Regulations to prohibit more view-blocking walls and fences along the Corrales Road scenic byway may be enacted in the weeks ahead. If passed by ordinance, the new rules would ban new solid fences or walls taller than four feet along Corrales Road, although such existing walls would be grandfathered as permitted. Anticipated for months, proposed wording for such provisions came when the Village Council considered revisions to Chapter 18 of the Village’s Code of Ordinances. It reads: “For properties along Corrales Road, no solid fence exceeding four feet in height shall be erected along Corrales Road frontage.
“Open fencing that has a transparent quality that allows views through the fence to the property may be placed upon the four-foot solid wall/fence to a maximum height of six feet.”
The provisions are meant to follow those in effect for Rio Grande Boulevard in the Village of Los Ranchos.
During brief discussion of proposed changes to Corrales’ land use regulations, one of the council members most supportive of measures to protect scenic quality, Zach Burkett, said he would not like the new rule to be so restrictive that a new wall or solid fence would have to meet that provision if it were at a distance from the road.
Such a visual barrier might make sense if it were right next to Corrales Road, but not if it were 50 feet away, he said.
He and other councillors have urged the Planning and Zoning Commission or the P&Z administrator to present a draft ordinance intended to protect scenic quality along Corrales Road. The issue was first raised more than 10 years ago.
Discussion during the March 23, 2021 council meeting about possible restrictions to protect views along Corrales’ designated “scenic and historic byway” quickly veered away from the idea that a moratorium was necessary since the community did not find itself in an emergency that would require that measure.
Instead the mayor and councillors directed the Corrales Planning and Zoning Commission to submit recommendations for an ordinance that would limit the height and opaqueness of new walls or fences along Corrales Road.
The current push to protect scenic views began shortly after erection of tall cinder block walls fronting Corrales Road at the south end of the valley. Councillor Burkett said he regretted that such walls had been permitted and asked that the council consider what might be done to prevent the same from happening all along the road.
A former chairman of the P&Z commission, architect Terry Brown, had tried to persuade the Village Council to pass such an ordinance 10 years ago, but councillors balked and the initiative died. The biggest stumbling block was that the 2011 draft ordinance seemed to apply to other roadways throughout Corrales and at intersections where walls would block visibility. The council sent the draft back to P&Z for more work, but a revision was never submitted.
(See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXX No.2, March 6, 2021 “Council Revives Interest in Corrales Road Scenic Quality.”)
The Village of Los Ranchos regulations on walls along Rio Grande Boulevard were discussed briefly at council meetings earlier this year.
Those regulations were explained as follows by Corrales Planning and Zoning Administrator Laurie Stout. “Los Ranchos uses the idea of low and open walls/fences. They restrict height of all fences to six feet. Solid walls within the front setback can only be four feet with an option to add additional open fencing on top of that to a maximum of six feet total. No solid wall or fence shall be located within the clear sight triangle of a driveway and a public or private right-of-way,” she explained.
At the March 23 council meeting, all members of the governing body supported the goal of protecting scenic quality along Corrales Road, possibly with a new ordinance modeled after that used for Rio Grande Boulevard.
Councillor Kevin Lucero made the point that any decisions on this issue will have implications for the quality of life in Corrales for decades. “The decisions we make in the coming months will determine what Corrales looks like over the next ten, 20, 25 years. What we want Corrales to look like for future generations.”
But those decisions will need to balance landowners privacy rights with protecting scenic quality, he noted.
Burkett tried to head off the controversy that scuttled the 2011 draft law by saying he did not expect any regulation that would apply to roads except Corrales Road and possibly the historic zone near the Old Church and San Ysidro Museum. To try to include other neighborhoods would be opening a can of worms, he cautioned.
Stout was asked to evaluate the Los Ranchos ordinance effectiveness 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,” she replied.
“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.”
The Village of Corrales already has regulations for walls and fences here. By law, “no wall or fence over six feet tall shall be constructed unless a building permit has been approved by the Village. Walls and fences shall be built of brick, adobe, rock, decorative concrete block, masonry, wood, wood and metal wire, pipe, wrought iron or similar materials. Walls of unstuccoed concrete block, unstuccoed concrete or similar materials are prohibited.”