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Welcome to the High Desert Residential Owners Association     Albuquerque, New Mexico


It's not just where you live, it's how you interact.  Here at High Desert, we believe communication is the number one way to build our community: communication between neighbors, among homeowners and with management. 

This website is designed to keep every High Desert resident informed and up-to-date on the vital issues that affect us as homeowners. Here, you'll find quick access to our
governing documents, policies and procedures,  calendars of upcoming community meetings, copies of our latest newsletter, home improvement information, links to Village news and the e-mail addresses of your officers and directors. 

We hope this information will provide High Desert homeowners with what they need to know...and when they need to know it. 

For the latest news, scroll down. For more information on High Desert, see the
Notices and Reminders page.

Blooming Cactus 
  Steve Hamm got right down to ground level to take this photo of a blooming barrel cactus at sunset in his front yard in the Highlands. The cactus is only about four inches tall, with the flower adding another three inches. Note the Blue Grama grass a few inches above the cactus in front of the rock.

Report to Voting Members:
HDROA Ends Fiscal Year With Surplus
Voting Members meting July 2014

Voting Members heard good news at their regularly quarterly meeting Thursday night, July 24, when Board Treasurer Mary Kurkjian reported a $46,000 surplus for the Master Association's fiscal year which ended June 30, 2014.

"That's a significant surplus on a $1.1 million budget," she told Voting Members during her report on the association's finances. The surplus resulted from money budgeted but not spent on landscaping services and replacement plant materials (due to the drought), $5,000 not spent on community events, $18,000 less than budgeted for professional services (including management and legal services), $3,000 less than budgeted for rental on the new High Desert office, and $2-$3,000 saved on printing and mailing costs due to an increased use of electronic communication.

"The surplus rolls forward to help mitigate costs in the future," she said. "Having a surplus is one of the ways we can keep fees from increasing every year. We hope to not raise fees again for a while," she said.

Reserve accounts continue to stay very healthy, Mary continued. "The Master Association is at 170 percent of  'fully funded' at this point, but many items are scheduled for maintenance shortly. We are pretty confident that our scheduling is solid."

She noted that there has been a small increase in homeowners who are not paying their association fees. In the past, that percentage was less than two percent of all owners. But recently the percentage has gone up slightly. "It's important that homeowners understand that the association fees are not some tax paid to a distant government," Mary told Voting Members. "These fees help maintain our community." She asked Voting Members to communicate that idea to their neighbors and encourage owners' feeling of participation in the community.

Resident Survey
Clay Wright, Board Director, told Voting Members that the Board has decided to distribute another Resident Survey in September. The online survey (through Survey Monkey) will be available to residents for two months from mid-September through mid-November. The first Resident Survey was presented to owners two years ago with a total of 193 responses. "That wasn't a great response," he noted, "but there were some clear trends shown and we responded by making changes."

This year's survey is shorter this time, Clay said, and will include questions on all aspects of living in High Desert. "There will be questions on landscaping, our patrol service, management, and spending," he said. There will be areas left blank for general comments, and homeowners can remain anonymous.

Landscape Contract Signed
Lynn Claffey, Chair of the High Desert Contracts Committee, told Voting Members that a new three-year landscaping contract was signed June 30 with Heads Up Landscape Contractors, the current company used by the association. A bidding process was used during the past several months, with final consideration between Heads Up and one other large landscaping company. Originally a number of companies were reviewed as possible bidders, she said, but were dropped because those companies were simply not large enough to maintain a property as big as High Desert. Heads Up was the low bidder and was also compliant on every request the association made during the bidding process, Lynn noted.

View Fences
Tom Murdock, Board President, told Voting Members that the metal view fences in High Desert are scheduled to be painted in a village-by-village schedule, beginning with Desert Mountain. He asked that Voting Members explain to their village homeowners that any vegetation entwined in the view fences must be removed before the painters arrive. Notices have gone out to owners with view fences covered with vines and branches, he said. "If they don't remove it, we will go ahead and do it and they will be charged," he said. Bob's Painting has been contracted for the job and will use spray and regular brush painting. Painters will not go into any backyards, Tom said.

