Wednesday, January 27, 2010

What is the purpose of United Communities?

So what is the purpose of the UCSFC? What do we want to achieve?

This is best summarized by our Mission Statement:

“The United Communities of Santa Fe County shall serve as a united voice for the interests and needs of communities and residents in Santa Fe County and be an effective guide and adviser to government agencies to achieve the coordinated and combined goals of our communities.”

As last year closes and a new one has started it might be helpful to look back on what we have done. The UCSFC has commented and given input on many County issues: twice on the Charrettes; twice on the Data Fee Ordinance, twice on the Solid Waste Fee Increase, 18 times on the Sustainable Land Use Code and four times on the Sustainable Land Development Plan. UCSFC wants to get more involved with the mining issues in Southern Santa Fe County in particular and in better organizing our communities like starting neighborhood associations in Pojoaque Valley, Arroyo Hondo and Las Tres Villas. But hot on the plate is the County’s planning process.

So what do we want to achieve with a ‘Sustainable Living Plan’ and a ‘Sustainable Land Use Code’ (hereinafter referred to as “Plan” and “Code”)? Notice how we have renamed the Sustainable Land Development Plan and Sustainable Land Use Code that are available online at:

Well for instance, it is very difficult to be an ordinary citizen in Santa Fe County and just be minding your own business and getting on with life. You have to be an activist and be involved in County politics to get anything done. For example, you have an elderly parent and you want to bring them to your house to care for them. But you don’t really have an extra bedroom and bathroom and they want a little more privacy. I mean can you imagine being a parent and having your children and grandchildren telling you what to do? So you decide to build them a guest house on your property. Well you go way, way downtown, fight the traffic, find an expensive and time limited parking, walk over to the County Courthouse, and find that Santa Fe County prohibits guest houses. So you think you can get around the current Land Use Code because this is a medical hardship since grandma has Alzheimer’s. Well, you find out that Santa Fe County prohibits medical hardships.

After about eighteen months of applications and hearings and the feeling of being a second class citizen because the County doesn’t trust you because they think you are going to rent this space out as so many people have; you get grandma into the space and she dies---thus validating your medical hardship. In getting that permit you were forced to request a variance in public hearings. Conditions of these hearings were you had to put in a larger leach field and to choose between a kitchen and bathroom for grandma. No wet bar.

So it is difficult to accommodate the new lifestyles people have – like extended families in traditional communities. Personal life stories do not fit into current Land Use Code---everything must follow the “textbook subdivision.” We want the new Code and Plan to fix these common sense issues and lifestyle choices and make things even easier for the little guy.

The whole impetus to create a Santa Fe County Growth Management Plan was because the current Plan and Code are obsolete and have over 300 amendments and are too complicated to use except for a handful of skilled lawyers and former county staff planners. The current Plan and Code helped to create a system of unsustainable sprawl for which citizens were thrust into remote rural areas of the county without any services and the County was ill-prepared and ill-funded to provide or extend any services.

UCSFC believes the critical component of the Plan and Code is to gain citizen and community input on an ongoing basis. To do this, the County has proposed creating a “Community Participation Process” which can involve creating a series of Community Planning Organizations (CPO) and Registered Organizations (RO). Several of our communities have pushed the issue on this.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

United Communities of Santa Fe County needs YOU!

We are a new organization formed in December 2008 composed of traditional villages, neighborhood associations, homeowner associations, environmental organizations, and acequia and water rights associations that are concerned with quality of life issues within Santa Fe County.

Our Mission Statement is:
“The United Communities of Santa Fe County shall serve as a united voice for the interests and needs of communities and residents in Santa Fe County and be an effective guide and adviser to local, state and federal government agencies to achieve the coordinated and combined goals of our communities.”

Send us an email at:

Santa Fe County unveils its Sustainable Land Development Plan on Oct 1st

Sustainable Land Development Plan
From: Kathy Holian
To: Undisclosed-recipients: <>
Date: Thu, Sep 24, 2009 4:57 pm

Hello everybody,

We at last have the first draft of the long-awaited Sustainable Land Development Plan. (By the way, the name has changed from the original Growth Management Plan Update. There was opposition to using the word "Growth", and we wanted to emphasize the principle of sustainability.)

I would say that the Plan has three overarching goals: 1) respect community, 2) promote sustainability, and 3) define what development should look like. On the first point -- community -- we want meaningful community participation in all decisions affecting our community. In addition, we need to respect and recognize our unique history and culture. This means -- among other things -- honoring existing community plans.

Sustainability requires that we protect our water resources, our agricultural and ranching way of life, as well as our other natural resources. If there continues to be growth in the County population, we need to ensure that we balance any development with environmental integrity. In addition, there is a great desire in our community for moving towards renewable energy. But -- just as important -- we also need to have fiscal sustainability. We cannot continue to let sprawl be our development model. It is getting very costly -- both fiscally and environmentally.

With respect to future development, we are striving to provide a better choice of all different types of housing. In addition, we cannot ignore the cumulative impacts of development -- which has led, in my opinion, to the sprawl pattern of development. It is also crucial to identify from the beginning where funds will come from for adequate facilities and services.

I encourage you all to participate in our process. There will be numerous meetings for public input, starting with the County Development Review Committee meeting next Thursday, October 1, at 6:00 p.m. The Plan will also be downloadable from our web site, and hardcopies will be in the libraries as well as the County Satellite Offices.

Here is the schedule for the planned meetings:

Santa Fe County Sustainable Land Development Plan: Public Input Study Sessions

§ October 1 – County Development Review Committee (CDRC) Public Hearing - 6:00 PM – County Commission Chambers –Land Development Plan Draft Introduction and Overview

§ October 13 – Public Input Study Session - 6:00 PM - Pablo Roybal Multi-Purpose Facility - 1574 State Road 502, Pojoaque

§ October 14 - Public Input Study Session - 6:00 PM - Santa Fe Community College Board Room - 6401 Richards Avenue

§ October 19 - Public Input Study Session - 6:00 PM - Edgewood Senior Center - 114 Quail Trail

§ October 20 - Public Input Study Session - 6:00 PM - Galisteo Community Center - 35 Avenida Vieja, Galisteo

§ November 12 - CDRC Public Hearing - 6:00 PM – County Commission Chambers

§ December 3 - CDRC Public Hearing Final Draft - 6:00 PM – County Commission Chambers

Please feel free to pass comments and suggestions along to me. Also, I will do my best to find the answer to any questions you might have. And please pass this along to anybody you feel might be interested.