on the availability of water—or lack thereof.
Other concerns voiced had to do with the size of the development at full buildout, which Campbell CEO Robert Gately estimated would take 10 to 20 years. The master plan shows four villages plus commercial areas, with a total of 4,000 dwellings. Three of those villages are within Edgewood’s municipal boundaries, while one lies in Bernalillo County.
The master plan had previously shown two golf courses, but one was removed in the amendment in favor of increased open space.
The big change is the creation of a process by which Campbell can sell parcels of 50 acres or more to a developer. That developer would then approach Edgewood’s planning and zoning commission at the point of subdivision for approval to start building.
It’s at that point that concerns including water, suitability to the area or traffic should be addressed, Felton said, and that a sub-developer would be responsible for showing proof of water availability.
Gately said a master plan, taking into account the development as a whole, is better than the “piecemeal” development under county zoning, which allows a house for every two acres in that area.
Bernalillo County representative Dan McGregor offered testimony and submitted written comments to the town. He said that the county recognizes Edgewood’s jurisdiction over most of the master-planned area, adding, “In doing so, Bernalillo County does not yield or subrogate its own jurisdictional authorities or duties over the areas west of Hwy 14 and referred to as Village 1 or alternately as the Triangle Ranch. Bernalillo County also respectfully submits to the Town of Edgewood council that Bernalillo County has never approved the Campbell Ranch Master Plan either in whole or in part.”
McGregor said Bernalillo County first reviewed the same master plan in 2000 before the area was annexed by Edgewood, when Campbell approached the new town for approval after that annexation. At that time, the same concerns about water and suitability for the area were raised.
McGregor said Bernalillo County is concerned about the age of the traffic study; the status of agreements for providing fire and law enforcement protection for Campbell Ranch; total water demand and potential impact on San Pedro Creek; the shift of housing from Village 1 (in Bernalillo County) to Village 2 (in Edgewood); water conservation measures; and wastewater treatment.
“The minimal water conservation suggestions in the existing Master Plan (written in 2000) are badly out of date compared to current state of practice and are inconsistent with the more stringent water budget assumptions presented by Aquifer Science (of which Campbell Ranch is a 5% holder) in district court,” McGregor wrote.
He said in an interview with The Independent that the county “heeds and tries to be respectful of that boundary unless there’s an overlapping interest,” describing the changes to the highway intersection and water supply as such.
Other complicating issues include various lawsuits in the intervening 20 years in which Campbell has sought to convert agricultural water rights to commercial.
According to Deep Well Protest, a group that sprung up when Campbell sought and then drilled at least one well to a depth of about 3,500 feet, an appeal by Aquifer Science is pending.
Concerns about water and the size of the development were at the forefront of those who commented during the public hearing.
Others cited the age of the traffic study conducted for the master plan, as one of the changes places the entrance into Campbell Ranch directly across from the entrance to Paa-ko. Kellenberg agreed that a traffic analysis is needed.
Kellenberg said commercial development would start after there are enough “rooftops” to sustain a commercial area, but had no answer as to how many homes or 50-acre parcels sold that would mean. “We’ll try and get some services out there as soon as possible,” he said, adding, “We’ll be as aggressive as we can.”
Some homes on the master plan could be developed using domestic wells, while others could seek water from a nearby water system like Entranosa or Epcor.
Wastewater would be managed by small-scale systems, Gately said, and would include reuse of effluent.
“You’re looking for the same loophole as every other developer,” said adjacent landowner Zach Withers, who noted that the State Engineer “is required to give a domestic well permit to anyone with a housing permit.”
Felton said the State Engineer’s office “took themselves out of the equation” and no longer requires proof of a 70-year water supply.
“You’re passing the buck,” Withers said. “Who is going to be responsible?”
Gately said that benefits of a master plan include “thinking all these things through” on a larger scale before building. As the master developer, Campbell would oversee any builders, along with providing basic infrastructure.
He said that in the past 75 years that his family has owned Campbell Ranch, that Bernalillo County has not provided water or sewer service to the area. He said Campbell was trying to go to “attainable-priced housing” to meet demand, adding “To meet this level of tension and attention is pretty interesting.”
“If we can’t ever get water for 4,000 homes, then 4,000 homes will never be built,” Gately said.
Gately said in an email to The Independent that on 8,000 acres of private property, 4,000 homes could be built, “all on unmonitored individual well and septic,” adding, “Most would agree creating a more compact footprint for development and leaving most of the land as open space, including the 3,000 acre Monte Largo (South Mountain) reserve, is much more sustainable as well as providing a greater diversity of housing types.”
Edgewood resident Karen Kiser gave the lone testimony in support of the request to amend the master plan. “The changes they seek are respectful and responsive,” she said, adding that there is a need for housing and lauding the removal of a golf course.
Most participants in the hours-long public hearing aligned with the testimony of Jason Espinoza, who called the development the “Californication of New Mexico” and said it would destroy the Turquoise Trail, a scenic byway, vastly changing the way of life in the area—if not destroying it altogether if wells go dry.
“Physically parts of the East Mountains including Campbell Ranch area sit above one of the best aquifers in the entire state,” Gately wrote to The Independent in response to a question about whether the area can support the master-planned development. “The areas that have more than abundant water should have been managed … to ensure that areas that had abundance could supply the areas that did not. … In any event, Campbell owns water rights outside the basin that can be piped in which will add even more to the basin.”
After the commission unanimously passed an amended master plan, including several changes offered by the town, Felton said that its decision was likely to be appealed.
That appeal process would go first to the town council (or if after Jan. 1, the new town commission); a decision by the council could then be appealed to district court.