National Night Out
Tuesday, August 5th is National Night Out, a time when neighbors are encouraged to hold block parties to increase awareness about Neighborhood Watch and other neighborhood safety programs. In High Desert, Neighborhood Watch groups can request up to $150 from the association for an event and can also request that a Board Director attend, Tom told Voting Members. "This is another chance for everyone to get to know their neighbors," he said.

OPEN: Sandia Ranger District Opens Areas Adjacent to High Desert:
Stage II Restrictions Still In Effect for City Open Space

Recent rains prompted The Sandia Ranger District (dark and light green on map) to reopen areas recently closed due to fire danger.  For current updates click here.  

Last year, the Sandia Ranger Disctrict was closed for several weeks in mid-summer due to extreme fire danger.

The City of Albuquerque imposed Stage II Fire Restrictions June 2, 2014 which remain in effect. An Open Burning Ban is also posted within the municipal areas of the city. All Open Space areas (yellow areas on map) within the municipal boundaries remain open at this time. 

Stage II Restrictions (and the recent closure of the Sandia Ranger District) were imposed to help decrease the likelihood of human-caused wildfires.

The fire restrictions apply to all Open Space areas within the municipal boundaries of the City of Albuquerque which include the Open Space areas of the Sandia foothills adjacent to High Desert.
Stage II Restrictions prohibit smoking,  fireworks of any kind, and use of spark-emitting machinery.
Open Burning Ban
Open burning has also been banned in public and private outdoor areas within the municipal boundaries of the City of Albuquerque. Burning may be done in enclosed chamber devices such as cooking/outdoor grills. 

Bernalillo County Bans and Restrictions
Because the fire danger is high, a ban on smoking, campfires and open burning is in effect throughout Bernalillo County, which includes all of High Desert.

Penalties and Enforcement
Any person found violating the fire restrictions ordinance shall be charged with a petty misdemeanor. Upon conviction, each violation shall be punishable by a fine up $500 and/or imprisonment up to 90 days.

Albuquerque Police Department officers will be increasing their patrols until conditions improve. If you witness suspicious activity, call 505-242-COPS. When you report a tip, provide information such as:
    1. Description of the person(s) and of their vehicle
    2. Registration or distinguishing logo (car rental identifier, license plate)
    3. What they are doing, when, and where. 
Do not approach them.  If there is a fire or someone is in danger, call 911. 

For Albuquerque fire alerts and conditions, click here.

Bears in High Desert

black bearWhat should you do if you suddenly meet a bear on a High Desert street, in your backyard, or on the trail?   Don't run.  Stand upright and slowly wave your arms.  Carefully back away.  Look around  for cubs, and if you see any, don't step between them and their mother.  If worse comes to worse and you are attacked, fight back aggressively.

This advice, and more, is included in a brochure distributed this spring by the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. 
Click here to download a pdf of the two-page brochure.

High Desert owners have reported numerous sightings of bears over past years and this summer will probably be no different.  Bears come down out of the mountains, through Open Space or via the arroyos into High Desert streets and back yards looking for food and water.  

Trash is the main attraction in High Desert for bears. Putting your trash cans out Sunday night before our Monday morning pick-up poses a tempting treat for any wild animal.  Please don't put your trash cans out on Sunday.  Instead, roll your cans out by 7 a.m. Monday morning and remove all opportunities for bears to make a mess and to menace your neighborhood and endanger people and pets. 

Barbecue grills are another temptation for bears. The grease on the grill in your backyard may mean a hungry black bear on your patio when you least expect it.  Clean your grill after each use and, best of all, lock it in a closed shed or your garage if you can. Do you have a compost pile? Keep fruit off the pile...bears love fruit. Birdfeeders also attract bears.  Set out only enough seed to last the day. Bring hummingbird feeders inside at night.  Feed your pets indoors and store pet food inside. Close your garage door every night without fail.  Bring your pets inside at night, too. A small animal is no match for a hungry bear. 

