Esencia Moves Forward! Santa Fe County Commission OKs 710-lot development south of city

Santa Fe County Commission OKs 710-lot development south of city
By Claudia L. Silva
Jan 10, 2023 Updated Jan 11, 2023

The Santa Fe County Commission unanimously voted Tuesday to approve the final conceptual plan for a 277-acre subdivision in the Community College District south of the city.

The 710-lot development, proposed by Esencia Holdings LLC, would have a minimum of 608 single-family homes, 80 of which would be offered at rates considered affordable, or below the market value.

The project’s first phase is expected to be completed by late 2024, according to the developer’s application, with the last of five phases completed by late 2028.

The subdivision is planned east of N.M. 14 and southwest of the intersection of Avenida del Sur and A Van Nu Po. It would lie at the end of Camino Vista Grande and Vista del Monte, which run parallel off N.M. 14.

The developer will be required to build out Avenida del Sur, beginning with a roundabout at A Van Nu Po, near the entrance of the subdivision.

Under the plan, the new development will have a 6.9-acre community park, with 3.5 acres to be used as an active recreation area; four neighborhood parks that total 3.7 acres; and 131.7 acres of native open space.

The subdivision is planned on property where a 2-decade-old proposal for a development called Sonterra, approved by the commission in 2002, never moved forward. The Sonterra plan included 520 residential units, with over 29,000 square feet of commercial space on 245 acres. The master plan expired, making way for the new project.

Before voting to approve Esencia, newly elected Commissioner Justin Greene raised concerns over the lack of amenities for families in the area, leading to urban sprawl.

The closest grocery store to the neighborhood would be the Walmart Supercenter on Herrera Drive, about four or five miles away.

“Without amenities within walking distance or within at least a mile or two … this becomes technically sprawl,” Greene said. “So having something incorporated in the future in the area would be a best practice for making a community as opposed to just a bedroom community.”

The director of the county’s Growth Management Department, Penny Ellis-Green, said although the Community College District has space for commercial development, it does not yet have enough residents to maintain new businesses.

“The problem that we’ve seen is that the number of rooftops that are needed to keep a supermarket or something like that going are not yet in existence in that area,” Ellis-Green said. The county expects to see commercial space built in the future, she added.

The county hopes to avoid large “cookie-cutter” lots in the area, she said. “We do want small lots with open space and trails between them.”
Some commissioners agreed with Ellis-Green, saying maintaining business amenities in new neighborhoods outside the city can be difficult.
“I used to live in Rancho Viejo, and so far most of the commercial efforts in that area have failed,” Commissioner Hank Hughes said. “There was a little supermarket that failed. There was a coffee shop that is no longer there. And so I think Penny is right that there’s going to need to be a few more houses before the commercial lots get the development to support those kinds of businesses.”

Hughes noted the commission required the Esencia developers to include townhomes as a way to try to cut down on urban sprawl and offer denser housing options.

“The original design was rejected by the Planning Commission because it did not have the multifamily townhome area,” Hughes said.

“That was added to provide, not accessory dwelling units, but that smaller sort of unit that could be used as rentals or starter homes for people.”

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