Public Service Board Land Sales

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by Laurence Gibson

On the heels of the city’s recent $3.5 million open space purchase of 366 acres in Northeast El Paso, the old conversation about selling PSB land has been reignited in the form of a new report from El Paso Water’s Public Servce Board Preservation and Conservation Planning Committee. This is a comprehensive 66 page document which may be seen online at Preservation Committee Report.

Your El Paso Group has been active in the PSB land sale story for almost 20 years now. See these headlines from previous Loraxes:

April ‘01: Resist the Proposed PSB Land Sale
May ‘01: PSB Land Sale Update There’s Still Hope
June ‘05: Open Space Tempts El Paso Developers

Those were Mayor Raymond Caballero days when we counted on his mayoral presence at PSB to temper the developers’ requests to sell chunks of our open space under the “good ‘ol boy” system. The land sales guy at PSB was on a first name basis with El Paso developers who were able to say “I want you to sell me this (or that) parcel”of open space.

If you are new to El Paso you may not realize that our water utility purchased thousands of acres around El Paso in the 1900’s. This was to protect our aquifer from being paved over. Even back then there was a realization that we needed to have that land for recharging the aquifer!

With the adoption of our prizewinning Northwest and Northeast Master Plans we breathed a sigh of relief, naively thinking our open space was safe. Now, we seem to have forgotten the wisdom of our elders in setting aside all that land for water.
The consensus from environmentalists at the March 21st PSB meeting is that the committee report contradicts itself by recommending the open space be protected, THEN saying to develop half of it! That would be 3,500 of the approximately 7,000 acres we own around our mountains. The PSB has not yet taken action on that recommendation.

 

Photo Credit – Franklin Mountains, courtesy Ken Steiner

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