Edgewood is moving forward with a new infill annexation petition, six years after it first attempted to fill in its checkerboard boundaries.
Mayor Brad Hill said the town is ready to go forward with a petition to the Municipal Boundary Commission, which in 2009 denied Edgewood’s petition, setting up a years-long appeal process which the town eventually lost.
The original annexation request was for 1,787 acres and was unanimously voted down by the Boundary Commission; Hill didn’t have the acreage on the current petition in front of him when he spoke with The Independent on Tuesday.
The Boundary Commission said in 2009 that Edgewood should do long-term planning for government services like water and wastewater systems and road maintenance, and suggested trying to get landowners to come into the town voluntarily.
The commission considered whether the land to be annexed was contiguous and whether the town could provide services in a reasonable time. The denial hinged on services.
In 2010, the state’s response to Edgewood’s appeal in district court characterized the town as “a territory-hungry municipality” and said the town didn’t prove it could provide services.
While Edgewood had argued that the Boundary Commission could only consider whether the land was contiguous and whether services could be provided within a reasonable time, the Appeals Court then said the Commission could also “determine the statutory sufficiency of the petition.”
In the opinion, it pointed to state statutes requiring permission from other government subdivisions, like Santa Fe County, to annex the roads.
Hill, along with town councilors John Abrams and Chuck Ring, said Edgewood has answered the objections in the original petition, and said they hope for a different result.
“I think the most substantive difference and the reason it ultimately came down to a Supreme Court ruling was that there was confusion over the roads from Santa Fe County,” Hill said. “So we’ve corrected that. We do have an agreement now with Santa Fe County regarding the roads in the annexation areas. That was the only obstacle and that’s been rectified.”
Hill said he feels the town has “met all the statutory requirements under the Boundary Commission” adding, “I’m confident this should move forward appropriately and be accepted.”
Hill also said, “What drove a lot of the petition on what properties we’re bringing in were the roads—we want to make sure we have town control over our main arterials.” He said maintenance has been inconsistent on county roads surrounded by the town.
Abrams agreed. “One of the biggest reasons to try it again is because of roads,” he said in a Tuesday interview with The Independent. “We are working very well with the county, don’t get me wrong. However, to have a clear boundary edge has been something that has been pretty important to me for quite a long time now.”
Abrams mentioned road workers having to decide while plowing in winter “whether to lift the blade” between jurisdictions. “Sorting out our boundaries will fix some of that problem.”
Abrams added, “We got poked in the nose last time, but we’ve learned a lot. From that request we will have addressed all of the issues that were in question with the first go-round.”
According to Abrams, the matter will now come up for public hearing, although the preliminary agenda for Edgewood’s Nov. 4 meeting does not contain an item on the infill annexation petition.
Councilor Rita Loy Simmons described herself as a “cautionary voice” in the process. She said the town’s push to maintain all of the roads inside its boundaries is a result of new leadership.
“We all want apple pie and motherhood—we do,” Simmons said. “And I think the leadership has managed to get some buildings built. … I think the desire to be more proactive with roads is good.”
Asked what would happen if the infill annexation were approved and the town couldn’t afford to maintain all of the roads, Simmons said, “We just might have more than we can chew,” but added, “The current administration has been pretty good about looking for grants and finding money. … Government by and large has bitten off more than it can chew, and that’s not just local. … When you don’t have the money, you don’t have the money. You rearrange the schedule, you space maintenance out.”
Ring said Edgewood has never abandoned its desire to annex the property and said it “wasn’t correctly handled before,” adding, “We could have done a better job it we had made clear that we do have police, fire protection a road department. The [Boundary Commission] was left with the impression that we didn’t have any of those things.”
New Edgewood residents would gain the ability “to vote for the people who live the closest to them, and not have to go to Santa Fe for a lot of things they presently have to go to Santa Fe for.”
The main benefit to the town, Ring said, is tax revenue.
“The benefit is the property tax of course is probably foremost,” Ring said. “But we also have an opportunity to—and I’m not trying to be funny or facetious when I say this—we have an opportunity to make people’s lives better by paving roads.” He added, “I’m not a tax and spend person by any stretch, except that it makes sense if you’re going to tax, you need to spend for the common good. And if you’re going to have improvements, everybody should pay their share, pay for a portion of the wear and tear on the roads.”
Hill said the time frame for the new petition will depend on the Boundary Commission, but added that he is hopeful that the town will get a response “within a couple of weeks and we’re hopeful they can convene within 30 days.”
“I was shocked at the first result,” Simmons said, adding, “Edgewood’s an anomaly. It’s there because private enterprise built it then tried to get it incorporated based on what private enterprise had been able to finance. … The infill annexation I have mixed feelings about. I understand the government would like to be all things to all people all the time, but we have the constraints of budget.”