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Developer sues city over decision

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By David Giuliani

A local developer has sued the city over its rejection of his proposed plan for a subdivision on the west side.

Phil Warfield, owner of Warfield Properties Inc., filed the lawsuit on Jan. 14 in state District Court.

In November, the City Council voted 3-2 against Warfield’s plans for a four-lot subdivision in the 2300 block of New Mexico Avenue. Each lot would have included a modular home.

Warfield has contended that he followed all laws and procedures required of a subdivision.

But at the time, Councilman Andrew Feldman, who voted against the subdivision, said it would be better to divide the property into two lots, not four. He said he was also taking the neighbors’ objections about an increase in traffic into consideration.

Councilwoman Diane Moore and Mayor Tony Marquez didn’t give their reasons for their votes against Warfield’s proposal.

In the lawsuit, Warfield, represented by Santa Fe attorney Mark Basham, contends that the City Council violated his rights to equal protection under the law.

The lawsuit quotes residents’ objections to the proposal.

“I have a feeling that these homes will end up being rental units. That alone tells me this is not good,” one resident said during a council meeting.

Another resident was quoted as saying that the homes “will be sold as low-income homes or become rentals that will result in the criminal element coming in, and our property values will depreciate. In all reality, they will turn out to be like dangerous project homes. It’s inevitable.”

The lawsuit contends that the statements by that residents advocated for the discrimination against Warfield on the grounds that the project “would potentially provide affordable housing to low- and moderate-income residents.”

The residents’ statements also demonstrated a “clear, demonstrable bias” against low- to moderate-income people by assuming that because of their earnings, they were criminals, according to the lawsuit.

Warfield also contends that the defendants — the city, Marquez, Moore and Feldman — factored the residents’ statements into their decision and tainted the process.

The lawsuit claims that members of the City Council considered evidence and information not included in the record — for instance, performing “illegal, independent” site visits in the absence of the plaintiffs.

The lawsuit contended that Warfield had information that the City Council discussed his application behind closed doors more than once in violation of Warfield’s due process rights and the state Open Meetings Act.

The lawsuit doesn’t say how Warfield found out what happened in closed session; typically, members don’t reveal specifics of what they discuss during such sessions.

The lawsuit further contended that there were no requirements for traffic mitigation.

Warfield said this week that his proposal was the victim of “old-style politics” and that his lawsuit would win “hands down.”

He said Feldman, Moore and Marquez should have to pay for their own attorneys.

“If they had to get their own attorneys, that may mean they would make better decisions,” Warfield said.

The city’s interim attorney, David Romero, declined to comment on the lawsuit.