An adult black bear wears between 125 and 400 pounds.  They are strong enough to rip doors off cars and can run up to 35 miles an hour, climb trees quickly and swim well. They can smell food from a mile away.  A bear on the street or on the trail is dangerous. If you see a bear in your neighborhood, stay inside and bring your pets in, too. If you are hiking in Open Space and see a bear, follow the instructions to back away slowly. It's best to hike in groups and make noise as you move.  A surprised bear is a dangerous bear. 

Welcome Committee Hosts Wine & Cheese Party for New Homeowners in April
table at wine and cheese welcome party
More than a dozen new High Desert homeowners were welcomed to the community April 25 at the Welcome Committee's twice yearly Wine & Cheese party. This was the first gathering held at the Highlands home of John and Maddy Shelton, new Chairs of the Committee. Also joining the group were members of the Board of Directors and other Committee members.

Among the High Desert newcomers were Brett and Susan Rayman (photo above, far right), new residents to Chaco Ridge.  The Raymans, now retired, moved to High Desert in November from Tallahassee, Florida where they worked in state government. Brett, a former Marine, worked in the Governor's office and Susan was a legislative budget analyst.  "We love it here," Susan said. "The views are incredible and our house in Chaco Ridge is perfect for us."  The Raymans have two married daughters, one living in Denver and one living here in Albuquerque.  "We moved here to be closer to them and to our grandchildren," Susan said.  "And it is working out beautifully."

Tom Murdock, President of the Board of Directors, gave a short speech on the Shelton's patio, welcoming the new owners to High Desert and briefly explaining how the association governs.  He encouraged new residents to consider volunteering, adding that "it takes more than 100 volunteers to make High Desert work."  

The group gave a round of applause to John and Maddy for hosting the event, and to the members of the Welcome Committee:  Nancy Coleman, Joan Newsom, Martha Cummings, Janice Rosett and Thea Berg. 

Bernalillo County Launches 'No Poop Fairy' Campaign

Bernalillo County has begun a new campaign to encourage residents to clean up after their pets.  The campaign, which includes TV spots, posters, and printed material, is based on the theme “There Is No Poop Fairy – Grab It, Bag It, Toss It.”  In addition to reminding residents that pet waste should be picked up as a common courtesy to their neighbors, the campaign seeks to dispel the myth that dog poop is somehow natural and harmless to the environment by pointing out that over 450 tons of poop can end up in the river each year through stormwater runoff – an amount which can have a significant impact on water quality throughout our area.

“The Poop Fairy campaign is very relevant to High Desert,” notes Tom Murdock, HDROA President, “and we strongly support the county’s efforts.  We budget more than $20,000 a year to service and maintain the numerous Doggie Pots around the community and we really want our residents and visitors to use them.  Hopefully, this campaign will serve as a reminder to residents that picking up their dog’s waste will not only improve the appearance of our neighborhoods but is also an important contribution to the health and safety of all our citizens.”

For more information on the campaign and to learn important facts about the impact of pet waste, please follow these links:


Annual Volunteer Recognition Dinner Honors NCC Members and Thea Berg


DinnerDozens of High Desert volunteers were honored Friday night, March 28, at the 3rd Annual Volunteer Recognition Dinner.  Top honors went to the five members of New Construction Committee (NCC) and to Thea Berg, former Welcome Committee Chair, for their extensive volunteer efforts.


The dinner honored all volunteers for their work on behalf of High Desert included Voting and Alternate Members, the Board of Directors, and committee members. More than 80 volunteers attended the dinner which was held at the Tanoan Country Club. Clay Wright, Board Director, organized the dinner which included remarks by Tom Murdock, High Desert Board president who presented the awards.


“It takes more than 100 volunteers to keep our association running,” he said.   “Your willingness to give so generously of your time to the various committees and activities is a key factor in making High Desert a great community. We deeply appreciate the time you have donated to your community. This event is our modest thank-you for all your efforts.”


The New Construction Committee members who received the collective Outstanding Volunteer of the Year award included Russ Welsch, Chair; Steve Hamm, Rick Lentz, Jeff West and Jim Mayo. Steve Hamm and Russ Welsch are shown in the photo (top left) accepting the award from Tom Murdock on behalf of the NCC. The award was given for their work over the past couple years revising the Guidelines to Sustainability documents that contain the architectural standards for High Desert. The effort took hundreds of hours and considerable attention to the details of building and architecture. The resulting documents are updated, easily searchable and contain clearer illustrations for reference.


