& SPECIAL USE PERMIT
Bernalillo County Commissioner Quezada:
“I truly believe that this is probably one of the best uses that's ever come across my desk" and "I think it's a great plan [and] I think we need more communities like this”.
(excerpt from the legal record of the April 9, 2019 County Commission Hearing)
Existing conditions on the site as of December 5th, 2018. It will take a concerted effort to restore this vacant land back to productivity.
We purchased land in the Vecinos del Bosque neighborhood in the South Valley. The land consists of three vacant parcels zoned A-1, which is used to designate agricultural land, but is also the default zone for vacant land in the South Valley.
The site is surrounded by single family residential lots and one A-1 lot with a mobile home to the North. The West edge borders land owned by the MRGCD for the Atrisco Drain.
The parcels were purchased from two different owners; both are families with deep roots and a long history in the Atrisco neighborhood. The previous owners and their extended families are immediate neighbors to the property and care about its future.
The previous land owners worked with us because they believe that an integrative approach of bringing children and family life into the immediate neighborhood --at the same time respecting the agricultural history of the land--will serve the neighborhood in positive ways.
“I am a boundary neighbor to the cohousing projected site. ...I have peppered the CohousingABQ members with questions and the community members have time and again patiently and honestly answered me. I was not a fan of the IDEA of a cohousing project in my neighborhood, but I approached them with openness to change and willingness to learn.... and have been pleasantly surprised at the quality of thought and information they have willingly shared...
I welcome you neighbors.”
Special Use Permit Information
A Big Thank you to the more than 130 Vecinos Del Bosque neighbors who supported our Special Use Permit Application by signing petitions in support, writing letters to the County and attending the County Commission
Hearing in April 2019. Our Special Use Permit was confirmed with a 4:1 supermajority vote by the County Commissioners. Your support means a lot to us and we are looking forward to becoming neighbors.
We received approval from the County to build our clustered homes set within useable open space and food production areas. Because cohousing doesn’t fit neatly within any of the existing zoning categories, we applied for a special use permit for a “Planned Development Area for Residential and Agricultural Uses”. This means that we asked approval of the plans outlined in the application, including the number of housing units, the sizes of the building footprints, the plan for parking, and the 62.8% of the property designated as usable open space, including agricultural land.
This special use permit does not affect the zoning of any other properties in the neighborhood, which will retain their current designation.
We recognize that the proposed cohousing project reflects a change for the neighborhood and is a new way to combine homes, open space and growing food.
The property owners have had family roots in Vecinos Del Bosque for many generations and will remain immediate neighbors to the proposed cohousing development. They and many other immediate neighbors see the cohousing community as an enrichment to their families’ lives and neighborhood.
We have listened to community feedback and have reduced the number of our living units from 30 to 27 in our December submittal to the County, to be able to restore more of the land to open space, agricultural production and natural habitat areas.
We received approval for our project to move forward at the February 6th, 2019 Bernalillo County Planning Commission hearing and the decision was upheld by the Bernalillo County Commissioners on April 9th, 2019, with a supermajority vote.
The decision was challenged by four South Valley residents in Civic Court. In November 2019 the Civic Court ruled to uphold the decision of the County Commission.
The vast majority of Vecinos del Bosque residents are supportive of our special use permit request. The green flags on the map below indicate neighbors that either signed a petition in support of the project or who wrote a letter of support. The blue flag shows the location of our project site. 130 neighbors within the neighborhood association boundaries documented their support. The data can be verified via the official hearing record, including petitions that were submitted at the February hearing.
"When we look at the petition count you can see that an overwhelming majority of over 75% of our neighborhood supports the project. Within 500 feet of the site the support ratio is even higher at over 91%.... I have also walked the length of Gonzales Road speaking with my neighbors about the initiative and have heard nothing but support for the Special Use Permit... We hope that you allow this project to grow in our South Valley neighborhood."
-Aryon, a close-by neighbor, addressing the County Commissioners at the April 9, 2019 Hearing.
Frequently Asked Questions
"Cohousing ABQ has been in existence for over a year. Why has the group not reached out to our neighborhood until recently?"
In September 2017 two Albuquerque families decided to start a multi-generational cohousing community. It took us several months to research how to go about that, to meet people that have walked the path before, to recruit other interested families and to start the search for land. We had our first visit with the Sais family, the current property owners, at the end of June 2018 and we made email contact with the neighborhood association president that same day, before we were even close to having an option contract on the land. We started our outreach events and individual neighbor conversations in early August 2018 and have not stopped since then. We presented at the South Valley Coalition of Neighborhood Associations, then hosted a neighborhood lunch at Valle Del Bosque Park, presented twice at the Vecinos del Bosque neighborhood association and held an Open House at Valle Del Bosque Park. We have had lots of conversations with individuals and stake holders and are open for a conversation anytime on how our community can serve the needs of the larger neighborhood and participate in the life of the larger neighborhood.
Is this a cohousing or a condominium project?
