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Stop Sprawl
Fall 2000 Sprawl Report

States at a Glance: New Mexico

Sawmill Community Land Trust
Citizens Turn Abandoned Land Into Housing
Black Ranch
Sprawl Jumps Over Natural Limits

Sawmill Community Land Trust
Citizens Turn Abandoned Land Into Housing

What can residents do when industrial land becomes abandoned? Residents of the Sawmill community in Albuquerque took things into their own hands by forming a community land trust to redevelop the site. This project, built on the site of a former sawmill, balances the rapidly growing community's need for new housing with protection of pristine natural resources.

With assistance from the city of Albuquerque, the New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority and federal agencies, the creators of the community land trust have developed plans for an impressive project that will consist of a mix of single-family and multi-family housing, live/work units, child-care facilities, senior apartments and commercial space. The housing units are not only smart-growth, they're affordable -- ranging in price from $54,000 up to $104,000.

The location of the project near existing public transportation gives residents more choices in how they get around. There is a bus route two blocks from the neighborhood, and the streets are designed to be pedestrian-friendly.

The designers are also seeking to recapture some of the natural resources and green space lost when the site was converted to industrial use. A central plaza, orchard, and community garden will ensure that those who work, live and play in the development will have a beautiful environment to enjoy.

Black Ranch
Sprawl Jumps Over Natural Limits

The Petroglyph National Monument outside of Albuquerque has long served as a natural limit to development on the west side of the city. However, in a classic case of leapfrog development, the Quail Ranch project will sprawl past the monument into a region of the state that is still undeveloped.

The project, known to locals as Black Ranch, is planned for up to 50,000 residents -- each of whom will need to drive to work, shop or run errands. The developers hope to build an extension of the four- to six-lane Paseo del Norte highway through the Petroglyph National Monument to access the development, and two major loop roads are also proposed. All told, the roads and the proposed development will destroy 6,700 acres of prime agricultural land.

Not only is this development bad for the environment, it will sap resources from the city of Albuquerque. Many residents wonder how the city will provide needed services, like police and fire protection, and basic infrastructure, like water and sewer lines, to a far-flung community while struggling to meet a $1 billion infrastructure maintenance backlog. The Albuquerque Public Schools estimates that building schools in Black Ranch will cost $142 million in taxpayer money.

Albuquerque has a long tradition of planning by geography -- using natural features to guide growth. But poorly planned suburban sprawl is jumping over these boundaries. To the east, a major canyon is being developed. To the south, farms are being transformed into suburban-style subdivisions. To the northwest, auto-oriented subdivisions are quickly expanding. And now, with the Black Ranch project, the west side of Albuquerque is threatened. Unless Albuquerque changes its ways, the city will soon find itself surrounded by sprawl.

States at a Glance | Introduction | Resources | Acknowledgments

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