Tijeras residents opposing a planned bus depot by Albuquerque Public Schools are poised to take legal action against if the school district doesn’t back down from its controversial location.

Meanwhile, Kizito Wijenje, executive director of Capital Master Plan for APS, sent an email March 4 to Tijeras mayor Jake Bruton, which contained among other things a timeline including this item, “March 4, 2021: APS sends link to all East Mountain residents for feedback on proposed East Mountain Bus Depot.”

The next step on the document’s timeline after that is a meeting conducted by APS for East Mountain residents “that will outline/review all feedback, proposals, and ways forward” in April or May.

A handful of residents spoke at an APS school board meeting March 3, expressing concerns about the aquifer and water contamination, displaced wildlife the project would cause, and a restrictive covenant on the land that says APS agreed it would build an elementary school there.

According to the letter to APS from attorney Joseph Karnes, Wijenje made an error in saying that APS does not have to abide by zoning regulations and other restrictions because it has its own quasi-government. “We all make mistakes and the proper thing to do when a mistake is discovered is to correct it,” the letter says. “In this case, the proper correction is for the APS School Board to rescind its approval of the bus depot site.”

The letter continues, “Rather than respond to my [previous] letter or abandon its plans, my clients understand that APS administration plans to carry out a survey regarding the proposed bus depot followed by a ‘public information meeting.’”

Karnes attached documents including a memo seeking a discussion item stating, “Issues that will be required to be addressed prior to an acquisition … include zoning, existing restrictive covenants, soil conditions, access to adequate water supplies, and drainage mitigation.”

Those covenants “expressly state” that they are binding on future owners of the property and “are referenced on the face of APS’ deed,” Karnes wrote.

“Until such time, the planned survey and community meeting are misguided and threaten to waste additional public resources,” Karnes wrote.

The letter goes on to say that if APS doesn’t respond to the legal issues raised in Karnes’ Feb. 16 letter by March 10, he is authorized to file a lawsuit on behalf of his clients.

Karnes also provided a change.org petition with more than 800 signatures, many from outside New Mexico.

According to that petition, the main concerns of the bus depot’s opponents include potential contamination of the water supply, water use, air pollution, aesthetics, traffic and noise.

“We are all neighbors and we hope that APS will also be a neighbor by considering their impact on the area surrounding their property,” the petition says. “There are nearby areas owned by APS that would be better suited for a bus depot, and that would not have an impact on nearby residents.

According to FAQ from Wijenje, the depot would serve about 1,000 East Mountain students.

The facility would house 24 drivers, three attendants, four staff and a mechanic, and would be designed with a future capacity of 50 buses, according to the FAQ. Currently there are 22 buses operating in the East Mountains.

Architect’s rendering of the proposed bus depot from APS.

The FAQ also addresses “environmental questions,” and says “there should be no seepage of fluids,” adding that the lot would be paved, and that APS would comply with the N.M. Environment Department on storage of fuel and fluids.

In addition, it says the site landscape would include native plants and water management, and a water recycling system for the bus wash “is being considered” to reduce water use.

The anticipated cost of the project is just under $5 million, but the project has not yet gone out to bid, according to the FAQ.

The time frame “will be finalized after public input process is complete and recommendations are adopted,” the FAQ says.

On questions about the location, and restrictive covenants on the property, the FAQ says APS is “currently getting an official legal opinion as to the status and extent of any binding covenants on all the parcels that are recommended for this project.”

It says the proposed location is “the only viable piece in the vicinity of any magnitude, and APS was fortunate to acquire it at a reasonable price when Walmart decided not to locate in Tijeras but further east in Edgewood.”

The FAQ says APS is working with Bernalillo County Commissioner Charlene Pyskoty to consider providing alternative county land as a swap for the proposed bus depot.