A new law is now in effect in Albuquerque, N.M., for developments of five acres or more that requires home builders to obtain a special certificate from the city which specifies that the project is not disturbing an archeological site.
The law was viewed locally as a great compromise and important victory for preservationists since the community had been trying to get an archeology law passed for more than 20 years.
Albuquerque is well-known for its rich archeological sites, most notably Petroglyph National Monument and Coronado State Monument.
The region's archeology became a frontburner issue about a year ago when it was reported in the local press that the local power company disturbed a historic site while digging a trench.
Katherine Martinez, director of government and community affairs for the HBA of Central New Mexico, said the builders pushed for the five-acre threshold because it was seen as a workable compromise. Preservationists wanted a one-acre threshold and then tried for two acres, but the builders were adamant.
"At five acres we are already going through a site plan review with the planning department and the environmental planning commission," said Martinez, who said the builders were also concerned that requiring an archeological study for projects under five acres would add undue cost to infill projects.
"The law makes sense because if a builder winds up with an archeological find, they can adjust the site plan so they don't disturb the area," said Councilor Martin Heinrich, the law's main sponsor.
Dave Cushman, an archeologist and planner with the nonprofit group SRI Foundation, said the law represents what was politically possible.
"It's taken 21 years for the city to adopt an ordinance and I'm aware of at least three other attempts to bring an ordinance to the city council," he concluded.
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