The idea behind Valley Improvement Association (VIA) was that an association of home and property owners could collect relatively small sums from a large membership, over a long period of time, to overcome the challenges of providing essential services and facilities for new communities
As a home and property owner's association, VIA is incorporated under the laws of New Mexico as a nonprofit corporation. Its purposes are set by the Indenture that created it and by its Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws. VIA represents approximately 30,000 owners of some 75,000 parcels in Rio del Oro, Canyon del Rio and parts of Enchanted Mesa and Playa Verde in Valencia County, New Mexico. VIA was established to provide services similar to those provided by a municipality, but with assessment revenue fading, VIA's ability to deliver these services is changing.
Other resources to meet these responsibilities include thousands of acres of land for school, park and community center sites, as well as thousands of platted residential and commercial properties. Control of these lands is a key part of VIA's strategy to attract public and private investment and increase the value of member properties.
Valencia County today is seen by residents, as a bedroom community to nearby Albuquerque, home to about 1/3 of the state population. But, 30 years ago when Rio Communities was just starting, agriculture was a dominant force and "rural lifestyle" meant more than a place to keep a family horse. Starting a suburban-styled community in a fairly self-reliant, unincorporated area, the developer, Horizon Corporation, introduced local government to concerns they had never faced before, and didn't immediately supply resources to deal with them. Horizon then established Horizon Communities Improvement Association (HCIA), which later became the Valley Improvement Association (VIA).
Thirty-five years ago, fewer than four people worked for the Association. VIA had liquid assets of less than $3 million and no physical plant. Fewer than 2,000 people lived in Rio Communities. There was virtually no development except for dirt roads outside the small core development built by the Horizon Corporation around a golf course. Most of VIA's revenue was derived from member assessments. The largest paying member was Horizon Corporation.
VIA developed its very first plan with aid from DeLeuw, Cather & Company, consulting engineers and planners with worldwide experience. A summary of the plan was presented to, and ratified by, members in 1978.
We conceptually organize VIA efforts around three activity categories: economic development; natural resource management; and covenant enforcement.
The first new core development area, outside of the original Horizon core, was in the northwest corner of Rio del Oro. The University of New Mexico-Valencia Campus, which now serves some 2,500 students on 125 acres of VIA-donated land, provided the activity focus to stimulate growth. That was followed by core communities at Pasitos del Cielo and Las Maravillas. Other cores in various stages of the planning process include Comanche Springs, Canyon del Rio and La Merced.
VIA's Role Evolves
As VIA executed its first plan, the community's lead developer, Horizon Corporation, began to scale down its role and push more responsibility for the community's future towards VIA's members. The company's legal problems with the Federal Trade Commission strained both its financing and market credibility.
In 1985, VIA's Board revised the plan to help the Association step into that void. In 1986, they presented it to members, who subsequently endorsed it.
to foster and promote development in outlying areas and improve the quality
of life in the developed core area.
And, in 1987, when developers hesitated about committing to Rio del Oro or Canyon del Rio, VIA began planning to take on the job of spearheading the creation of new core developments. Its first attempt resulted in the Las Maravillas community, and its second, Pasitos del Cielo.
A Change in Roles
landowner, with some 6,000 acres of dedicated park, school and community
center sites the Association was becoming a major owner of subdivided
lots. In 1986, the New Mexico Supreme Court upheld VIA's $2 million
foreclosure judgment against Otec Corporation, ending years of litigation
and giving VIA the right to foreclose on nearly 24,000 lots that Otec
owned in Rio del Oro. VIA hoped to use these lots to consolidate
tracts of land large enough to be developed.
Focus and Leverage
There is no better way to illustrate the importance of the principles of focus and leverage, the basis for all VIA strategic plans, than to compare the consequences of VIA's efforts in Rio del Oro and Canyon del Rio.
In 1986, when the University of New Mexico-Valencia Campus was under construction, VIA was working on water and sewer systems and access roads to serve this new focus of community development. That same year, in an attempt to spur development at Canyon del Rio, VIA began work on extending electricity and improving roads.
VIA spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in both areas. The result of VIA's actions in Rio del Oro was hundreds of resident families, and millions of additional investment dollars spent by others on residential construction, schools and infrastructure. In Canyon del Rio, no additional development followed the investment of time and money by VIA.
VIA's actions in Canyon del Rio clearly benefited VIA members. The difference is that, in Rio del Oro, VIA could focus activity on a relatively small part of that area and leverage projects with investments by others, like the University of New Mexico, home builders and other members. In Canyon del Rio, market and location explain the lack of a similar response to VIA's pump priming.