Back when Pat Clauser began paying attention to Corrales politics, plans were under way to build what is now Cottonwood Mall on vacant land between Cabezon Road and Corrales Center.
That land, the northern parcels of the old Seven Bar Ranch, instead became the Riverwalk and La Paz apartment complexes.
Earlier this month, Clauser ended her 12-year service on the Village Council when Stuart Murray replaced her to represent District 6. Prior to her initial election to the council in 2008, she had served two years on the Planning and Zoning Commission.
She agreed to a retrospective interview with Corrales Comment April 3 looking back on those 14 years.
Over all, she lamented the relative lack of citizen involvement in Village affairs these days. “I think it’s really important to have more discussion at Village Council meetings and to have more people there.
“We used to have many more work-study sessions about projects than we have now. In previous times, we had much more discussion by residents coming to council meetings.
She recalled that the last standing-room-only discussions were whether the Village of Corrales should become a “sanctuary village” for undocumented immigrants and whether to allow firearms in La Entrada Park.
“I believed it was important that we not become a ‘sanctuary village’ because the council’s role is to decide how to spend public money and we have to be very careful that we don’t have a problem with the federal government.”
Another major issue that recently brought out lots of discussion was whether to buy the vacant acreage next to Wells Fargo Bank for an arboretum and other public activities. Part of the problem with that proposal was that advocates had variously stated specific desired uses, when it might have been better to stress its intrinsic value to the community.
Clauser pointed out that former Albuquerque planner Ed Boles advised her that the important thing was to identify such properties. “The land north of the bank, owned by the Gonzales family, is a property just like that… it has potential for what it could one day be for the Village of Corrales.”
During candidates’ campaigning ahead of the last municipal elections, she said, villagers urged Village officials to devote more attention to long-term planning. “Some long-term planning would be a really good thing to do, with a lot of discussion and a lot of participation.”
Clauser said the long-time director of the N.M. Municipal League, Bill Fulginetti, who died recently, “definitely believed that a village council needed to have good people on it and also needed residents who were involved and interested and actually spoke out about projects. Having more discussion and more long-term planning is a good idea.”
Among the most pressing ongoing issues that needs to be addressed, she said, is traffic. “We need to decide what is the best way to control traffic, if we can.” Integral to that is to assure that Corrales drivers have adequate green light time at the Corrales Road-Alameda Boulevard intersection. “We need to have more studies on that and more discussions with the City of Albuquerque.
“Albuquerque has really worked on raising the speed limit on Highway 528 to get drivers across to Interstate 25. We ought to be much more a part of those discussions. And we should try to find ways to make Corrales Road safer,” she added.
Clauser feels the Village and its citizens need to move ahead with an update to the Corrales Comprehensive Plan. “It is somewhat overdue.” She is certain that the plan, and the ordinances that implement it, should retain restrictions on residential density.
She pointed out that during the election last month “nearly everyone campaigning wanted to keep Corrales rural and have open space.”
Village Council meeting agendas seem much less full than in years gone by, the long-time councillor observed. “I think that’s because a number of things are being given for the staff to do rather than having residents involved.
Asked to specify what issues have gone unresolved for lack of discussion and action by the council, Clauser listed the potential purchase of the Gonzales field next to the bank and farmland preservation.
“A lot of people would like to see the Trosello property at the north end of the valley saved as farmland. And a lot of villagers want to see the Corrales Road Scenic Byway retained. I think those things are important to Corrales.”
When she and her husband, the late Milton Clauser, bought property at the south end of the valley, they soon discovered that Albuquerque was advancing northward. “When we moved into our house, we were really pleased that the land was so open and there weren’t as many houses around as there are now. We were just thrilled to be there —and then, it turned out that the City of Albuquerque was building out toward Corrales.”
At that time, the south end of the Corrales Valley was unincorporated Bernalillo County territory to which Albuquerque developers requested approvals. So Clauser and other residents of “Baja Corrales” pressed County officials for transitional buffer zoning between high-intensity development (as proposed for the Seven Bar Ranch) and the open tracts of Corrales.
“We had a hard time getting them to understand what we were trying to do. So in the late 1970s and early 80s, we went to the Village of Corrales with petitions asking to annex to them. That was something that Corrales also wanted because they wanted a stronger population base for the things they wanted to do politically. We signed several petitions to try to come in. One of those petitions included all of the property north of Highway 528, which would have brought in the grocery store [now Sprouts] and land east of there.
“That would have brought into Corrales a bit of commercial activity that would have helped Corrales with gross receipts tax. But there was opposition to that, so we re-wrote the petition with just the residential portion, which makes Cabezon Road now the southern boundary of the Village of Corrales.”