Additionally, NCC members were recognized for their dedication to ensuring that the building process in High Desert is efficient, fair and consistent. This past year the NCC handled eight new individual home construction projects as well as the revival of construction in The Legends gated village, while completing final inspections on several homes that had been outstanding from years past.


“We are recognizing each of the NCC members for their hard work and dedication to perhaps one of the most important aspects that makes High Desert a special place to live,” Tom said. "We are fortunate that these volunteers are willing to offer their special talents to help ensure that all the homeowners in High Desert continue to live in a community of beautiful homes on some of the most special land in Albuquerque."


Thea Berg (pictured at bottom, left) was also honored as an Outstanding Volunteer at this year’s Recognition Dinner.  Tom presented her with the award, saying “Thea has been an active supporter of High Desert for a long time. She’s been out there spearheading the Welcome Committee, delivering Welcome Bags to new owners, organizing Wine & Cheese parties for new residents, helping to maintain Open Space trails, cleaning up the High Desert park, removing litter from Tramway—and doing it all with unfailing enthusiasm and goodwill.”  




NCC Updates Guidelines for Sustainability
High Desert sign
(Photo by Tom Kilroy)

By Mary Kurkjian, Chair, Communications Committee

The New Construction Committee (NCC) has published an updated version of the architectural requirements for the builder villages in High Desert. This follows the update of the Guidelines for the Estate and Premier villages that was completed last summer. Last published in 2003, the Guidelines for Sustainability are the foundation for all exterior design and modifications of the homes in High Desert.

Click here to see the Revised Guidelines for Sustainability for Builder Homes, or for the Revised Guidelines for Sustainability for Estate and Premier Homes, or go to the Governing Documents page and scroll to "Guidelines for Sustainability."

The Guidelines were developed at the time of original construction of the High Desert community in 1995 and were last updated in 2003. The New Construction Committee is chartered under the Association’s governing documents with writing and interpreting the Guidelines. Under the leadership of the former chair of the NCC, Ray Berg, the Committee undertook a major re-write of the Estate and Premier Guidelines to bring them up to date with our current construction standards and to make them more readable.

NCC member Russ Welsch told the recent Voting Members meeting that the Guidelines have been updated, but not really changed. “We have published a few specific updates to the Guidelines over the past couple years, but essentially the requirements have not changed. We hope that this complete update will allow members to find what they need quicker and with greater clarity.”

Changes included removing the two-column format, which was confusing and duplicative. The Table of Contents was made more complete and accurate. The committee also removed all references to the original developer, High Desert Investment Corporation and replaced them with the Board, NCC or Modifications Committee (MC), as appropriate. They also reordered some sections to collect similar topics together. The Prohibited Plant List, which applies to both Estate and Builder villages, was placed in a separate document by reference so that it can be easily updated and accessed. Provisions that duplicated city, state or federal laws were removed.

Most importantly, the document incorporates the updates that were previously made to the sections on mechanical and solar equipment; mailboxes; lighting; exterior artwork; community walls; and screens, shades and accessory structures.

Happy 20th Anniversary, High Desert!
articles of incorporation Just a little more than 20 years ago, the first documents establishing High Desert Residential Owners Association were officially filed with the state. These documents paved the way for the development of a community of more than 1600 homes, built in a setting which was, for the times, quite unusual.

Until 1993, high end subdivisions in Albuquerque featured lush green landscaping and common areas filled with turf, flowers, hedges and shrubs. Planning a new community around the idea of requiring natural landscaping and water conservation was brand new. But this was a special tract of land—1000 undeveloped high desert acres in the foothills of the Sandias— land that had remained empty and unspoiled through time.

In the early 1990s, the land that is now High Desert belonged to Albuquerque Academy, a private school originally founded as a boys school in 1955 in the basement of an Albuquerque church. Between 1957 and 1964, the school was given a large tract of undeveloped land north of Albuquerque, originally part of the massive Elena Gallegos Land Grant.

