School board OKs land donation
By Susie Gran
Thursday, March 8, 2007
By 2015, there will be a new elementary school in Quail Ranch on 15 acres donated by the developer.
It’s the historic deal school officials worked for three years to seal so they could stay ahead of West Side growth.
The Quail Ranch schools will be the first built with financial help from developers, setting a precedent for Mesa del Sol, SunCal and other planned communities in the works, said Robert Lucero, a member of the Albuquerque Board of Education.
“This is the best deal we’ve seen in a long time,” Lucero said.
But it’s a deal several Albuquerque city councilors opposed, claiming the school board was contributing to urban sprawl, water shortages and traffic snarls.
The board on Wednesday accepted Quail Ranch developer Bob Murphy’s offer of $13.5 million, including the donated land, to help build an elementary and a middle school.
Murphy said the school district is not the gatekeeper on growth and has a duty to provide schools.
“I’m comfortable,” he said of the deal. “This is the future. We’re the first through here, but there will be the same discussions with many others.”
Three Albuquerque city councilors tried to sway the board to reject the offer and oppose “ill-advised growth.”
Councilors Debbie O’Malley, Michael Cadigan and Martin Heinrich, in a letter dated Wednesday, said, “By agreeing at this time to provide schools in Quail Ranch, APS will become a primary force for rapid unplanned growth. New schools foster new development.”
They said the Quail Ranch developer circumvented the city’s Planned Growth Strategy, the long-term plan to assure growth benefits the city, by getting the City of Rio Rancho to annex the property.
But Murphy – president of Sandia Properties Inc., which is developing Quail Ranch – said he was not involved in the annexation and came into the picture afterward.
Phase One of the Quail Ranch Master Planned Community will have 4,500 homes on about 1,000 acres west of Paradise Hills and south of Rio Rancho. It is in the Albuquerque Public Schools district.
Eventually, Quail Ranch will have 65,000 residents and clog the northwest mesa roadways, the city councilors said.
“Studies predict near gridlock with the development of Quail Ranch,” they said in the letter.
School board member Gordon Rowe objected to the councilors trying to intervene.
“For three years, we’ve known this is a huge problem,” he said. “The city has ignored us, and now we finally get something done and the city is trying to derail it.”
Dolores Griego, one of the new members, urged the board to delay action on Murphy’s offer.
“There are still too many issues for APS to be at the forefront of this project,” she said.
Water and roads are not the school board’s issues, Murphy and district administrators agreed.
“We are legally bound to provide the schools,” said Brad Winter, Albuquerque Public Schools executive director for facilities and planning. “We have to plan for growth.”
The board accepted Murphy’s offer on a 4-1 vote (Griego opposed and Berna Facio abstained).
Former board member Miguel Acosta, who spoke against Murphy’s offer, said, “This is a developer-controlled board now. There’s nobody up there to fight.”
© 2006 The Albuquerque Tribune