Rio Rancho Observer
PUBLISHED: Sunday, January 3, 2016

We hope all our readers had a happy, safe New Year holiday and are headed to a prosperous 2016.

And at the risk of sounding like a broken record, we hope it’s a peaceful, productive year for our country, state, county and the city of Rio Rancho, as well.

To be sure, we did not see much of a let-up in the stifling polarity that’s bogged down our political leaders from the local level all the way to Washington.

It might be wishful thinking, but perhaps the coming elections could mend some of that.

Rio Rancho has an important one in less than 60 days, with council seats in three districts at stake, as well as two handfuls of proposed charter amendments and a $9 million bond issue city officials say will be applied to Sara Road and High Resort Boulevard.

We urge you to get familiar with the candidates and the issues, and whatever your leaning on who to put on the council, the road bond or the amendments, get out and vote.

Of course, we won’t get too far past the municipal election when the candidates for state and county offices will emerge for the primaries in June and then campaign for the general election in November, when we’ll also be electing a new president.

It should be a newsy year on other fronts, of course.

Retail activity picked up significantly the past year in Rio Rancho, particularly at the southern end of the Unser corridor and in Enchanted Hills. We certainly hope that trend continues, but there can be no slowdown in efforts to attract economic-base companies — those that export most of their goods or services and bring new money into the area. On that front, eyes will be watching Sandoval Economic Alliance as it enters its third year of operation.

A still-unresolved issue with development ramifications for Rio Rancho is determining what to do about impact fees. A two-year moratorium, which advocates say yielded the intended lift in development and stimulated the local economy, lapsed in September 2014. The moratorium also resulted in a successful lawsuit against the city, though the amount of damages remains unknown. The governing body asked for a consultant study last spring, and apparently is still awaiting the report. In the meantime, the city’s impact fees remain considerably more than they are in Albuquerque, putting Rio Rancho at a competitive disadvantage for new development.

The governing body faces making some other potentially difficult decisions this year: how to proceed with Water Treatment Plant No. 1 on Sara Road, a bond issue for which failed last year with the lack of enough affirmative votes; and what adjustment might be in order for the special recycled water rate negotiated with the new owners of the golf course 1½ years ago.

Whether the SandRidge Energy proposal to explore for oil west of the city of Rio Rancho moves ahead remains to be seen. The issue will surface again soon, with a zoning hearing set to resume on Jan. 28 before the county Planning and Zoning Commission.

We anticipate the Paseo del Volcan project between Unser Boulevard and I-40 will continue to get attention in 2016, with some legislative proposals likely to be introduced for rights-of-way acquisition in the Sandoval County portion of the corridor.

Meanwhile, Rio Rancho should see completion or near completion of two important road projects in 2016. Work began on Italia Road this fall, while the city intends to extend Broadmoor Boulevard from Northern Boulevard to Paseo del Volcan, beginning early in the new year.

We’ll watch with great interest developments ahead concerning UNM West, where the UNM Health Sciences Center proposes to add a building. The City of Rio Rancho did its part this month, approving a memorandum of understanding with UNM pledging $12 million in higher education gross receipt tax revenue toward the project. UNM seeks to match it with $10 million in the Higher Education Department capital improvement package that, pending approval by the state Legislature, would be presented to voters statewide in the November general election.

All in all, 2016 shapes up to be a very busy year.

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