LAS CRUCES, N.M. (KRQE) – The City of Albuquerque is looking to pocket a big chunk of change by selling what it calls a “worthless” landfill in Las Cruces.

It might sound strange, but the City of Albuquerque owns land 200 miles south of city limits. In fact, the city owns a lot of land that isn’t within city limits, or even close to Bernalillo County.

Back in 1982, the federal government made a deal with Albuquerque: the U.S. Forest Service would take over the Elena Gallegos Land Grant in the Foothills, and in exchange the city would get random plots of Bureau of Land Management land throughout the state of New Mexico.

“It just surprises a lot of people how in the real estate business the City of Albuquerque is,” said Gilbert Montaño, Mayor Richard J. Berry’s Chief of Staff.

Albuquerque has sold some of that land over the years, but about 5,000 acres remain. Of that, 113 acres are located far south in Las Cruces.

What the city didn’t know when it swapped land with the feds, was that half of the 113-acre Las Cruces land was once a landfill. The city traded beautiful Elena Gallegos land for a former dump, and it didn’t know it until 1990.

Now, the city is looking to finally get rid of the plot. The buyer is the City of Las Cruces.

“This is actually something the City of Las Cruces had requested and we’re helping move and accommodate their request because they certainly want to redevelop that area,” Montaño said.

As new life encroaches on the once-remote area around the open space, it’s easy to see why Las Cruces would want it. There’s new homes, a hospital and other commercial development in the immediate area.

Las Cruces will have to rezone the land after the sale, however, and either the city or possibly a private developer will have to mitigate the landfill acreage.

“So, Las Cruces, in good faith, is actually paying what they think the land will be when the zone change is actually happening,” Montaño said.

As it is now, Montaño said the property has a $0 value.

The $754,000 Albuquerque gets in the sale will go toward the city’s Open Space Trust Fund to buy open space here within city limits, like the Bosque.

“We’re getting a good deal. We have a piece of property that’s worth nothing right now. The City of Las Cruces is willing to pay three-quarters of a million dollars for that. We’re going to jump on that,” he said.

An outside agency, Sage Land Solutions, recently released a study on the location, size and value of the Elena Gallegos exchange land the city owns throughout the state. The study was done to see how much the city could get for the properties to put into its Open Space Trust Fund.

Sage Land Solutions believes, had the city put in some serious work on the Las Cruces land, the value would have been closer to $4 million or $5 million.

Sage Land Solutions also says it disagrees that the 113 acre plot, without any work, is “worthless” given that only some of the land is a former landfill — not all of it.

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