Mayor Gregg Hull, far left, recognizes the Kiwanis Club of Rio Rancho and Waste Management for their support of the Rally in the Desert litter cleanup this fall, as well as AMREP, Hewlett Packard and Jacobs Engineering Group for being the teams that cleaned up the most trash during the event. AMREP picked up 6.1 tons of trash and donated the prize money to the Rio Rancho Police Department Explorers Post; HP picked up 4.16 tons and gave the prize money to the New Mexico Forest Re-Leaf Program; and Jacobs Engineering removed 2.49 tons of litter and donated the prize money to Haven House domestic violence shelter. (Argen Marie Duncan photo.)

Los Diamantes subdivision is on track to get an apartment complex and medium-density residential development, but the Rio Rancho Governing Body delayed a decision to allow for changes in plans to compromise with neighbors.

Developer Pierre Amestoy presented requests to change the land-use zoning, master plan and specific area plan for the southwest Rio Rancho subdivision at the governing body meeting Thursday night at City Hall. After neighbors complained, governing body members voted unanimously to postpone the matter until Jan. 26.

The tract of land in question is north of Westside Boulevard, and Viga Road runs through it. It’s zoned R-2, the second-lowest density residential classification. It was previously zoned as a business park.

Amestoy proposed adding a strip of lots zoned R-1, the lowest-density residential use, to the parcel to be rezoned. Most of the land would be single-family, medium-density homes matching what’s already being built to the southeast, with a 250-unit apartment complex in the northwest corner.

Amestoy said the 10-acre apartment complex would be gated, with rent at the market rate. Two-story townhomes would go in the northwest corner of the complex to serve as a buffer between the adjacent R-1 lots and the garden-style apartments.

With high interest rates, he said, a lot of people can’t afford to buy $300,000-$400,000 homes, and young professionals are looking for housing like the proposed apartments.

“This is an option needed in Rio Rancho,” Amestoy said.

Several homeowners in the nearby R-1 land expressed concerns about the apartments creating traffic, noise, crime and light pollution, and the proposed buffer not being instituted as a zoning ordinance.

“It’s going to really change the character of our community,” said Daniel Aranda, who lives on Aztec Sun Court in the Heritage Hills development.

He asked that the apartments be moved south to abut Westside to allow for a zoned buffer.

Katherine Christensen, who lives on 15th Avenue, said she and her husband chose their land because it had a remote feel while still being near the city. The neighborhood has great views and neighbors who watch out for each other, she continued.

“We understand progress, and we understand we will be surrounded by higher-density housing eventually,” Christensen said.

She didn’t understand why the apartments needed to be against the Heritage Hills neighborhood, she continued.

Amestoy said when the land in question was zoned as R-2, the ordinance gave him the option to request that 15 acres anywhere in it be rezoned for multi-family housing in the future. He thought asking for 10 acres of multi-family housing would be more acceptable to the neighbors and said the apartment developer had picked the exact location.

The governing body members asked Amestoy about moving the apartment complex to the southwest corner of the land, and changing the zoning request to either make the medium-density townhomes on the northern edge of the complex a specific part of the zoning or require a site plan to come back before the governing body.

Amestoy said he would need to speak with the apartment developer, but he thought those changes were doable.

“I want to be a good neighbor,” he said. “I don’t want to fight.”

Councilor Karissa Culbreath said she thought the development was overall good and addressed real needs.

“I think we’re definitely moving in the right direction, and I appreciate you coming and bringing this product before us today,” she told Amestoy.

City Development Director Amy Rincon said her staff could work with Amestoy to amend the land-use change request and get it back before the governing body by the second meeting in January.

In other business, governing body members:

  • Approved two industrial revenue bonds for a total of $850 million for an Atrisco Energy Storage and Atrisco Solar project in the Quail Ranch subdivision. Atrisco, not the city, takes on the debt, and the city provides a tax break as an economic development incentive.
  • Recognized local high school teams who won state championships this fall.
  • Recognized the teams who cleaned up the most litter during the Rally in the Desert cleanup in the fall.

Approved zoning and master plan amendments for more development in the Mountain Hawk subdivision.