Quality of Life
Priority Area: Increase the amount and types of housing options
NEW HOUSING PROJECTS TAKE SHAPE
2020 saw an increase in new housing start-ups in several areas, a positive sign that the County is moving forward in the right direction with its plans to address the housing shortage. Housing of all types and sizes continues to be one of the top priorities for the County. Several key housing projects are under construction or ﬁnishing design:
Mirador Subdivision Enters Final Stage of Development (White Rock)
A-19 Acquisition Group (afﬁliated with Raylee Homes) is continuing with its planned construction of 161 houses on the land formerly known as DOE Parcel A-19-a on the north side of NM4 in White Rock. The ﬁnal phase of Mirador was approved by the Planning & Zoning Commission in December. It is a mixed-use project constructed just west of the White Rock Visitor Center. The project, in addition to the single family homes currently under construction, will add 60 multi-family rental units.
Canyon Walk Apartments – Affordable Housing on DP Rd. Wrapping Up
Canyon Walk Apartments, located just east of the Columbia Club (formerly the Knights of Columbus Hall) on DP Rd. encompasses three acres of land donated by the County for construction of 70 one-, two- and three-bedroom units. Construction of the units, along with related infrastructure on DP Rd., is projected to be completed this spring. The apartments will provide housing for those who are income qualiﬁed. Canyon Walk Apartments is being constructed by Bethel Development using tax-credit incentives supplied through the State of New Mexico, and its location provides easy walkability to businesses at the nearby Smith’s Marketplace via the Canyon Rim Trail.
The Bluffs – Site Plan Approved for Seniors Affordable Housing on DP Rd.
Bethel Development plans to build 64 units in a second income qualiﬁed tax incentive project for DOE Parcel A-8-b, located across the street from A-9 on DP Rd. The Bluffs will be using a second State Tax incentive and provide affordable housing specially designed for seniors. The site plan was approved this year and construction will begin in 2021.
Schools’ Housing Project on North Mesa Moves Forward
The County worked with Schools this year to hold several design workshops with focus groups and the general public. The Council met with the School Board in November and entered into a Memorandum of Agreement to collaborate on this project. The next step will be for the designated committee to consider the appropriate density, target population, and design elements of the development that incorporate the desires of the Schools, County and surrounding neighborhoods. The property is east of the Middle School and owned by Schools. The County will use a State legislature capital outlay grant for $475,000 for the project.
Arkansas Place – New Housing Under Construction on Arkansas Ave
T2 Development is in the process of building 44 single-family homes on the site that was once home of “The Black Hole.” Work should be completed in 2021.
Canyon Rd. Housing: Site Plan In Progress
Private property on Canyon Rd. that was sold to a developer last year will add 100 units. The site plan is in progress and expected to go to the Planning & Zoning Commission in 2021.
The Hill – New Apartments for Rent Coming Soon
The developer is wrapping up ﬁnal construction plans to build 144 apartments on this canyon-edge property formerly known as DOE Parcel A-12 and A-13, south of Trinity Drive near Los Alamos Medical Center. Road improvements will be made to Trinity Drive in 2021 to accommodate the additional trafﬁc turning to/from the complex, and the planned completion date is August 2023.
The Flats at Oppenheimer Adds Apartments Along Trinity Drive
A local developer completed a construction project this year to convert 8 ofﬁces into apartments by adding an additional ﬂoor to an existing ofﬁce building at the corner of Oppenheimer and Trinity.
Land Use Committee Explores Options for New Housing
Guided by the 2019 Housing Study, the County’s Land Use Committee consists of members from Council as well as key staff. The Committee meets monthly to address strategic land use with an eye toward land use that will support businesses and housing, while balancing needs for open space and egress. This fall, they directed issuance of an RFP for two County-owned parcels on Trinity Drive to be sold to interested developers. Three proposals were received and after evaluation, could be awarded in 2021.
In addition, the committee submitted a request to the DOE last summer for a land transfer in southern White Rock that could be used for housing. While not approved, the committee will continue in 2021 to explore options for other parcels that might be transferred from the DOE for future housing opportunities.
Economic Vitality & Financial Sustainability
Priority Area: Enhancing support and opportunities for the local and small business environment
Hotel/Conference Center Moves Ahead
TNJ LLC will construct an extended stay hotel (Marriott Towneplace Suites) with 85 rooms on County-donated property on Trinity Drive, near Ashley Pond park, along with a conference center that can seat up to 300 people with a beautiful setting overlooking Los Alamos Canyon. TNJ will manage bookings for the conference center, and has agreed to promote small business interests by actively seeking local vendors for its coffee shop/restaurant. Site plans will go to the Planning and Zoning Commission in January 2021 and construction could get underway later next year. Once built, a trafﬁc light will be installed at 20th/Trinity to allow easy access to/from the site, addressing safety concerns about pedestrians safely crossing Trinity Drive to get to Ashley Pond Park.
