Proposed as an agenda item for the Village Council’s July 20 session is discussion about possible regulations for walls and fences along Corrales Road aimed at protecting scenic quality. The topic has been surging and ebbing over the past year with the Planning and Zoning Commission prodded to present a draft ordinance that mirrored what the Village of Los Ranchos enacted for Rio Grande Boulevard on the other side of the river. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXX No.8 June 5, 2021 “New Rules for Corrales Road Walls, Fences.”) At least three council members are expected to support imposition of new regulations because they have said so publicly over the past six months. They are Councillors Zach Burkett, Tyson Parker and Kevin Lucero.
Planning and Zoning Administrator Laurie Stout was asked to evaluate the Los Ranchos ordinance to protect scenery along Rio Grande Boulevard and whether it achieves a balance for landowners’ privacy. “What the Los Ranchos ordinance does is that it allows a modicum of privacy since you’ve got your walls to a certain extent but with an open pattern at the top. And they also have setbacks that we can look at for a front fence. That would be another option. “It allows people to keep their animals in and keep other animals out, as the case may be. As you drive down Rio Grande Boulevard, it is a delightful experience. You can see the farmland, the large lots, the architecture. Corrales Road is a scenic byway, so looking at an ordinance would certainly be appropriate to balance the rights of the property owner with the overall feel that we want to keep here in Corrales.”
At the council’s June 15 meeting, Stout said the P&Z commission was still tweaking a draft ordinance, but that it might be ready to present to the council for posting and publishing at the July 20 session. As discussion wound down during a May meeting, Mayor Jo Anne Roake summarized. “At this point I can see things coalescing around focusing on a couple of areas in town, such as the scenic byway and the historic area to start with and maybe creating an ordinance that has Los Ranchos as a model to keep kind of a balance” between scenic quality and landowners’ privacy. Burkett said last spring he was researching what might be done to revive the status of Corrales Road as a designated scenic byway and what might be done to bolster that. Former Corrales Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Terry Brown had made that a high priority since at least 2010.
In a power point presentation to the Corrales Planning and Zoning Commission on April 12, 2011, Brown demonstrated what has been lost by view-blocking walls along Corrales Road and what has been preserved by see-through fences and low walls. But for other Corraleños, the idea that Village officials might tell them what kind of fence is permissible reeks of governmental over-reach and offends libertarian values. At the December 8, 2020 Village Council meeting, Councillor Burkett said he would like to see incentives by Village government to encourage other styles of walls or fences that do not inhibit views. He said he wanted the council to address the issue after seeing such tall, solid walls erected by builder Steve Nakamura on two properties at the south end of Corrales over the past year.
Similar long walls have gone up adjacent to Corrales Road at the north end in recent years, creating what Brown has referred to as a “canyon” effect that destroy the scenic quality for which Corrales has been known for many years. When Brown heard of Burkett’s interest, he said he looked forward to collaborating on a proposal to address the worsening situation. “When I was chair of the Corrales Planning and Zoning Commission, the last issue I tried to get a reluctant council to approve was a recommendation for a requirement for a partially open wall ordinance along Corrales Road. “The new CMU walls being built by Mr. Nakamura at the south end of Corrales are the antithesis of what Corrales needs,” Brown added.
“Look at the fencing along Rio Grande. This is what I envision for our village, and what is desperately needed to protect the views along the Corrales ‘scenic byway.’” Views along Corrales Road of pastures, horses, farms, orchards, vineyards and old tractors are central to this community’s character and perhaps even its economic vitality. A degree of national recognition for those attributes was gained in 1995 when Corrales Road was designated a “scenic and historic byway.” But a Village-appointed byways corridor management committee disbanded amid controversy more than a decade ago and was never fully reconstituted.