An 8-acre parcel of land on the Southside has become a battleground for longtime residents, a local Buddhist center and a developer who wants to put in a dense grouping of manufactured homes.
The land's current occupants are cacti, dry grass and prairie dogs—they're caught between the KSK Buddhist Center's hard-to-miss spire, busy Airport Road and a slew of manufactured home neighborhoods.
This stretch of Geo Lane runs perpendicular to Airport Road near the Santa Fe Country Club and has long been zoned as institutional, which means building a church or school on the property would be OK. But the owner of the land, GEO Park, LLC, has different ideas.
So far, John Reeder, the company's agent, has convinced the Planning Commission to recommend rezoning the area to residential, but has not been able to gather enough support to have it zoned "Residential 6," which would allow for about 51 manufactured homes, six on each acre.
In June, the Planning Commission told the developer to go back to the drawing board with a plan and recommended something less than R-6. R-4 zoning would allow for 34 structures; R-5 would allow for 42 structures.
Debra Snyderman, a resident who has lived next to the property for 31 years, is concerned the developer wants to choke the area with rows of lower-quality homes without considering how their eventual residents would impact the area, which already struggles for services.
A chorus of nearby residents, including Snyderman, have brought up concerns regarding the value and quality of life offered by manufactured homes, known as mobile homes or trailers before 1976, when the government set up regulations regarding how they have to be constructed.
"Geo Lane Park is a plan for another unhealthy, densely concentrated, impoverished neighborhood within a larger community that does not have the needed amenities to assist the growing numbers of poor people with the means for getting out of poverty," Snyderman wrote in a letter to Mayor Alan Webber and councilors Roman "Tiger" Abeyta and Chris Rivera.
Reeder tells SFR that the developer is considering some of the neighbors' and council members' worries from previous Early Neighborhood Notification and planning meetings. They are currently working with the parks department to see if the city will potentially accept about a third of an acre to maintain.
"We don't have a definitive yes but they're considering it," Reeder says. "It's hard to get the city of Santa Fe to accept a park because they say they can't properly maintain what they already have. But they haven't said no."
The developers are also working with Homewise to offer low-interest financing in order to "get a mix of housing," including the less expensive manufactured homes and stick-built homes, while also hoping to set up covenants to ban recreational vehicles from being used as "accessory dwelling units," commonly known as casitas. Homewise helps people buy, sell or refinance their homes.
According to Lee Logston, a senior planner in the city's Land Use Department, the developer believes that manufactured homes are the preferred choice over stick-built in order to turn a profit because of high land costs and the demand for a particular price point on the Southside.
Synderman says she and other residents are also concerned about traffic safety.
There are five public schools within walking distance of Geo Lane Park, all south of Airport Road.
Snyderman, who has lived in her house next to the Buddhist center for several decades and eventually joined the center, tells SFR that she often sees children, sometimes alone, sometimes with parents, crossing the road in between spurts of traffic because there aren't crosswalks. She thinks the city needs to consider residents' safety before approving another large development in the area.
"They let these developers come in and most of them are just looking to make money," Snyderman says. "They have no concerns about what they create for the people that are going to end up being here."
Geo Lane is a narrow dead-end road that only comfortably fits one car and the turning lane from Airport Road onto Geo Lane only fits three to four cars at a time. This, residents say, will create safety and accessibility problems with so many additional cars.
The City Council was set to take up a proposal Aug. 28 to rezone the land from institutional to low-density residential. But the developer did not post required informational posters in nearby neighborhoods with a summary and date of the hearing before the meeting, so the item was withdrawn from the agenda, Logston tells SFR.
For now, the development has been delayed. Logston says a new proposal for low-density residential with zoning less than R-6 would not likely land before the full council again until January 2020 at the soonest.
If the developer gets rezoning permission, the next step is rezoning, then a development plan for the potential subdivision that will have to go through at least two more planning commission meetings, Logston says.
Reeder tells SFR that he plans to return to the planning commission with a new proposal in October and one to two more Early Neighborhood Notification meetings for residents to air their concerns.
"I would like John Reeder and all of you who get to decide whether or not this project gets approved to answer this question," Snyderman wrote in an email to Webber, Abeyta and Rivera. "Does Geo Lane Park sound like a place where you would like to live? If your answer is no, please let your conscience be your guide."
But Logston doesn't believe the city code lays the city's larger Southside struggles at the feet of the proposed project.
"We can't lay it on this developer to solve problems on the Southside," Logston tells SFR.