How do you define “local”? For the city of Santa Fe, the answer is not an easy one.
The city council on Wednesday tabled a proposal from outgoing councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler to prioritize “local” businesses hoping to buy and develop the nearly 250-acre Las Estrellas property over questions regarding the definition of “local businesses” , narrowly rejected on Wednesday.
“I don’t think anyone has any objection to this,” said City Councilor Signe Lindell, who requested that the resolution be rejected. “But I think the way this is being presented now needs quite a bit of clarification on many levels.”
Vigil Coppler’s proposal would have required the city to adhere to a “local preference” for “local buyers using local lenders, local title insurers and local construction companies”.
The proposal was rejected 5-4, with Councilors Lindell, Roman “Tiger” Abeyta, Jamie Cassutt and Carol Romero-Wirth, and Mayor Alan Webber voting against the proposal, and Councilors Michael Garcia, Chris Rivera, Renee Villarreal and Vigil voting to reject the proposal Copplers voted favor.
“Everything that the builders have is the opportunity to compete from the start,” said Vigil Coppler. “If we do nothing, nothing will change. There is no guarantee that this money will not go out of the state.”
Las Estrellas near Santa Fe Estates is close to the Thornburg Investment Management Campus and is largely undeveloped. A master plan for the property requires senior citizens and affordable living space as well as relaxation and open spaces.
In December 2019, the city and Santa Fe Estates Inc. announced a 90-year-old agreement between the parties, with the city later finding that the company still owed the city approximately $ 3.01 million.
To help settle the debt, the company offered to transfer full ownership of the remaining 248.03 acres of Santa Fe Estates’ land to the city. The city, in turn, plans to offer the property for sale.
Vigil Coppler said their proposal does not guarantee that a local company will be selected, but rather gives them a chance to compete with larger national companies.
“All that does is give [local] Builders a chance, “she said.” It’s a bit like that John Lennon song ‘Give Peace a Chance’. It’s not rocket science for me. “
Under the resolution, local is defined as anyone holding a Santa Fe or Santa Fe County business license; You must provide proof of payment of taxes as a Santa Fe city or county tax.
Webber said he was finding it difficult to implement the provisions when the resolution was being written. He suggested that a national company could have an office in Santa Fe and pay taxes.
The city could end up supporting national companies that don’t need the help if they approve the decision, said Romero-Wirth.
“Is that really what we want to do with our general fund dollars?” She asked. “I am still concerned that if we give preference to local development, then local development is to be stimulated. I don’t think we are in that situation.”
Deputy Prosecutor Andrea Salazar warned the council of the danger of creating legal challenges by creating a “privileged class”.
“We cannot limit that only a local company becomes the winner or the successful bidder,” she said.
The Las Estrellas property is expected to be on the market by the end of the year.