Wednesday night the Albuquerque City Council authorized a little less than half that amount to purchase a 22 acre site on Osuna Rd. just west of I-25. (ABQ Journal - Subscription Required) For the past couple of years the site has been mired in controversy, primarily because a little known company has plans to build a store there.
Ok... Wal-Mart isn't a little known company and the original Super Center was to be upwards of 180,000 square feet. Like a number of Wal-Marts across the country and indeed within Albuquerque, the Osuna Wal-Mart has been opposed from the very beginning by the adjacent neighborhoods, in this case the neighborhood associations of Vista del Norte.
According to the directive of the council, the mayor has been given permission to spend up to $6.1 MILLION in an effort to acquire the property from the developer. And if necessary, use the power of eminent domain to force owner Vista del Norte Development, LLC to sell the property to the city.
"The resolution gives the mayor the authority to negotiate with the property owner or to condemn the land." (ABQ Journal - Subscription Required)The move by the council is being hailed by representatives of Vista del Norte as they see this as the solution to their problems. In reality, this is just the beginning of all of our problems.
"...the property, which is owned by Vista del Norte Development LLC., a subsidiary of Sundt Corp., an Arizona-based development company. Sundt officials have said they have a contract with Wal-Mart which Sundt intends to honor."So according to the Journal the developer has already executed a contract with Wal-Mart to sell the property. Wal-Mart has been working on the development for a year and a half or so, and has spent a whole lot of money on everything from multiple sets of plans to public relations. Now here comes Marty and the council ready to make the Osuna purchase.
Why? It wasn't the complaints of the neighborhood. It was the sudden discovery by Balloon Fiesta officials that they needed the property to land on during the yearly fiesta. What?! After all this time, after all this publicity, the Balloon Fiesta discovers that it needs the property?! What's even worse, the council bites, hook, line, sinker, and fishing pole!
The city and the council regularly do some pretty stupid things, but this one is a doosy! If you believe the council, they are willing to purchase the Osuna Wal-Mart site for the simple reason that as many as half of the balloons that take off at Balloon Fiesta Park may land on the 22 acre site, during an event that lasts for 11 days out of each year. Of course that assumes that the wind carries them directly south every day and they decide to land on the site rather than float on by.
Best case, the council is willing to put the city in a fight for a piece of property that is properly zoned for the Wal-Mart use, that is under contract to Wal-Mart, and against an opponent who has already spent thousands of dollars in development costs, in order to use it for the Balloon Fiesta 11 days a year. We can't even begin to figure out how much this is going to cost per landing, particularly after you figure in the court costs that are sure to accompany any attempt to condemn the site.
(Sidebar)The council was simply looking for an excuse to stop the Wal-Mart development. Something that would give them cover with developers and the public. When the folks over at the Balloon Fiesta floated the idea that they needed a landing site they just couldn't help themselves. No one could argue against the Balloon Fiesta... could they?
The Balloon Fiesta has been good for the city of Albuquerque. But we've now reached the point where anything that is good for the Fiesta is assumed to be good for Albuquerque. That's dangerous and flat out wrong. Look no further than the idiotic and hypocritical reflecting pool if you need an example of the blank check and lack of critical thinking surrounding the Balloon Fiesta.
We can and we do. The Osuna purchase is at best, a waste of tax payer dollars. At the worst, it will end up being yet another money pit and an abuse of governmental power.