ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – People in the North Valley are up in arms over a proposed school for the deaf in their neighborhood. They claim the county was going to use the property for a park and pulled a 180.
Neighbors said the county has canceled public meetings on this project over the past few months, and they worry their concerns are being ignored. “It’s not about building more buildings and structures and institutions,” neighbor Chris Christy said. “It is about preservation of our area.”
Neighbors in Albuquerque’s North Valley feel defeated. “Our taxpayer money is at large here, and we have no say so,” Christy said.
The El Camino Real Neighborhood Association said they worked for decades to tear down the abandoned mental hospital at Sandia Ranch. “It took us 30 years to get that property torn down,” Christy said.
Now, they worry a new institution is taking its place. “The problem is our elected official has betrayed us by having a single project that she is pushing on us without considering anything else we want,” neighbor Linda Dietz said.
County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley is pushing for a charter school for the deaf. The news first came in February, and blindsided neighbors who said they worked with the county’s Parks and Recreation Department for four years to develop the 17 acres into a park or agricultural space.
“Bingo bango, we get this new song and dance supported by our county commissioner Debbie O’Malley,” Christy said. “We all sat there like deer in headlights wondering where this all came from.”
O’Malley argued that there is a need for a new location of the Albuquerque Sign Language Academy, as the current one is at capacity with a waiting list. She said the charter school will take up only five of the 17 acres.
“We are still looking at their suggestions, like a 4-H facility,” O’Malley said. “There is an opportunity for community gardens. It is a big site, so we can accommodate a lot of things they still asked for.
Neighbors said the land is zoned A-1, and that the North Valley Area Plan stresses the importance of the area staying rural.
“I have a special needs daughter,” neighbor Diann Rodarte said. “She is an adult now and doing incredibly well, so I know the needs people have in society for wonderful schools like this. However, there is so many concerns with that particular site.”
Those concerns include traffic along Edith and losing land that could be used for parks or farming.
“We have no parks in our area to support us,” Christy said. “We have no open space together in our community. This is the only place that has water that would support and teach farmers and the future of agriculture, so we are dumbfounded.”
Neighbors worry the charter school will fail, and they will end up with another abandoned building like the hospital. However, the school said they have been open in Albuquerque for 10 years now with much success.
The county bought the property in 2015 for almost $2 million. There is a county meeting Wednesday night where the plan will be formally introduced.