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Cheers and boos flew with shovels of dirt Wednesday during the ceremonial groundbreaking for a controversial multi-use project at Fourth and Osuna in the Village of Los Ranchos de Albuquerque.

Even as village and Bernalillo County officials touted the project – a 204-unit affordable housing complex and 20 micro-retail tenant spaces – as a dream come true and an opportunity for enhanced revenue, several dozen protesters stood by holding signs bearing such messages as “Not Approved By Residents,” “Stop Landscam, Urban Slam, Traffic Jam” and “Keep Los Ranchos Green.”

The high-density project, often referred to as the Village Center, is opposed by many residents of Los Ranchos, which was incorporated in 1958 to retain a rural and agricultural lifestyle.

Named Trailhead at Chamizal, the project is being developed by Palindrome, a Portland, Oregon, company, on the northernmost portion of a 12.5-acre site at the southeast corner of Fourth and Osuna NW. Future development by Palindrome on the southern portion of the property is expected to result in as many as 60 houses.

“Today is an exciting day for the Village of Los Ranchos,” said Village Mayor Donald Lopez. “It opens the village to people who could not otherwise afford to live here. It improves a corner that was in economic decline. And it brings much-needed capital into the village.”

Bernalillo County Manager Julie Morgas Baca said the project will provide residences, entertainment and shopping.

“This is an opportunity for hardworking people to live in our beautiful village,” said Morgas Baca, who is a 25-year resident of Los Ranchos. “Our small businesses need our support and our village needs the revenue.”

Bernalillo County Sheriff deputies attempt to maintain order as Los Ranchos de Albuquerque residents protest a groundreaking ceremony for a controversial project at Fourth and Osuna NW. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

The project was approved by Village of Los Ranchos trustees in 2020.

Bernalillo County issued more than $29 million in project revenue bonds to fund the acquisition of land, construction and equipping of the 204-unit housing complex, approximately 20 micro-retail tenant spaces, a public outdoor dining patio and a small amphitheater. A county news release notes that multi-family housing revenue bonds do not result in a debt for the county.

“We were led to believe (the project) would be more commercial than it will be,” he said. “We were not led to believe it would be low-income housing. Low-income housing does not seem to add up to revenue.”

In recent village meetings, residents have voiced concern that the Palindrome project, along with three others in the Osuna and Fourth area – one already approved and two in planning stages – will create a traffic nightmare, and destroy a rural way of life enjoyed by villagers and vital to wildlife.

In September, a residents’ organization called Friends of Los Ranchos filed a complaint in 2nd Judicial District Court stating that the village acted improperly in designating the Palindrome project site as blighted and selling the property to Palindrome for $1 per parcel.

“We Liked the Old Blight,” one protester’s sign read.

The village has filed a motion to dismiss the complaint and both sides now await a hearing on the matter as work on the project proceeds.

“The fight ain’t over,” village resident Cvetic said. “We’ve got some irons in the fire, and we are just hoping they become horseshoes.”