Later, the Seven Bar Ranch developers attempted to subdivide the bottomland pasture east of what is now Las Tiendas de Corrales Center at a residential density of five homes per acre.
Then-Mayor Gary Kanin vigorously fought that proposal and prevailed. The Village Council approved that subdivision at one home per acre.
Clauser recalled the developers’ other aborted plan to locate the proposed regional mall, not immediately north of Cabezon, but farther south where it is now. “It was basically determined more by the road going up to Intel,” she said, referring to Coors Bypass.
When Phil Gasteyer became mayor, filling in behind Kanin, he appointed Clauser to the Planning and Zoning Commission.
Among the thorny problems the commission had to address was what to do about the dozens of home-based businesses —such as auto repair shops, welding and construction yards— considered “grandfathered” when such properties were annexed into the Village. “We did a lot of work on what could be done that would not be a concern for other residents. I thought that went fairly well. It gave Corrales a very strong way of having people work from their homes and not be a bother to their neighborhood.”
At that point, P&Z commissioners had to give particular attention to increased traffic in a residential area caused by the home business. “Now, when we have people wanting to have Airbnbs and casita rentals, that brings in new concerns for the Village from extra traffic.”
Clauser acknowledged that Corraleños have always fretted, even fought, about the conflict inherent in the desire to keep the community rural and residential and the need for gross receipts taxes from business.
The P&Z commission attempted to circumvent that conflict by designating a new commercial area in the then almost entirely vacant northeastern corner of Village territory, along the Rio Rancho boundary north of the Montoyas Arroyo. With ample public involvement, the commission produced a Far Northwest Sector Plan with 70 acres delineated for a “neighborhood commercial, office zone (NCOD).
“There were virtually no homes up there, but anyone who went up there realized how beautiful the views were. Of course, it backs up to the industrial park in Rio Rancho. The property that was designated for potential commercial use backs into the sewage plant and the Waste Management operation and all that.”
Clauser was also involved in establishing a new zoning category for Corrales, the professional office zone, referred to as the O-zone. “It was designed for businesses like doctors and dentists, because they don’t need a large parking lot. Corrales has always had small roads, so we didn’t want large parking lots for the most part.”
She joined the momentous decision-making process regarding a sewer system along Corrales Road. Unfortunately, she said, villagers were never really offered the wastewater project as one that would use grinder pumps that could take both solids and liquids. “Basically, the South Valley did go with that, and have been very successful with it.” What was chosen here, sending liquids-only wastewater to a sewer line but retaining septic tanks “has been a concern.” she said.
A watershed event for Corrales came during Clauser’s time on the Village Council: approval of a senior living project. “We determined that we could have a senior housing development down by Sandia View Academy,” she pointed out.
In fact, it never materialized —not because it was rejected by the council or by the public, but because the developers could not secure financing for it.
“During my years on the council the Corrales Bosque Preserve has had several record successes. In 2013, Janet Ruth, a Bosque Commission member, worked with the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District to have the Audubon Society recognize an ‘Important Bird Area’ in the Corrales Bosque Preserve. Showing that the many years of volunteer work in the preserve has been fruitful in providing excellent habitat,” Clauser said.
“Just this year, in the Middle Rio Grande Song Bird Study by Trevor Fetz with Hawks Aloft, it was found that three survey transects in Corrales were found to have the highest number of wintering birds in the study area.”
She said the chair of the Corrales Bosque Advisory Commission, Joan Hashimoto, reported that the Army Corps of Engineers’ restoration project has brought great quantities of water when the river is running full into the Corrales bosque by lowering the riverbanks for the willow swales and their native plantings are doing very well.
And, she pointed out, Fire Chief Anthony Martinez worked with Trenton Koger whose Eagle Scout Project to put in nine river mile marker signs to orient persons on the river needing assistance so that they could give rescuers their correct locations.”
Clauser also played a key role in implementing Corrales’ Trails Master Plan. “Work on the Corrales trail project has allowed more work on trails throughout the village. Plans continue to add connections carefully for us all to use.”
She recalled the economic downturn in 2008 that brought closures in the Corrales Road commercial area. “I’ve been totally impressed with the work that Corrales MainStreet started during Mayor Scott Kominiak’s time getting those buildings sold and successful again. From that, Sandy Rasmussen [of Corrales MainStreet] did an incredible job getting Ex Novo in on that property across from the fire station after the T-House burned down.
“And then we saw the old Perea House redone so beautifully. We’ve had really great progress. I can remember even having the gasoline station empty, and we got that back. Now I believe the Frontier Mart has been sold. I know Jean Waszak was quite happy about it. That store has been really marvelous for Corrales.
“And I believe Corrales Pharmacy has been a real plus for the village as well.”