Missed Connections

Santa Fe mayor, council scrap deal to buy 23 acres for Richards Avenue connection

The fate of 23 acres of land in the middle of Santa Fe owned by the state Game and Fish Department remains uncertain after city leaders on Monday scrapped a deal to buy the property for an extension of Richards Avenue between Siringo Road and Rodeo Road.

The state Game Commission rejected the city government’s latest offer to buy the property for about $2.1 million on Friday. Instead, the commission directed Game and Fish Department staff to hire a real estate agent to put the property up for sale on the open market.

The city’s governing body responded with a special session on Monday night and unanimously voted to call off the purchase.

The deal’s collapse sets back long-discussed plans by the city government to connect the northern and southern ends of Richards Avenue, a move that backers argue would alleviate traffic on the southwest end of Santa Fe but which neighbors maintain would steer more drivers down residential streets.

But city officials are not abandoning plans for the Richards Avenue connection.

“We will fully move forward with the project,” Public Works Director Regina Wheeler told the council.

The city will just have to acquire the land some other way.

District 1 Councilor Signe Lindell raised the prospect of using eminent domain—an option if negotiations fall through with a future private owner, city officials say.

The Game and Fish Department initially sought $3 million for the property just north of the Genoveva Chavez Community Center. Largely undeveloped and bisected by Arroyo de los Chamisos, the property has long been considered by the department for offloading. But city officials say the department was uninterested in selling off just a portion of it to extend Richards Avenue and aimed to sell the whole plot.

However, an assessor for the city said the land was only worth about $1.4 million, not close to what the commission was seeking.

The city and Game and Fish Department got a third appraiser, who came back with a different price: $2.1 million.

The third appraiser said the other prices were based on comparisons to property sales that in some instances were several years old or didn’t reflect the physical characteristics of the property.

Councilors agreed to the $2.1 million price during a meeting on Jan. 11. But the commission rejected that offer with no explanation after a closed-door session on Friday and voted instead to put the property up for sale on the open market.

The move seemed to surprise or at least confound city leaders, who say the department previously had treated the sale as urgent.

A spokesperson for the Game Commission did not respond to SFR’s questions about the decision on Friday.

Mayor Alan Webber tells SFR he expects the city will still be able to buy the parcels of land it needs to build the connection between the northern and southern ends of Richards Avenue. But he would have liked the city to be able to use the larger property for affordable housing.

“It’s a punted opportunity,” he says.

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