"We have grave concerns about what it's going to do for traffic," said a Herdner Road resident.
Developer Steve Crozier is working with the town in its quest to increase the stock of affordable housing by adding 76 units in the Herdner Road area near Walmart. Despite the town's need for housing, some neighbors are worried about the increased housing density the development would bring to their small neighborhood.
Through the efforts of the town of Taos, housing developer Crozier has acquired town property at 120 Herdner Road to build one of the largest projects of affordable housing in Taos. The Ochenta Development, as its being called, is proposed at the former Taos County Maintenance yard.
Eric Gladstone, a Herdner Road resident, said his home is already blocked enough due to the influx of traffic on Herdner since Dollar Tree was built.
"It's a decent piece of land for many things, just not 76 units," Gladstone said. "We have grave concerns about what it's going to do for traffic."
The Ochenta project came about after Taos County transferred the Herdner Road property, used for vehicles and equipment, on Nov. 1 to the town. The town council then transferred the property to Crozier's company Ochenta Housing via a unanimous council vote in December per the conditions of an affordable housing agreement. State statutes allow for the transfer of government property to a private developer on the conditions that the developer use the land for affordable housing.
"Last month the project was presented to the Council," said town Manager Rick Bellis. "Some neighbors showed up and gave input. There is to be a neighborhood meeting by the developer to introduce the project and get input then next month a public hearing to Planning and Zoning Commission and hopefully clean up of the site and dirt work to start in March."
A December workshop meeting in the town council chambers included presentation from Crozier and architects about the proposed development. Neighbors both for and against the project spoke out. Neighbors in the area are concerned about the population density the project could bring to the small neighborhood.
The efforts from the town are specifically to target the lack of affordable housing in the area, but some residents are leery that the project might be hitting too close to home.
Despite the concerns, town officials and Crozier maintain that affordable housing is greatly needed in Taos.
"I've been developing affordable communities all over New Mexico, and Taos by far is our strongest performing market and the demand is very very high for the type of units we're delivering," Crozier said during the workshop.
Ochenta apartments would rent from between $450 and $700 per month, according to Crozier, far below the average Craigslist listing for apartments in Taos. The prices are based on gross-median income in Taos County and would alleviate some of the need for rentals in Taos.
"We're about 600 units shy within the community," said Taos Mayor Dan Barrone. "There's a need for housing, good, affordable housing in Taos. It's not just the town - the county sees it, too."
The discussion on Ochenta is far from over as several more steps remain ahead of the project's consideration by the town council. Community meetings are planned in the future to educate the neighborhood about the project, according to Bellis and town officials. Once such meeting was set to be held on January 31, but was cancelled. Bellis said it will be rescheduled, but has not yet announced a date and time.
"I think its real important to understand this is just step one," said Councilor George "Fritz" Hahn during the December workshop. "We fully intend to go out in a timely, complete manner into the neighborhoods to get everybody's feedback."
For the moment, county vehicles and equipment still occupy the yard at 120 Herdner Road.
Gladstone, for his part, said he'll be speaking up when the Ochenta development does come before the town council.
"I understand the need for it, it's just where they're going to put it," Gladstone said.
Crozier declined to comment on the project, citing company policy, but did say more details would be available as the project moves forward.
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