San Miguel and Housing and its Surroundings—Uncontrolled Development?

Desarrollo

Lizette Leal León

Abelardo Quero

By Jesús Aguado

La Badesa, Artesanto I and II, Cumbres de San Miguel, La Luminaria, Aldaba, and La Serena are just some of the housing developments in progress in San Miguel de Allende right now. The developments approved by the 2012–2015 mayoral administration represent a total of 6,385 new homes. Those approved in the last three years added another 8,934 homes to that amount—6,000 of which are earmarked for the working class.

But San Miguel is not the only place where rapid development is happening: the Comonfort City Council approved the Martorell residential development, which will be located in Comonfort’s city limits, but right on the border with San Miguel. The company building the development is taking advantage of San Miguel’s branding and is selling the plots as if they were located in San Miguel.

The growth there would likely increase the already-existing problems in the city such as traffic (currently the government is working on a mobility plan) and pollution (in a city where the local government could not manage trash pickup and privatized the task to the TecMed company as a result).

Last week, the local government announced that they are working on a citizens´ consultation as part of the process of updating the city’s Plan para el Desarrollo Urbano y Ordenamiento Ecológico y Territorial (Plan for Urban and Ecological Development), known as a POET; the new plan the City Council will draft would replace the POET last updated in 2011.

About the POET

This legally binding governmental urban planning document was first drafted in 2005. Mayor Luz María Nuñez’s administration published a “guidance document,” often referred to as “the green book,” which explained that the POET “is an essential tool for Sanmiguelenses that outlines the plan for the use of every location in the San Miguel de Allende municipality. The plan gives residents the power to demand that authorities use land according to the criteria in the POET, which is created with the aim of preserving, protecting, and respecting an ecological balance in different areas.”

When the document was published, Núñez made note of the city’s problems. With a cartoon graphic, she explained that “the pressure of the real estate market” was causing the city’s growth, due to indiscriminate authorizations by local authorities, allowing changes in land zoning to various sections of the municipality. Those changes, according to Núñez, had an “awful” negative impact on the culture and traditions of local rural communities.

The POET changed things by organizing the city into 60 Unidades de Gestión Ambiental (Units of Environmental Administration), known as UGAs. Each UGA can include up to 10 rural communities.

The POET document ratified desirable guidelines for sustainable development in each UGA, and, based on that POET, the 2012–2015 City Council and the current one approved permits for housing developers. According to information provided to Atención San Miguel by Abelardo Quero, director of the Urban Development and Territorial Planning department, the 2012–2015 City Council approved a total of 6,385 homes in condominium developments such as La Nogalera, Villa de Allende, Luna Azul, Malanquín (third section), Badesa, Cumbres de San Miguel, Alamedas 2, Real de la Huerta, as well as the industrial zone.

The current City Council has approved a total of 8,934 new houses in Artesanto I y II, Luminaria, Providencia, La Condesa, San Gabriel, San Rafael, Aldaba, La Serena, and Lomas de San Miguel (a housing development designated for sale to longtime working-class residents of the city), which will provide over 6,000 reasonably priced homes.

Citizens’ Consultation

In order to prepare for the city’s updating of the POET, the local government’s Instituto Municipal de Planeacion de San Miguel de Allende (Municipal Institute of Planning of San Miguel de Allende), known as IMPLANSMA, has announced it will hold an open Citizens’ Consultation from July 23–Sep 27. All those with greater knowledge of the territory are invited to share their ideas and opinions to be integrated into the plan or provoke changes.

There is an archive available with informational documents related to the current POET, more than 300 files. They range from the text of the current POET to copies of related laws, regulations, maps, and diagrams. The archives are available at implansma.gob.mx.

Hugo Luna, who participated in the creation of the plan, said in a press conference that reading the document could be tedious. According to Fabian Trujillo, IMPLANSMA director, the current City Council—which will be dissolved by law on October 9, the day the new mayoral administration takes office—could approve the document before that date.

Lomas de San Miguel

The Lomas de San Miguel project was formally presented on June 18. At this meeting, Trujillo told people that there are 42,000 homes in San Miguel, yet, according to a study conducted by the National System of Housing Indicators, 15,000 more are needed. Trujillo also mentioned that 40 percent of Sanmiguelenses make just twice the minimum daily wage while 37 percent earn between two and five times the minimum. The remainder earns more than five times the minimum. The Lomas housing development is targeted toward the middle-level income group.

The development will feature one-family homes, duplexes, and three-family homes. “The location (on the road to Los Rodríguez),” said Trujillo, “is convenient because it will be close to local, state, and federal offices as well as close to the university section of town, the Bicentennial park that features the Acoustic Shell performance area, the general hospital, and the city’s industrial zone.”