The Elena Gallegos Land Grant was a tract of 70,000 acres (or 100 square miles) that stretched from the crest of the Sandias down to the Rio Grande. The Grant was created in 1694 by the Spanish Crown for one Diego Montoya, and then transferred to Elena Gallegos in 1712. Over the next 250 years the land was subdivided by her descendents until most of northern Albuquerque was developed on that original tract. But a large stretch of land from the Rio Grande to the foothills still remained empty, and it was the Albert G. Simms family that donated 9,000 acres to Albuquerque Academy 50 years ago.

The school sold the western portion and used the money to create the first Academy endowment and to build the current campus on Wyoming and Academy. Next, the city bought a large section in the foothills from the school, reselling 7000 acres to the US Forest Service which incorporated it into the Sandia Mountain Wilderness and Cibola National Forest. The city retained 640 acres— which is now the Elena Gallegos Picnic Area/Albert G. Simms Park adjacent to High Desert on the north and east.

This left the 1000-acre undeveloped track we know as High Desert. The Academy established High Desert Investment Corporation (HDIC) to develop a master-planned community based on ideas of sustainability, water conservation and native landscaping. The organization designated to oversee the community-to-be was to be called “High Desert Residential Owners Association” (HDROA) and the first Articles of Incorporation were filed in October 1993. The proceeds from this development have provided Albuquerque Academy with a substantial endowment, used partly to defray tuition costs.

On December 22, 1993, the initial Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs) was adopted, setting the stage for the development of High Desert and establishing the standards all homeowners agree to abide by today.

The first sale listed in High Desert the following July was for the tract that became the Pinnacle (now Broadstone) apartments. In September 1994 the first lots in Trailhead were sold to individuals.

What made this master planned community all that different from other Albuquerque developments? The answer can be found in the association’s Guidelines for Sustainability where the vision for the community is clearly outlined: 

As stewards of this land we are committed to the vision of a community conceived, designed and built to preserve nature’s intricate balance. Our goal—an integrated and sustainable community which honors its Southwestern roots and natural habitats while providing a place that will endure.

...The mandate set for High Desert is to achieve “sustainable development.” ...At High Desert sustainability means design and construction in ways that are intended to preserve the resources, ecosystem and natural beauty of the property. Development respects nature. A large percentage of the land remains untouched in order that the rich habitats for plants and animals may continue to thrive. The arroyos remain in their natural state with only the vegetation enhanced to increase the wildlife habitat.

...Our goal is to make High Desert one of the most desirable places to live in the Southwest — a community which balances the needs of the homeowner with a concern for the future of environment.

Next year marks the 20th anniversary of house lot sales in High Desert. It also is the 10th anniversary of the election of the first owner-controlled Board of Directors.

Are you one of the first homeowners in High Desert? If so, we’d like to talk to you about your experiences as one of the first residents for our next anniversary article in the February 2014 issue of the Apache Plume newsletter. Please call Rebecca Murphy at 294-1778 or email her at:

Landscape Committee Report
High Desert homeowners can now view the full  Landscape Assessment Report here as a pdf. That report was submitted last spring to the Board by the Landscape Committee, led by homeowner Ray Berg. 

The report, including recommendations, was the result of more than a year's effort by the Committee and several dozen High Desert volunteers who surveyed all the common areas and portions of open space within the community. 

Billing Information For Residents
High Desert residents now have several options for paying assessments. Billing information and payment instructions can be found on the Billing Information page. 

Wildlife in High Desert
Do you have any terrific pictures of wildlife in High Desert that you'd like to share?  Submit your photos (in jpeg form) to and we'll post them on our Wildlife in High Desert page. These photos were taken in High Desert by Bruce Loughridge.  The lizard was seen on a large boulder in Bruce's front yard in Mountain Highlands back in 2007.  He said it measured about 10 inches from front to back and his mate was lounging in the shade nearby.  Bruce took the coyote photo below in the snowy winter of February 2006.  The coyotes continue to howl and prowl the streets of Ricegrass Place this winter, he said.

Notices & Reminders


  To see "Notices and Reminders" for High Desert,
click here.


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