A new law restricting secondary dwellings on residential lots in Corrales was passed unanimously at the June 15 Village Council meeting. Ordinance 21-04 clarified what constitutes an impermissible kitchen and defines a dwelling unit which “may be a mobile home, modular home, manufactured home or site-built house. It may also be an independent unit of an apartment, townhouse or other such multiple-unit residential structure where allowed by Zoning Code. Recreational vehicles, travel trailers or converted buses, whether on wheels or a permanent foundation, cannot be a dwelling unit.” The key point in the wording above is that Corrales law permits only one such dwelling unit on an acre of land, or on two acres of land in the former Bernalillo County portion of the village.

The ordinance does not ban, or otherwise restrict casitas, or guesthouses, or so-called “mother-in-law” quarters, that already exist here. The adopted amendments to Section 18-29 and Section 18-203 of the Village’s Code of Ordinances were considered necessary because such secondary dwelling have proliferated in recent years with property owners erecting them as rentals. The preamble of the ordinance passed June 15 states the intent as follows. The Village Council “directs the Village to require the residential dwelling unit density to be limited to a maximum of one per lot, with a minimum lot size of one or two acres, depending on the zone, and; Whereas, New Mexico State Statute directs that the zoning ordinances should be in accordance with the Comprehensive Plan: “the regulations and restrictions of the county or municipal zoning authority are to be in accordance with a comprehensive plan and be designed to:

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1. Lessen congestion in the streets and public ways;
2. Secure safety from fire, floodwaters, panic and other dangers;
3. Promote health and the general welfare;
4. Provide adequate light and air;
5. Prevent the overcrowding of the land;
6. Avoid undue concentration of population;
7. Facilitate adequate provision for transportation, water, sewerage, schools, parks and other public requirements; and
8. Control and abate the unsightly use of buildings or land, and;
Whereas, as per Village Code Section 18-28 (a) “any use not classified as a permissive use or a use by review within a particular zone is hereby prohibited from that zone”, and; Whereas, in accordance with the Comprehensive Land Use Plan, Village ordinances limit density to one dwelling unit per lot, with a minimum lot size of one acre in A-1 Agricultural and Rural Residential, Historical, and Neighborhood Commercial zones and two acres in A-2 Agricultural and Rural Residential zone. (Dwelling units are not a permissive use in Professional Office or Municipal zones); and Whereas, a Dwelling Unit as defined in Village Code Sections 18-29 Definitions and Section 18-203 Definitions “means any building or part of a building intended for human occupancy and containing one or more connected rooms and a single kitchen, designed for one family for living and sleeping purposes”, and;

Whereas, a Kitchen as defined in Village Code Sections 18-29 Definitions and “means any room used, intended or designed to be used for cooking or the preparation of food. The presence of a range or oven, or utility connections suitable for servicing a range or oven, shall be considered as establishing a kitchen”, and;
Whereas, in addition to a dwelling unit, the zoning ordinance allows for an “accessory structure” to be built on residentially and commercially zoned lots. An Accessory Structure as defined in Village Code Section 18-29 Definitions states “Accessory uses and structures means uses and structures which are clearly incidental and subordinate to principal uses and structures located on the same property” and;

Whereas, despite the above-mentioned regulations limiting density to one dwelling unit per lot, secondary dwelling units, sometimes known as “casitas”, have periodically been constructed in Corrales. This occurs when an accessory structure is legally constructed on a lot already containing a dwelling unit, and the accessory structure is subsequently converted to another dwelling unit via the addition of an oven or range, and; Whereas, the “oven/range or utility connections suitable for servicing one” is the only distinguishing feature separating an accessory structure from a dwelling unit, and; Whereas, the Village of Corrales has no municipal water or sewer with the majority of lots nearly entirely on-site water (well) and septic, low density development is not only an aesthetic issue but a health and safety concern….”

As discussion began on the motion to adopt the changes as presented by Planning and Zoning Administrator Laurie Stout, several changes to her recommendations emerged, which had been anticipated based on discussion at the previous council meeting. After public comment from Ryan Burt, Scott Parker, John Clark and Vanessa Santo as the June 15 meeting, Councillor Tyson Parker wanted the new ordinance to specify that “kitchen means any room used, intended or designed to be used for cooking or the preparation of food.” That motion was approved unanimously. Then Parker offered another amendment to the main motion: “Dwelling Unit [is] a single unit with connected rooms intended, or designed to be built, used, rented, leased, let or hired out to be occupied, providing complete independent living facilities for one or more persons, including permanent provisions for each and everyone of the following uses: living, sleeping, eating, cooking and sanitation. A dwelling unit may be a mobile home, modular home, manufactured home or site-built house. it may also be an independent unit of an apartment, townhouse or other such multiple-unit residential structure, where allowed by the Zoning Code. Recreational vehicles, travel trailers or converted buses, whether on wheels or a permanent foundation, cannot be a dwelling unit.”

Parker’s second amendment, above, was also adopted, but not unanimously. Councillors Kevin Lutero and Stuart Murray voted no. Next Councillor Parker moved that the new ordinance should change the definition of “accessory uses and structures. His proposed wording was that an “accessory building or structure means a building detached from and incidental and subordinate to the dwelling unit and located on the same lot, such as a detached garage, workshop or studio. An accessory building or structure shall not be used as a second or independent dwelling unit.” His third amendment also passed unanimously, 5-0.

Finally, a motion to adopt Ordinance 21-04, as amended that evening, was approved with a unanimous vote of the councillors. Near the end of debate on the casitas motions, Councillor Stuart Murray expressed concerns that tight restrictions will still depend on close monitoring and enforcement by the P&Z office. “I’m concerned that regardless of good intentions for these rules on casitas or extra dwelling units, people are going to put them out there for rent as Airbnb or whatever they want, and ultimately we’re changing the dynamics of the village because we’re adding more people,” he cautioned.

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