Why We Need a Strong Neighborhood Association
By Nick Manole
President, Glenwood Hills Neighborhood Association
Glenwood Hills was developed in the early 1960’s by a gentleman named Lonnie Brown. A Glenwood Hills lot could be purchased for $1,500 to $3,000 depending on the view or location. Of course, you had to pay another $1,000 for the city sewer and utility assessment based on the frontage of your lot. Back then, the original Glenwood Hills had overhead power lines and no city street lights (the residents in the city below did not want to look up towards the mountains at night and see lights). In addition, due to the terrain, rural nature sidewalks were not required. Many things have changed since then, including the prices; but Glenwood Hills still has 15 + undeveloped lots. One thing remains constant: Glenwood hills is still one of the most attractive and desirable places to live in Albuquerque.
When my father gave me my Glenwood Hills lot in1976 as a high school graduation gift, I was upset because I wanted a car instead. I hated having to always cut the weeds and haul the trash that others had dumped on my property. Alas, after getting married in 1986 we decided to build our “dream home” on that wonderful lot, with awesome views and close proximity to open space, butting up against the gorgeous Sandia Mountains. By 1988, we had our plans and were ready to build.
This is where the “dream home” became a nightmare. As we started to build, graders also started moving dirt below us. But that couldn’t be. We were told that the Catholic Archdiocese owned the land behind us and would only build a church there. We were o.k. with a church and traffic one or two days a week. Besides, the zoning for the land was not commercial, rather for office use only. Well, after investigation we found that someone had changed the zoning and that church was to become an shopping plaza with a high-end restaurant and quaint shops. We asked ourselves, how could the zoning possibly have been changed?
We soon realized that the “high-end” restaurant was actually a McDonald’s and our “quaint” shops included a huge grocery store. We eventually accepted the fact that we were just going to have to live with it. To boot, the developer tore out the wonderful grass medians for which the Glenwood Hills Neighborhood Association had paid. I guess we still had our great view! (Years later, after much lobbying and many meetings, we got the city to replace the medians). Soon after the shopping center opened, our McDonald’s became the new local teenage hangout. It seemed that every kid in town was cruising Montgomery and not only “hanging out,” but also vandalizing our neighborhood and tearing up our wonderful Sunset Canyon Park.
It was then that I got involved in our neighborhood association and soon thereafter became its president (first time). My wonderful dream home had become a nightmare and something had to change. With the help of Shirlee and Ray Ostensen, former long-term residents Kathleen and Jack Oestreicher and many other dedicated neighbors, we started the city of Albuquerque’s very first Community Policing Neighborhood Patrol. Later on, we won “neighborhood of the year” at the local neighbor fest gala. We were proud and our neighborhood was getting better day by day. However, the problems kept coming.
Our neighborhood had no sidewalks and it was unsafe for my little children to have to ride their bikes in the street. We lobbied our City Councilor and got sidewalks placed up Montgomery and down Larchmont to our wonderful park. It was another victory for Glenwood Hills and we were feeling that the clouds had finally lifted. But it was not to be. We soon learned that developers were planning to build a new development called High Desert right next our trail-head. What???!!! We were told that this land could never be developed. To add insult to injury, they were proposing to build a bridge connecting High Desert and Glenwood Hills. We would soon be the new shortcut to the upper portions of High Desert. Through many late night meetings and compromises, both neighborhoods agreed that fewer homes would be built and we convinced them to nix the bridge from the plans: Yet another victory for the Glenwood Hills Neighborhood Association. But the problems kept coming.
The owners of an empty lot below and to the southwest of my lot presented a proposal for a three-story self-storage facility like the one at Indian School and Tramway. This storage facility would obstruct our wonderful view of Albuquerque and the magnificent Western skyline. Fortunately, the developers needed neighborhood approval before they could break ground. After many hard fought battles, we convinced the developer to change his mind. We had to act quickly before someone proposed another unwanted development. After brainstorming at another marathon Glenwood Hills meeting, Dave Bentley had the great idea to ask the city to build a police station there on the lot in question. We all laughed, but Dave was serious! After years of effort by the Neighborhood Association and many more meetings, our Dwyer Police Sub-Station became a reality; and not only that, we had also convinced the city to build a Park and Ride facility.
Any of us who thought we could rest after another hard-won victory were living in a fantasy. Many of you will remember the wonderful “Wild Plum” restaurant that was at the Southeast corner of Montgomery and Tramway. After the original owners sold the restaurant, the building changed hands several times before it was boarded up for good. The homeless began breaking in and starting fires on the property to stay warm. The building had become a terrible eyesore. Fortunately, a visionary developer came along and proposed building residential “lofts.” The challenge was that the lot was zoned for commercial. With the help of the Glenwood Hills Neighborhood Association, the developer was able to change the zoning to residential and the beautiful Glenwood Lofts were built. And I still got to keep my views! Another Victory!!! Maybe now we could rest and I could now enjoy my “dream home” once again.
But wait!! The alley behind the homes on Larchmont was unpaved and full of weeds. People were racing through the lane and spewing dust into our backyards. The Neighborhood Associations rallied again, and we now have a beautifully paved and landscaped alley.
The moral of the story, as you can see, is that after 25+ years of fighting many good fights, the Glenwood Hills Neighborhood Association is critical to preserving our status as one of the best neighborhoods in Albuquerque. As the neighborhood’s collective voice for those developments, policies, and programs that improve the health, safety and well being of the neighborhood, we are still going strong. However, we need your continued support. I encourage you to take a good look at our Website and especially the “History” section to learn more about some of the major accomplishments of our wonderful Neighborhood Association. If you are not already a member, we need your support! Donate now to help us increase our police patrol, decrease crime and vandalism, further beautify our common spaces, strengthen our community and most importantly, increase the value of our greatest investment, our homes.