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Black Ranch - Driveway to Sprawl

Located in the far northwest corner of Bernalillo County, Black Ranch is the epitome of "leapfrog" development. Two miles from the nearest housing development, this 6,700-acre master plan will draw precious resources, most notably water and tax dollars, away from existing communities. On June 22, 1999, the Extraterritorial Land Use Authority (ELUA), the joint city and county body that governs planning and zoning within five miles of the City of Albuquerque, approved the overall Black Ranch Master Plan. Shortly thereafter, five organizations appealed the ELUA approval of Black Ranch.

The appeal has been filed by 1000 Friends of New Mexico, SAGE Council (formerly the Petroglyph Monument Protection Coalition), Greater Albuquerque Spokespeople, West Side Citizens for Better Development, and SRIC, all represented by the New Mexico Environmental Law Center. The appeal may be decided by the end of the year.

A $25 Million Driveway to Sprawl

Despite the intensity of the westward sprawl in Albuquerque, the West Side still has a clear edge: the Petroglyph National Monument. The Monument was created to protect Native American symbols etched on the black volcanic rock of the area, and has served as a buffer and respite for city dwellers and tourists alike. Forcing sprawl development right up to the edge of the Monument, developers have sought for decades to "open up" the land on the other side of the petroglyphs. The Black Ranch, with its need for the $25 million Paseo del Norte road extension through the Monument, is the key to "opening up" the land west of the Monument for more sprawl.

Take Care of What We Have

In addition to road extensions, the Black Ranch will require new sewer and water lines, schools, libraries, parks, fire and police stations for an estimated 50,000 people. Our communities don't have funds to serve both existing needs and subsidize new developments the scale of Black Ranch. The City of Albuquerque currently has a $1 billion dollar backlog of infrastructure maintenance and rehabilitation needs for our community. The Albuquerque Public School District is another $1 billion behind in the upkeep of its facilities. If built without being required to cover its own development costs, Black Ranch will accelerate the decay of existing communities by siphoning off more public resources.


The source of an enormous new demand on the already depleted regional aquifer, Black Ranch's water demand will compete with growth in existing communities where water and waste water services are either long overdue or are deteriorating. Black Ranch's water utility has sought approval of a 50,000 acre-foot water right for groundwater from the West Mesa, a "water play" under protest from the City of Albuquerque, the City of Rio Rancho and the Village of Corrales. This one water right application is more than the total amount of Rio Grande surface water proposed for Albuquerque's future use through delivery of San Juan-Chama water! Such enormous groundwater withdrawals are directly contrary to the Groundwater Protection Plan adopted jointly by the City of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County.

Don't Forget the Rules

SRIC and its co-applicants, have filed a legal brief which asks that the approval of Black Ranch be overturned and the case returned to the Extraterritorial Land Use Authority. If successful, it will ensure that developments can only be approved if they assure their own water resources, ensure growth at "no net expense" to existing communities, and are pursued in balance with current community needs.

The risk to Albuquerque in this case is particularly great. If the appeal fails, the quality of life and quality of services may fall hostage to cost of sprawl developments on the mesas around our community.

The Planned Communities Criteria process should have, and did, identify these and other problems with the Black Ranch plan. Unfortunately, ELUA overlooked these criteria in their decision. The public needs assurance that, once adopted, the rules will safeguard their welfare.

By Aldofo Mendez
1000 Friends of New Mexico


1000 Friends of New Mexico
1001 Marquette NW
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87102
Tel. 505-848-8232
Attn: Ned Farquhar, e-mail: ned@1000friend-nm.org
Attn: Lehua Lopez-Mai, e-mail: lehua@1000friend-nm.org

NM Public Interest Research Group (NMPIRG)
135 Harvard SE
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87106
Tel. 505-254-1244
Attn: Jeanne Bassett, Randy Moorman
E-mail: Rmnmpirg@aol.com

SAGE Council
PO Box 82086
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87198
Tel. 505-260-4696
Attn: Eli Il Yong Lee
E-mail: sageconcil@mindspring.com

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