Parking lot causes concern

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New Mexico Tech is constructing a new parking lot on College Avenue near Leroy Place that has some neighbors extremely vexed.

Laura London/El Defensor Chieftain: A grader moves dirt Tuesday to level New Mexico Tech’s new parking lot along College Avenue. The gravel lot will accommodate about 125 spaces.

Thomas Guengerich, public information officer for Tech, said during a telephone interview Tuesday the parking lot is to offset parking Tech is losing elsewhere. He explained the school is building a new Bureau of Geology building near Leroy Place and Bullock Boulevard, and that project will remove between 100 and 120 parking spaces. Tech administrators felt it was important to at least replace those, so the new lot will add about 125 spaces.

Guengerich said the lot is expected to be ready for parking vehicles by the start of classes Aug. 19, although lighting will not be installed for a while.

Phil Kozushko, whose property borders the northwest edge of the new parking lot, expressed a laundry list of concerns during an interview Tuesday. He said several property owners near the parking lot are older people with various breathing difficulties, including him. He predicted the gravel parking lot will generate enough dust to aggravate their already uncomfortable health conditions.

Guengerich said Tech will do everything possible to minimize the impact to neighbors in the area. That includes sending a water truck to wet down the area “as needed” to keep the dust down, although the water truck will not come around on a strict schedule.

Guengerich said the parking lot will initially be graveled with parking bumpers, and over coming years Tech will add landscaping typical of its main campus area. He was not certain about landscaping plans, which are probably not solidified yet.

“This came together kind of at the last minute,” Guengerich said of the parking lot. “Basically, it was done to alleviate the parking and traffic issues that are going to happen because of construction of the Bureau of Geology building.”

Kozushko also expressed concern that the new parking lot will negatively impact property values of his and other neighboring homes. He said he and his neighbor will have to move their fences in order to provide access to the right of way for the utility poles, a project he estimated could cost them thousands of dollars each.

Guengerich said Tech doesn’t anticipate that anyone will have to move their private fences to accommodate the new parking lot. He said the university doesn’t anticipate any large environmental impact to the neighborhood, especially regarding dust. He added that once lighting is installed, that will be low impact as well.

Kozushko penned a letter to the editor that appeared in last week’s Chieftain. The letter complains Kozushko and his neighbors were never informed of the parking lot project or given an opportunity to voice their concerns. He presented a petition, signed by several neighborhood residents, to the city of Socorro on July 29 to have the project halted.

“We are very unhappy that no consideration was given to potential environmental, social and financial impacts, to those neighbors who reside around this project,” the letter states. “All of us living within the city of Socorro have the right to protect our homestead from potentially damaging construction projects.”