Residents shared their thoughts about the proposed land sale in the Paseo Gateway Master plan with the New Mexico State Land Office during a public meeting Nov. 9.

The main concerns residents had were regarding water and schools.

“All I see is the high school there. Most people who moved into that area are going to need, if they are starting a new family or whatever, a grade school and a middle school. When you put that package out for bid, is the bidder going to have any room there to squeeze in a grade school?” Tom Dixon asked.

Dixon asked if the parcel could be made bigger to compensate for potential schools as well.

The land office said that Dixon was making good points for them to think about but that they do not have control over bidders adding schools or not.

“This is part of what is roughly 470 acres. So as it gets developed and as residents come in, you would anticipate there would be schools. But as you can see, there’s a lot more parcels down the road as the kid-based population builds up to get to that threshold to where an elementary school would be needed,” Steve Vierck, assistant commissioner of special projects, said.

Vierck added that the proceeds for the acreage go to all public schools in New Mexico.

Pat Socci was more concerned about the water on the proposed space for sale.

“Rio Rancho has always had a problem with the water quality and water usage,” she said. Socci added that she has seen an increase in lime in the water supply and wondered if the land office had any control over that.

Water concerns were addressed by the city in March.

Vierck stated that the land office is not an expert in the water quality but has discussed infrastructure and development requirements with city staff.

The proposed sale is 44.526 acres of state trust lands located in the Paseo Gateway master plan area of Rio Rancho west of Cleveland High School and north of and abutting Paseo del Volcan. It is zoned for single-family residential use and is expected by the land office to be used as such.

According to the land office, the land is currently subject to a 2010 lease under which the lessee has performed certain real estate planning and development for the purpose of increasing the value of the land by making higher and better uses available and making the land suitable for future sale or lease for those uses, as anticipated by the lease.  Pursuant to the lease, which would be relinquished as to the land at the closing of the proposed sale, the lessee has extended or caused to be extended certain infrastructure to the boundary of the land.

The city of Rio Rancho may, it says on the land office website, require additional off-site improvements in order to approve development and use of the land and issue required development permits.

“Sale of Tract 17 and development by the eventual purchaser is expected to substantially increase the housing stock in this part of the city of Rio Rancho with a commensurate increase in traffic and demand for public services.  At the same time, conveyance of the land from state ownership to private ownership would remove its tax-exempt status and increase the tax base substantially,” the website reads.

The land has not been placed for sale yet as the land office is allowing time for more public comment before they do so. The next steps are to get approved by the land commissioner and put the parcel up for auction.

“We will present public feedback to our boss, Commissioner of Public Lands Stephanie Garcia Richards, after the public comment ends on December 3,” Vierck said.

As soon as the auction begins, potential bidders have 10 weeks to bid.

Public comments can be submitted on the land office’s website.