The La Plata Ranch infrastructure will be funded with a levy on each parcel paid by the people who purchase the property

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FARMINGTON — After more than a dozen years of work, developers of the La Plata Ranch project say they are ready to begin construction as soon as the economy improves.

The Farmington City Council unanimously approved making La Plata Ranch the city's first-ever "public improvement district." This means a special levy will be placed on each parcel to pay for the infrastructure development.

The land that will be developed is partially owned by Mayor Tommy Roberts' brother-in-law. Roberts excused himself and left the council chambers prior to discussion of the project due to his conflict of interest.

La Plata Ranch will be located across Piñon Hills Boulevard from the Farmington Sports Complex. It will be a mixed-use development with affordable housing, parks, open space and trails. The developer's website states that it will include about 174,000 square feet of retail space, six different housing types including townhouses and an elementary school or apartment site.

"A project of this magnitude has to get off to a strong start," said David Silverman, whose family owns the Albuquerque-based business that plans to develop the La Plata Ranch.

He said the subdivision will be developed in eight phases over nine years after the economy picks up.

Mayor Pro-tem Gayla McCulloch expressed some reservations about the project being on hold until the economy improves.

"Could it just linger out there forever?" she asked.

A lawyer for the developer said the board will have the ability to terminate the project.

In the meantime, a board consisting of three Farmington city employees and two developer representatives will oversee the public improvement district. The developer will pay $10,000 into a fund that will pay for the board's administrative work. It is estimated that this work will cost $12,500 annually and the developer will pay any additional costs. City attorney Jennifer Breakell said the developer has a strong history of paying bills.

The board members will serve for a maximum of six years. After that time, the Public Improvement District would have a special election. Peter Franklin, legal counsel for the city, said the board members are generally elected from the community of individuals living in La Plata Ranch and the board will be subject to state statutes such as the Open Meetings Act and public records laws and will be required to adopt a budget.

There are several public improvement districts throughout the state, including about eight in the city of Albuquerque and four in Rio Rancho. Franklin said boards generally meet two to four times a year and the meetings range from 15 to 45 minutes.

"It's not a huge investment of time and there's responsibility without much power," he said.

City Councilor Nate Duckett made the motion to approve the project. He said he thinks the development will be a positive thing for the city.

"Hopefully the economy comes back and we can see the fruits of your labor and (city) staff's work in the near future," he said to Silverman.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.

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