• Some residents plan to continue fight against it


A 10-acre, 216-unit apartment complex, which some call low-income housing and others work-force housing, came one step closer to becoming a reality when the Rio Rancho Governing Body, in a vote of 5 to 1, approved the project’s initial site plan application at its August 11 meeting.

Both opponents and proponents of the Sandoval Flats project, slated to be in the Vista Entrada area, showed up at Thursday’s meeting to share their views with Governing Body.

Even before Planning and Zoning Division manager Maida Rubin addressed the Body, Mayor Gregg Hull, perhaps expecting a more contentious crowd, carefully laid out the rules participants needed to follow in order to ensure civility and decorum:

  • Limit conversation to the site plan;
  • Does the site plan conform to Rio Rancho ordinances;
  • And is the site plan legal.

Once Hull finished with the parameters, Rubin provided a brief history of the project, which dates back to 2009.

At that time, residents objected to the project and sued the City of Rio Rancho and the landowner Alto Bonito, LLC. Instead of going to court, the parties entered into a settlement agreement that established restrictions on how the land could be developed. Those restrictions included maximum building height and density and required that any future developer, in this case Dominium Development, notify residents by mail 30 days prior to submitting a site plan.

Proponents of the project, including Dominium V.P. and Project Planner, Ron Mehr, consistently articulated how Sandoval Flats met or exceeded each of the restrictions the Settlement Agreement established.

For example, the Agreement called for no more than 320 dwelling units to be built with a maximum height of 42 feet. The Sandoval Flats project will be limited to 216 dwelling units with a maximum height of 40 feet.

Other proponents of the project, including attorney Matt Spangler who helped draft the 2009 Settlement Agreement, spoke at length about the need for affordable housing in Rio Rancho.

Vista Entrada resident and one of the signers of the 2009 Agreement, Helene Apper, maintained her objection to the development had nothing to do with being against affordable housing. She simply wanted the project to be done correctly and said she’d never received notice from Dominium. Additionally, Apper maintained that the apartment buildings will be higher than 40 feet because of dirt brought onto the lot.

Another Vista Entrada resident, Meaghan Ellsworth, also had no objection to the type of complex the project was, saying, “I don’t care if it’s work-force or affordable housing, the issue is the Master Plan was done in 2009.”

She urged the body to vote no until the studies were more current and a traffic study could be updated.

City Manager Matt Geisel later explained that traffic studies are done during the building phase and not during site plan approval.

The vote to approve the site plan was 5 in favor, with Councilor Bob Tyler voting against.

Contacted later for comment, Apper said she and the other residents would continue to fight the Sandoval Flats Project.