Updates to Assist Businesses
The County updated its Local Economic Development Act (LEDA) to include new language that reﬂects changes in State law. The County’s Procurement Code was updated to match State Language regarding local preference.
New Businesses Come to Town
Anytime Fitness opened a ﬁtness center in Spring 2020. Charley’s Landscaping opened for business this summer. Natural Grocers celebrated their grand opening in November. Los Alamos Public Schools’ Credit Union broke ground for a new building at 1010 Central Ave.
Trinity Drive Properties For Sale
The marketing of two Trinity Drive parcels could bring new retail to the area – an RFP was issued and three developers have responded.
SUPPORTING LOCAL...through planning and funding...
Downtown Master Plan – Seeking Public Feedback
As part of Phase I of this project, the Community Development staff, along with their consultant Dekker Perrich Sabatini, held a series of public meetings over the summer with White Rock and Los Alamos residents about updating the Downtown Master Plan, a project that has been urgently needed for many years. Documents were posted online along with surveys to gain public feedback. Progress updates to solicit Council feedback along the way were also held this fall. After seeing that the voice of youth was not participating in the future look/feel of the downtown areas, a meeting to include feedback from teens will be held in January 2021. Phase II will occur in 2021, when DPS and CDD hold another series of meetings to draft a new Chapter 16 Development Code. Both phases will culminate in separate public hearings upon completion of the respective deliverables.
Helping Local Businesses during the Pandemic
The County received funds from the State that were quickly turned around to assist businesses impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. $1.55 million to 60 businesses were given out as grants in two rapid rounds of funding between November and December. All State funds had to be expended by December 31, and the County exceed this timeline with dedicated Finance and Procurement staff, as well as a community-based team reviewing the applications.
SUPPORTING LOCAL...through enhanced tourism improvements…
WAC Building’s Future Begins to Take Shape
The Christian Science Church vacated this building - the former women’s dormitory during the days of the Manhattan Project - and an RFP to hire a consultant is underway. The consultant will be holding public meetings and working with the County in 2021. The outcome will be a plan regarding how to move forward with any use or restoration of the property, which is expected to be included in the Historic Walking Tour of downtown Los Alamos.
Wayfinding: Signage Plan Gets Additional Funds, Moves Ahead
With additional funding approved on July 1, the signage plan was expanded to include more signs that will assist tourists in navigating their way around for the historic downtown Los Alamos area and attractions. A bid package is in development, with a goal to fabricate and install the signs in 2021.
Fuller Lodge Lobby – New Display
A television monitor was installed this fall that continuously plays a video about the Lodge and its many rooms, to assist and orient visitors who want to explore the rustic lodge. The former windows at the south end of the Lodge (currently display spaces) will also be uncovered and restored in 2021. The Chimayo hand-woven rugs on the walls of the Lodge were sent to a professional service to be cleaned and restored. All of these small touches make the Lodge a top attraction that is near local businesses, with a goal to entice visitors to linger longer and have lunch or shop downtown.
ScienceFest: Eyes on the Future – with a Virtual Online event!
MainStreet organized this event, which had to be moved online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It spanned four days in July and featured a variety of interactive, fun games and speakers. ScienceFest offered 20 activities and 16 organizations went live with events on Discovery Day on July 18. Overall, 32 organizations assisted with ScienceFest and brainstormed ways to keep this signature event exciting. The goal this year amid the pandemic was to keep potential visitors interested in all that Los Alamos offers, with the hope that they will come visit once the crisis ends.
Priority Area: Improve utilization and aesthetics of vacant buildings and properties
Enhance commercial property maintenance code enforcement standards
An RFP was issued at the end of 2020 for a rewrite of Chapter 18. Work and public outreach will kick off in 2021 and the final document is expected to go to Council by the end of 2021.
Code enforcement activity was curtailed due to the COVID-19 pandemic for several months this year. From January 1, 2020 through November 20, 2020, CDD issued a total of 16 Notice of Violations (NOVs), as compared to 2019 when 40 NOVs were issued during approximately the same time frame. In the previous year (2018) CDD issued a total of 135 NOVs.
Priority Area: Expand transportation and mobility options and address parking challenges
The County continues to work with its regional partners and the Laboratory to consider holistic solutions for the needs and challenges facing Los Alamos and White Rock in the context of expanded housing and employment in the County and the desire to create a walk-, ride-, and environmentally friendly community.