As the biggest neighborhood in the city, Lomas de San Miguel’s schools will include a kindergarten as well as primary, secondary, and preparatory schools. There will be a church and a mall and recreational centers. The construction of the preparatory school and the public clinic would most likely end up happening in the final stage.
During the presentation, Trujillo also remarked that the six kilometers of road from the Patrimonio traffic circle to the Lomas de San Miguel site will be widened from two to four lanes in order to accommodate the increased traffic that will result from the development.

Marco Ledón—liaison between the local and federal departments involved—said that the architecture of the houses will be like the ones people are used to here. “It will be very San Miguel,” he said.

Juan Antonio Jaramillo (director of SAPASMA, the Water Department) emphasized that SAPASMA has already drilled a well on site and in the near future could drill a second one. “There is water,” he said. SAPASMA would be responsible for providing water and sewage service to the neighborhood. “We already know the area, and we know where we will build a treatment plant,” he said.

At that presentation, Óscar Muñóz from the Federal Mortgage Office said that the prices of the houses would sell for between 320,000–350,000 pesos. He also said that the first houses could be sold to owners by October.

Martorell

On the road from San Miguel to Comonfort, just inside the city of Comonfort, the Comonfort City Council has authorized a change of land use—to commercial and housing zoning—for Martorell SA de CV that will impact San Miguel.

This housing development, right on San Miguel’s border with Comonfort, has already begun presales of plots of land online, charging 1,320 pesos for a 1,000-square-meter plot. Overall, the housing development will be constructed on 60 hectares of land.

However, despite the presales, Lizette Leal León, director of the Urban Development Department in Comonfort, told Atención that while Martorell has an authorization to use the land for a housing development, he doesn’t yet have one to do construction. She also said that the land is distributed into three UGAs and that currently the company is fulfilling requirements to get the approval of a blueprint with 150 plots in the first stage. Sites online state that there will be five development phases.

Part of the land falls into Guanajuato State’s UGA 396, which the state map has listed with an A1 classification (agricultural and grazing activity). According to a plan for the Martorell development published by riondabienesraices.com, the development is supposedly located on state UGA 384, which the state map says is classified as R11—a classification for former agricultural land being reclaimed as preserved forest land.

The residential area would be built at the base of Picachos.

Picachos, a not-yet protected area

Environmentalist and social activist, Mario Hernández, has previously told Atención that Cante AC has submitted documents before different governmental offices since May 22, 1990, in order to achieve preservation of Picachos and Támbula, and that there are that records to prove that. Nevertheless, it was not until five years ago, that the then-Ecologist Party local deputy Jorge Arenas visited the Presa Allende (Allende Dam) and proposed to San Miguel entrepreneurs the cleanup of the dam as a way to develop a touristic attraction for the city. That was easy for Arenas to suggest because his group had recovered the Palote Dam in León, which is now a part of the Metropolitan Park (a 337-hectare protected nature area; about 85 percent of the protected hectares consist of the dam).

Currently, all kinds of tourist venues and activities are located in that park—restaurants, a palapa, boat rides, and bird watching activities. The annual International Hot Air Balloon Festival also takes place there, generating revenue of over 500 million pesos. San Miguel entrepreneurs wanted something like that at the Presa Allende.

According to Hernández, he and a number of nonprofit organizations and individual citizens had been promoting the appointing of Los Picachos and Támbula as a protected area since 1992 but that after the state’s Institute of Ecology proposed conducting a study to determine if the Presa Allende should be protected, they did not find enough favorable features for it to qualify. For that reason, Hernandez and his coalition decided to include Támbula and Los Picachos and name it all as one ecological corridor.

In April 2015, the study reporting finding 219 different species of flora divided into four parts: encino, scrubs, lowland forest, and meadows. With respect to the fauna, the divisions included amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals, including wild cats, pumas, foxes, and whitetail deer. If the area gets the appointment as an NPA, the animals and plants would be shielded against all kinds of disturbance in more than 50,000 hectares, equal to a third of the municipal land.

If the areas are designated as protected, changes in land use without authorization from the state government and construction of new housing developments would be prohibited. With authorization from the state government, however, industrial activities could be developed in the area. But the extraction of stones and sand; and wildlife from the area would be forbidden or regulated. Fishing would be also regulated. On the other hand, the Institute of Ecology would regulate permissible recreational and touristic activities. The National Commission of Water would control water use.

Hernández said that the Institute of Ecology concluded its work with the citizens’ consultation in 2014, and since then the responsibility for issuing the decree belongs to Guanajuato Governor Miguel Márquez.

So far, there has been no action taken.

 

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