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December 2, 2006

Deaf school sues city over water-rights deal

From: Santa Fe New Mexican - Santa Fe,NM,USA - Dec 2, 2006

By JOHN SENA | The New Mexican
December 2, 2006

Lawsuit claims breach of annexation deal

The New Mexico School for the Deaf is suing the city of Santa Fe, claiming that by requiring the school to buy and transfer water rights to the city before developing 200 acres near Tierra Contenta, the city is breaching an annexation agreement.

The city wants the school to follow the 2005 Water Rights Transfer Ordinance, a measure that requires developers to buy and transfer enough water rights to cover the needs of their project, something school officials don't think the school should have to do, according to a release from the school.

"NMSD is not a land developer, and seeks only to generate revenue from this property ... to plan prudently for the future needs of the school and its staff and students," the release reads.

"The city's intractable position, which violates the express terms of its previous written agreements, has left the School for the Deaf with no choice but to seek judicial intervention."

The release also notes the state-sponsored school is not subject to zoning or municipal ordinances.

School officials, when they entered into the annexation agreement, were unsure if the school would eventually move to the south-side location or use the land for revenue, the release states.

Now that the decision has been made to develop the land, obtaining water rights and transferring them to the city would be "financially and practically prohibitive," the release states.

The release was sent late Friday afternoon, and no one at the school could be reached for comment.

City Councilor Matthew Ortiz said he was unaware of the suit, but the city's position has always been that any developer is subject to the ordinance unless they can show they are exempt.

And whether the school is exempt because of the annexation agreement would depend on the language of the agreement, Ortiz said.

With the lawsuit, the school joins The Tierra Contenta Corp. and becomes the second group to challenge the city ordinance in court.

Both groups argue the city agreed to provide services, including water, to annexed lands and is attempting to go back on those agreements.

The Water Rights Transfer Ordinance was adopted in July 2005 as an effort to protect the city's water supply by requiring large developments to be self-sufficient.

Contact John Sena at 995-3812 or

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