Several projects related to mobility and roadway improvements were mentioned in previous sections, tied closely to investing in infrastructure.
Improve New Mexico SR4
One key project closely being monitored and endorsed for construction by the State is to widen and improve the Truck Route and New Mexico State Road 4 intersection. This project will add capacity and help reduce traffic congestion. Additionally, the project will provide better access into Tsankawi (part of Bandelier National Monument) with a future parking lot off the highway to further improve safety at this intersection. Construction is planned for Summer 2021.
Priority Area: Investing in infrastructure.
NM502 Roundabout Wraps Up Work
The State’s roundabout project at the eastern edge of Los Alamos is nearly complete; crews are wrapping up work for the winter, with some ﬁnal items to be completed in Spring 2021. Through the year, the County invested signiﬁcant staff time and effort on behalf of the community to keep Los Alamos represented. Public Works staff coordinated closely with the State DOT on this complex project, attending weekly meetings and providing input or voicing concerns over any portion of the project that might negatively impact motorists or nearby residents.
Urban Trail Corridor Takes Shape
The County has two NMDOT funded programs for Urban Trail projects, under the federal Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) and Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) program.
Design of Phase I of the project will soon get underway for a multi-use path that begins north of Trinity Drive at 20th Street and continues north to Spruce Street. This starting point provides a connection to the Canyon Rim Trail system. A future trafﬁc signal at the Trinity Drive/20th Street intersection will be installed once the Marriott Hotel/Conference Center is built to facilitate trail crossing at Trinity Drive. Phase I will follow 20th Street along the west side, crossing Central Avenue and along existing pathways through the east side Fuller Lodge lawn and 19th Street, then meandering along neighborhood streets to Spruce Street. Environmental/Cultural studies and clearances for this portion of the project began in December and should wrap up by May 2021.
Phase II of the project will be a multi-use path that begins at Spruce Street where Phase I concludes. From Spruce Street the proposed trail is an off-street multi-use trail traveling north and then southwest through a forested undeveloped landscape surrounding the Canyon Road tennis courts and eventually linking the Nature Center and Aquatic Center along the north side of Canyon Road. The trail will connect to recreational centers, recreational trails, and bike lanes on Canyon Road that continues to and along Diamond Drive. Project approvals are in progress with NMDOT for design and this project, along with Phase I, should be completed in June 2021. After design, construction documents will be assembled and both Phase I and II should be built beginning in Summer 2022.
The goal of these projects is to provide residents and visitors with a non-vehicular thoroughfare to the downtown business district. Additionally, the project will help connect businesses, tourism, retail, schools, parks, recreation, and residences as envisioned in the Bicycle Transportation Plan. Completion of these projects will also increase the County’s chances to improve from a bronze-level to a higher level bicycle friendly community by the League of American Bicyclists.
Under the TAP and CMAQ, Phase I of the trail is funded for design and construction in FY 2021/22 for $700,000 and Phase II is funded in FY 2020/22 for $3,605,000. The County will supply a 14.56% local match required by the grants, totaling approximately $102,000 for Phase I and $525,000 for Phase II.
Environmental Sustainability Plan: Outreach, Metrics Continue to Track Progress
Environmental Services staff completed their last year of updating the metrics in their sustainability plan. The initial 2015 plan had recommended updating the metrics after 5 years.
Priority work continues on food-waste education and diversion efforts (an RFP was recently issued for a composting feasibility study to support backyard composting), wildlife protection by expanding use of bear-proof carts, and updating the County’s facility condition assessments to identify potential energy reduction and environment improvement opportunities.
A citizen group petitioned for a more comprehensive County-wide sustainability plan that incorporates all departments and other invested Boards and Commissions such as the Board of Public Utilities and their carbon-free energy goals, the Parks & Recreation Board and Transportation Board for their operations and CIP input, and P&Z for potential code updates/requirements of community development projects. In response, Council plans to form a Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Committee to explore these options and make recommendations by December 2021.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual and COVID-safe events were held including: the 13th Annual Clean Up Los Alamos Day, Recycle Art Fair and Fashion Show, a drive-in movie screening and panel discussion of Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story, a compost webinar series, and the People’s EcoChallenge.
The Environmental Sustainability Board members and the Zero Waste Team continue to work with staff on a variety of zero waste articles and short videos to engage the community. The articles and videos have been focused on food waste prevention education and are submitted monthly to local media and published online. The Zero Waste Team has contributed to the development of backyard composting educational materials.
New Food Composting Feasibility Study Kicks Off
Environmental services and its Environmental Sustainabilty Board will be working with a contractor to conduct a food waste composting feasibility study. The goal is to have a pilot project and eventually provide more options for the community to engage in composting. The study will explore various options in 2021.
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