We are under much crossfire for choosing condominiums as the legal ownership structure for our cohousing community. A condominium structure allows us to cluster our homes together without the separation of setbacks between home lots and therefore allows us to use the land more efficiently -- preserving 62.8% for usable open space and farmland. It also allows us to own and care for all land and amenities in common. We investigated a cooperative model, but unfortunately this model makes it hard for shareholders to receive financing or mortgages and would exclude all but cash buyers--and against all expectations would make it very exclusive. Condominiums have a bad reputation because they represent investors and absentee landlords wanting to make a profit without concern to neighborhood dynamics – but this is not the case for our project. We have no external investors, and owners will all reside within the cohousing community. Our cohousing families will be invested into and committed to the neighborhood for the long-term, and our HOA will be self-managed through collaborative decision-making of all residents.
"My friends live in the North Valley and some big new houses came in that made their property taxes go up 3% each year. It really adds up. Will this happen to the neighbors of this cohousing community as well?"
Not to our knowledge. According to the County Assessor Office, our cohousing community will not directly impact property taxes of surrounding homes. Condominiums are classified under a different category than single family homes -- they are assigned a different code. Single family homes are only compared to other single family homes in the same code category during the "mass appraisal process". Most new developments are subdivisions and therefore classified as single-family homes -- that is a critical difference to our cohousing community.
Bernalillo County is in the process of a county-wide canvass (the first after 13 years) to determine current and correct property values of all properties in the County. This effort might affect or might already have affected your tax assessment; read more here.
No. The cohousing group founded Rio Grande Huerta LLC as a temporary partnership that allows us as the future residents and homeowners to pool our down-payments to cover start-up costs such as the land purchase and fees for architects, engineers and other consultants. It basically serves as our common savings account. Each family that commits to buying a home has one share in our LLC and all decisions are made by the whole group, similar to a cooperative. Our LLC will sell the homes to the individual homeowners at cost and dissolve once all homes are sold.
Is Rio Grande Huerta LLC a for-profit developer?
What is included in the 62.8% of the site that are designated as usable open space and agricultural areas?
One of the main objectives for our cohousing community is to restore open space and agriculture and therefore our site plan includes 2.34 acres of Usable Open Space (62.8% of the site). Excluded from the usable open space are all buildings (living units, common house and accessory buildings), parking and vehicular access areas. Roughly one third of the Usable open space (0.82 acres) is dedicated to agricultural food production such as vegetable fields, orchards, raised beds, herbs, berry patches and chicken run. This agricultural production size is calculated purely from growing areas and does not include needed adjoining spaces for access pathways, tool storage, composting etc.
Please see the Bernalillo County Code of Ordinances, Appendix A - Zoning, Section 5, for the official definition of Usable Open Space as used for our calculations.
Quick Facts About Cohousing ABQ
We are a group of homebuyers who have pooled our own money up front to get our cohousing project designed, approved and built. Rio Grande Huerta LLC is not a for-profit development corporation, it is the temporary legal partnership we formed to deposit our down payments---there are no outside investors. We are working with local banks and credit unions. We will have to have 80% of homes pre-sold before construction can start.
The term “Cohousing” means collaborative housing. This is not an exclusive or gated community. The community is maintained and controlled by the work and cooperation of its homeowners. Cohousing ABQ is open to anyone who wants to join us in helping shape the community and be a future neighbor.
Our home sizes vary from studio casitas to 4-bedroom townhomes. Most homes are 2-3 bedrooms, with just a few 4-bedroom homes to accomodate large families. We have permission to build up to 27 homes, ranging from 400sf to 1,600sf in size. The Southwest Area Plan allows for a density of up to 9 homes/acre in this Established Urban area of the County.
Projected home prices start at $130,000 and the average home is expected to cost $279,000. The home sizes and options will determine prices. We are working with several nonprofits to help create opportunities for lower-income buyers.
Our home prices include an ownership share in all common resources such as the common house, gardens, playgrounds etc. To make shared ownership of common resources possible and to allow our homeowners to qualify for traditional mortgages, we are legally classified as a condominium. Condominiums do not serve as assessment comparables for single family homes in the neighborhood and therefore we will not increase our neighbors’ property taxes.
Once the project is built and we start moving in, the cohousing community will be governed by a self-managed Homeowners’ Association in which all residents will be members of. But this HOA will be a little unconventional because we will have so many shared amenities and spaces, and because we will make decisions together as a coop would. The monthly HOA fee will cover the cost of most or all utilities and property insurance -- these will make up the majority of the HOA fee.
We hope to integrate with and be part of the larger neighborhood in positive ways: e.g., our children playing at the local Valle de Bosque Park and attending local schools, hosting neighborhood gatherings, supporting local farms and businesses, and participating in the civic life within the neighborhood.
The community is being designed to the highest “green” standards to minimize impact on the land, air, water and community resources. Water harvesting, reuse and conservation will be essential to bring the land back to productivity, as it hasn’t been irrigated or cultivated in decades.
Because we are clustering and attaching our residences we will be able to preserve a significant part of the land for agricultural uses and natural habitat areas. We plan to have a large garden to provide food for our community meals.
The land will allow the neighborhood’s children to learn and explore the natural environment, learn how to grow food, and become stewards of the natural environment and its heritage.
Many of our families and single person households have only one vehicle---part of lowering our carbon footprint and healthier lifestyle is to use the bike trails, public transit, and the carpooling and car-sharing that comes naturally in a cohousing community.
Our intention is to have a diverse community in all ways—and to fit in to the South Valley’s agricultural, ecological, ethnic and cultural heritage.