LOS LUNAS — Another affordable housing development wants to build near the Los Lunas Transportation Center, but the project has hit a snag while seeking an agreement with the village council.
A memorandum of agreement with Spire Development was tabled during the Dec. 8 village council meeting after School of Dreams Academy officials expressed an interest in the property and traffic concerns on Juan Perea Road were highlighted.
“It’s something I think we need to table or postpone to a later date until we have done our due diligence until we have a clear understanding of what we would like to see, and also have more public input on the future of that area,” said Los Lunas Mayor Charles Griego during the meeting.
In May 2022, the village council approved an MOA with ABQ Angel LLC to develop an affordable housing center on village property east of the Los Lunas Transportation Center.
In the preliminary plans, ABQ Angel proposed a four-building layout with affordable two- and three-bedroom apartments available, plus a clubhouse. Some of the buildings will be reserved solely for seniors.
Spire Development shortly followed, presenting preliminary plans to develop about 70, one- two- and three- bedroom units on the 10-acre, village-owned site just south of School of Dreams Academy on Juan Perea Road.
“For a village like Los Lunas — which has been blessed with economic development, new jobs and new investment single family homes — multi-family housing is an important option for a community to offer to its residents, especially for residents who might not be able to otherwise stay in Los Lunas,” Ryan Laber, a development associate with Spire Development, told the village council on Dec. 8.
The proposed MOA allows Spire to develop the affordable housing apartments on village land, contingent on if they are able to secure financing.
Based out of Columbus, Ohio, Spire Development was founded in 2014. Laber said the company only focuses on new construction, multi-family apartment buildings using the competitive 9 percent low-income housing tax credit program through the federal government.
Spire currently is operating in Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia and Michigan, where they have secured financing through the tax credit program.
“It is our hope to establish a long-term presence in New Mexico,” Laber said.
Just to the north of the proposed complex, the School of Dreams Academy sits on 10 acres of the same plot of land. SODA Superintendent Mike Ogas told the village council during the public hearing the development could prove to be a detriment to the charter school.
“I come here in opposition to this MOA proposal by Spire development, not because I’m opposed to any housing development — we all know having lived here there is a need — but a housing development so close to our school is not good,” Ogas said. “It will create many safety issues and traffic concerns.”
In addition to those concerns, the superintendent said although SODA initially signed a lease agreement with the village for the 10 acres they are currently utilizing, they want the opportunity to expand to the remaining 10 acres, where Spire is proposing to build.
“Bottom line is we need the 20 acres,” Ogas said, boasting a large student growth from 55 students at the school’s start in 2009 to more than 600 students today.
Another resident who lives close to the proposed development called SODA an ideal neighbor and questioned the amount of traffic and crime affordable housing would bring to the neighborhood.
“My understanding of the original intent for SODA to be occupying the site was to build a permanent facility. With all due respect to the very real challenges that they’re having with funding on the state side, that hasn’t happened,” said Los Lunas Community Development Director Erin Callahan.
She said SODA renegotiated an agreement with the village to a lease purchase agreement in 2019. Originally requesting the full 20-acre plot, since the charter school was unable to supply an adequate plan for the site, village councilors advised they move forward with the 10 acres they currently occupy.
“The proposal that was submitted really did not demonstrate a timeline or that they would be able to fulfill a development of the whole 20 acres ” Callahan said.
She added the property was split at that point, with the village’s lease purchase agreement with SODA not offering first refusal of the southern 10 acres of the site.
Another snag in the potential MOA with Spire hit when traffic flow to the development was discussed.
“I would expect with the current single entrance, there will be issues …” Callahan said. “ We would certainly need to look at access if this affordable housing were to be developed.”
Makayla Grijalva was born and raised in Las Cruces. She is a 2020 graduate of The University of New Mexico, where she studied multimedia journalism, political science and history. She covers the village of Los Lunas, Los Lunas Schools, SODA and the town of Peralta.