The City of Las Cruces recently purchased vacant land between MountainView Regional Medical Center and the Las Alamedas subdivision. It’s empty now, but some city officials see it as prime real estate, with the potential to boost the local economy. Nearby residents, though, have some concerns about new development in their backyard, which they voiced at a recent community meeting about the site.
Look out past the Las Alamedas subdivision, and there’s a wide swath of empty land, all dirt, desert shrubs and crushed, rusted cans. It’s the city’s former landfill, an it’s sat vacant for years. But in the not-so-distant future, it could become a site for commercial development.
“You’re right in the middle of the most expensive commercial real estate in the City of Las Cruces,” Mayor Ken Miyagishima said at the meeting. “And that’s an asset that’s gonna belong to the city, to the residents.”
That vacant land – about 100 acres in total – hasn’t always belonged to the city. As part of a bizarre-sounding land swamp, Albuquerque took over the plot back in the 1980s.
But now it’s back in local hands. Las Cruces purchased the land for about $750,000 last year. Soon, the city will start cleaning it up, and coming up with a vision for what’s long been empty space.
Mayor Miyagishima sees lots of economic potential. For example, he says, the city could lease some of the land to private businesses. “And then that’s income for the city,” he said. “If that brings in one or two million dollars a year in lease payments to the city, that’s a lot of money. That’s future taxes that don’t have to be raised.”
Because the land is right next to Lohman Avenue, Miyagishima said, it’s a premier location for commercial business. And he can also envision a new subdivision “that has walking trails, walking paths, bike paths, that if they wanted to walk from the Los Alamedas area to these businesses, you could walk back and forth, there wouldn’t be any congestion.”
But some community members – including those who currently live in Las Alamedas – have concerns, which they were quick to voice at the meeting. Many residents said they bought homes in the area because of the open space and arresting views.
“My question is, is there a possibility that you can develop it in such a way that you can leave it in its natural state,” asked one resident. “Because part of the beauty of this residential area is the arroyo. It’s the vacant land. It’s the wildlife. So does it have to be developed commercially as opposed to leaving it as an open, natural area to add to the beauty, not only for us as residents but for the city well?”
“Everybody in the development, you talk to them and why did we buy there? Because the master plan said that was open space, that it would probably never be developed,” said another resident.
Others worried about potential health risks, as the land is remediated, though Miyagishima says there have already been health assessments. And one community member said the city should focus on developing other, more neglected parts of the city.
Dolores Demers came to the meeting to learn more about plans for the site. She says she’s concerned about the lack of flood water management planning, whenever new subdivisions are built.
“Whenever you start putting impervious surfaces right next to an arroyo system- and there is an arroyo system right north of the Alameda Southridge community and south of Lohman- it has great potential to cause extreme harm to homeowners who are downstream,” Demers said. “They’re talking about developing it, which they probably need to develop it. You need to give the land to the highest and best use. But what will be the impact to that arroyo?”
During the meeting, Mayor Miyagishima stressed that there aren’t any current plans for the site. He says it’s up to city council and residents to come up with a vision. At this point, the city is simply beginning to clean up the land.
Larry Nichols is the Director of Community Development for the City of Las Cruces. He provided a broad overview of how the development process works - in the hopes of putting some community members at ease.
“What I would hope for is that in tonight’s meeting that they received information to know that a development just doesn’t happen happenstance, with no review or regulation or any kind of direction,” Nichols said. “It’s very comprehensive to get a development to the stage of being able to build on.”
Mayor Miyagishima said the city will host a press conference soon, to start a wider community conversation about the site.