First District Court Judge Raymond Z. Ortiz found in favor of Santa Fe Community College on Tuesday, saying it does not need legislative approval to build a new Higher Learning Center.
The state’s Higher Education Department has stalled construction of the center for a year, claiming it must be approved by lawmakers first. In May, college officials hired the Albuquerque law firm of Freedman Boyd Hollander Goldberg Ives & Duncan to file a legal action to clarify the matter. Both the state attorney general and various legislators have sided with the college.
The 75-minute hearing drew about 25 people, most of whom were staff or supporters of the college.
The purpose of the center is to offer Northern New Mexicans the chance to earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree in Santa Fe. County voters approved a $12 million bond in 2010 to build the center on land adjacent to the Santa Fe University of Art and Design.
The college opened a temporary learning center in the west wing of its campus on Richards Avenue in 2011, which serves about 500 students. It is planning to build a 50,000-square-foot building to expand its operations and enroll up to 800 students.