LAS CRUCES – The former site of the Las Cruces Country Club is one step closer to being developed, and the city says the landowner’s intent is to develop the area according to a community blueprint.
While the Las Cruces City Council will have the final say over the rezoning of 75 acres of vacant country club land, development plans moved forward Tuesday night when the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission voted to accept staff recommendations for the zone changes.
“I have seen this property vacant for quite a long time and I’ll be very happy to see it developed,” said Commission Chair Harvey Gordon after voting yes.
The Apodaca Blueprint, adopted by the Las Cruces City Council in 2018 after a public input process, is a long-term vision for the development of 730 acres of the city, which includes Apodaca Park; the former country club and golf course off North Main Street; a segment of the east-west Madrid Avenue; an old flood control dam on Triviz Drive known as the Villa Mora property; and numerous homes north and south of Madrid Avenue.
The country club property primarily makes up Focus Area A of the blueprint — the focus area amounts to 158 acres. The focus area is further subdivided into multiple suggested land use areas which include commercial business centers, mixed-use centers, high-density townhouses, single-family homes and green space.
The blueprint does not suggest zoning for the focus area.
In 2020, Nebraska-based real estate developer Zachary Wiegert proposed to form a tax increment development district on the land to incentivize and fund the development of different types of housing, retail, office space and entertainment, but the deal ultimately fell through following questions and concerns from Mayor Ken Miyagishima before the city council could vote to form the district.
Following his withdrawal of the TIDD application, Wiegert told theSun-News his company could either rezone the land and develop it — for a much higher cost to his firm than if there had been tax increment financing — hold on to the land without developing it, sell it or develop it under its current single-family residential zoning.
Later that year, Three Crosses Regional Hospital opened on part of the old country club land, still leaving the undeveloped 75 acres zoned for single-family housing.
Wiegert’s real estate development firm, Tetrad Property Group, submitted several zone change requests to the city for those 75 acres which are intended to conform to the land use areas laid out in the Apodaca Blueprint.
Randy McMillan, president of NAI First Valley Realty in Las Cruces and one of the landowners for the property, stated in an email: “We are moving forward with the direction the city has always wanted with that area of town in full compliance with the Apodaca Blueprint.”
Wiegert and Tetrad Property Group were unable to be reached.
If the zone changes are adopted by the council, the city says the developer intends to use the blueprint as a “guiding master plan” for the development of the land. The zone change request is expected to come before the council in March, according to Senior City Planner Katherine Harrison-Rogers.
“No future development shall occur without adherence with the Apodaca Blueprint as the guiding master plan, including but not limited to, roadway design, trail and pedestrian connections, land use, and building placement,” city staff wrote as a recommended condition of the zone changes to the planning and zoning board.
Though Eva Nevarez St. John, president of the Country Club Neighborhood Association, argued to the commission Tuesday that the zone change requests don’t conform to the descriptions of each land use area offered in the blueprint.
She points out that in the blueprint, an open space recreation area meant to connect Apodaca Park with the Outfall Channel Trail suggests onl”some single-family detached or attached residential development may be permitted” if it is adjacent to another residential area and makes up 10 percent or less of the acreage. The zoning request for the same area, from Tetrad, would allow for 50 percent of the acreage to be residential.
Or, she also points out, Tetrad is proposing to add commercial zoning to a “flex district” area described in the blueprint as meant for townhouses, single-family housing and office space.
Nevarez St. John described similar incongruence with the Apodaca Blueprint for all the zone change requests.
“So if that’s your master plan, you have to stick with what’s in the blueprint, and they’re not,” Nevarez St. John said.
Still, the commission voted 5-0 Jan. 25 to accept the staff recommendations.