The Rio Rancho Planning and Zoning Board recommended a plan to build 80 single-family homes off Montreal Loop. Part of the plan would remove a hill that some nearby residents view as sacred. (Gregory Hasman/Observer)

Some Enchanted Hills residents are not happy about the possibility of new homes being built in their neighborhood.  

The Rio Rancho Planning and Zoning Board has recommended a request to implement the Montreal Mini Master Plan, which would create 80 single-family residential lots on about 20 acres of vacant land northwest of Mountain View Middle School between Lomas Encantadas and Enchanted Hills Unit 2.

The property was previously split from a lot that included the school and was owned by Rio Rancho Public Schools before it was sold to AMREP Southwest.  

Prior to the lot split, the parcel’s land use was classified as civic/school. The developer is seeking to change the land use to low- and medium-density residential, according to a board meeting packet. 

The sacred hill  

Part of the proposed Montreal Mini Master Plan would include removing a hill of dirt that some residents consider sacred.  

“It’s not just a little bit of a hill that’s going to be plowed under,” resident Roger Baar said via Zoom at Tuesday night’s Planning and Zoning Board meeting. “It dominates the whole landscape here. It’s an undeveloped area of Rio Rancho that (gives) people a lot of solace and an opportunity to view Rio Rancho in a 360-degree panoramic view, unlike most other spots.”  

“You get rid of the hill and it’s not special anymore,” resident Patricia Roughgarden said, adding that her neighborhood would become like “any other housing development you drive in.”  

Tierra West LLC President Ron Bohannan, agent for developer Lomas Encantadas Development Co., said while he understood the significance of the hill, it has caused drainage problems in the past and needs to be removed.  

The proposed master plan would include three separate open spaces areas totaling about 4.8 acres that will serve partly as walking trails, while the rest would be used to address drainage and erosion issues.

‘Making Enchanted Hills sterile and mundane’  

Aside from removing the hill, residents had other concerns such as potential impacts to wildlife.  

“All of the quail, where are they going to go?” Linda Buhler asked.

About a dozen residents signed off on a letter to the Planning and Zoning Board expressing their apprehension toward the project. Among their worries was the impact the housing development would have on the landscape.  

“For many years, we have been able to enjoy sunsets and the Milky Way from our backyards, to listen to the coyotes sing at night and to appreciate a variety of wildlife, ranging from rabbits and songbirds to hawks and even an owl,” the letter states. “This beautiful ecosystem has already been greatly disrupted by the influx of new housing further south and west of the area currently under consideration for development.  

“New construction will all but destroy this delicate habitat, making Enchanted Hills sterile and mundane.”  

Congestion concerns  

Residents were also worried about the potential impacts to traffic, especially by the middle school.

“With the addition of 80 new homes in this immediate area, traffic congestion will only escalate,” according to the letter. “Many of these new families will have children who attend Mountain View Middle School, thus adding more chaos to the already stagnant lines of parked vehicles, not to mention the additional burden it will cause to the existing backlog of traffic on (U.S.) 550/(NM) 528.”

Bohannon said a traffic impact study was conducted and it showed that during peak hours, there would be 61 daily “total trips” in the area when people drop off their children in the morning and 81 “total trips” in the afternoon when they pick them up.

Also, a total of three new access points would be provided for traffic connections to existing dedicated public rights-of-way, according to a board meeting packet.  

The board voted 3-2 to recommend the plan to build the homes.

Planning and Zoning Board Chairman Fred Radosevich, Cheryl Baker and Scottie Richardson voted yes, while Mike Lizzi and Carlos Sanchez said no. Robert Gabaldon was absent.  

“I hope the developer continues to work with the neighbors and keeps them informed on what’s going on,” Radosevich said. 

The recommendation will go on a future governing body meeting agenda.