Residents: Controversial land takes too long to develop


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – It’s a little slice of land, but it’s caused plenty of controversy: from a bitter fight over a big box store to proposals to just let the spot be. After all that, the city of Albuquerque is building a grass-only park. Residents wonder why it’s taking nearly a year.

“I’ve just never seen anything like this in my life,” said neighbor Angela Gazzara.

The new 22-acre park is located at the corner of Osuna and Vista del Norte in Albuquerque’s North Valley.

Plenty of people have had a say in what should be done with the land.

Walmart wanted to build a store there, but that idea met with fierce protests and a nasty battle between neighbors in 2006. Then-City Councilor Debbie O’Malley led the charge to help secure city money to buy the land at a cost of $6.5 million.

The city is developing six of the 22 acres. Construction crews have been pouring concrete sidewalks, putting in a parking lot and laying grass. The park will be used for recreation, including soccer, and balloon pilots will use the space to land.

Crews began construction in January, and it’s scheduled to wrap up by the beginning of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta the first weekend of October.

Gazzara said the crews fire up their loud trucks early in the morning.

“By 6:47 a.m….they’ve got the motors going,” Gazzara said.

Gazzara said she sees 30 to 50 trucks every day. But she said the crews work so slowly, it’s like watching the grass grow.

“We could have put up three Walmarts and the skyscraper in the time it’s taken to put in grass and a sprinkler system,” she said. “My God, I can’t imagine how many millions of dollars this is costing the taxpayer.”

The city is paying $1.7 million to develop the six acres as part of the initial phase of the project. City officials couldn’t say when phase two may start.

Municipal Development Director Michael Riordan said it takes longer to coordinate all the specialty crews on the project, such the grading crews, irrigation crews, electrical contractors and city employees.

“So you get one or the other. We could do it much faster and it costs a lot more, or we can take some time and still meet our October deadline,” Riordan said.

Riordan said there was one delay in the project: the sod.

“We’ve got a substantial amount of rain this year,” Riordan said. “Moriarty is our sod farm, while it’s good for growing, it’s not so good for cutting it.”

Some of the grass is brown, but Riordan said it will eventually green up.

Gazzara still can’t understand why it takes nearly a year for a grass-only park.

“This is ridiculous,” she said. “It doesn’t make any sense to take this long.”

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