By Bert Coxe

Sneaky Shenanigans in Sandoval County

One of my core beliefs is that bad things happen when nobody is looking.

Right now bad things are about to happen in Sandoval County, the fourth largest county in New Mexico. While the rest of us are worried about COVID, Thanksgiving, Build Back Better, and redistricting at the state and national level, the Sandoval County Commission is trying to work quietly and without fanfare to gerrymander the county’s commission districts for a permanent Republican majority.

Sandoval County is generally assumed by politicos to be “purple.” In the 2020 presidential election, 55 percent went for Joe Biden, but more often votes are closer to a 50-50 split between Republicans and Democrats. The current County Commission is divided between three Republican and two Democratic commissioners.

Districts 1 and 5 tend Democratic. Districts 3 and 4 are usually solidly Republican. District 2 has been a swing district in the past, although in the past two election cycles it has been won by the Trump enthusiast and current Republican candidate for governor, Jay Block. Until last week, I had never given a thought to redistricting county commission districts. I am pretty sure that 99+ percent of Americans are in the same boat.

Then someone pointed out to me what was going on in the commission. The Sandoval Commission had hired a “demographic consulting company” run/owned by former GOP State Senator Rod Adair, to come up with potential plans to redistrict the county. The core strategy behind Adair’s plans is to “pack” all Democratic voters into two districts and Republican voters into the other three. He does this by ignoring many of the rules that govern redistricting: keeping districts geographically compact, minimizing the number of split political subdivisions, preserving the cores of previous districts and protecting and taking into account the concerns of like-minded communities within whole districts without splitting them between districts.

His main strategy is to tear the Village of Corrales, whole or in part, out of the very compact District 2 and attach it to Placitas, across the Rio Grande, 20 miles away. His other strategy is to “pack” the widely-dispersed Native American population (seven Indian pueblos and all or portions of six tribal entities/lands) into one giant district over 3,000 square miles in area.

Adair claims he did this to protect the voting power of “Indians” (his words.) Somehow he forgot to ask any of the Native American communities what they actually wanted and whether this proposal was acceptable to the majority of them. (Judging by the Native turnout at last night’s meeting, it is not.) Finally, he massacres the small town of Bernalillo and divides it into as many as three different commission districts.

Apparently the commission, especially Chairman David Heil, thought it could sneak this through without anybody looking. The plans were set to be presented at the Sandoval County Commission meeting on November 18, but when Chairman Heil found out that local Democratic, Native American, other grassroots groups, and individual concerned citizens were planning on attending the meeting, he sent out a hyperbolic plea to local Republicans to fight back, tarring Commissioner Kathy Bruch in the process.

Per the email sent out to Sandoval Republicans, “The Bruch plan is being presented as the fair plan however only a far left Democrat could be so delusional that they can think the plan is fair to anyone but themselves.” By the way, there is no “Bruch plan”. There was another plan, presented by a local citizen, Isaac Chavez, that followed all of the redistricting principles and that Commissioner Bruch had nothing to do with.

In last night’s meeting, Chairman Heil spent 15 minutes cross-examining Chavez like Johnny Cochran defending O.J. Simpson. Although no voting has yet happened, it is apparent that the Republican commissioners (David Heil, Jay Block and Michael Meek) are resolved to ram through these egregious gerrymanders. Commissioner Block’s statement at the end of the meeting’s public comment period was “elections have consequences,” which I interpreted to mean, “we really don’t give a hoot what all of you whiners have to say… we are doing it our way.”

By Steve Gutierrez

Cannabis ventures in Corrales

Once again, Corrales finds itself in the middle of furious activity related to the cannabis industry. Why is Corrales such a target for growers? Primarily, because we are mostly zoned A-1 and A-2 (as opposed to most communities being R-1), which are not protected by the NM Cannabis Regulation Act. In recent weeks, about a dozen applicants have approached the village to provide them with approval to grow in Corrales, which until recently was protected against this activity by Ordinance 18-002. I was previously involved with an attempt for a cannabis operation to setup next to my home and with the help of others and the Village Council a carefully worded ordinance 18-002 was presented and approved in 2018 which disallowed the growth of cannabis in our residential areas (A-1, A-2, H-1). However, with the large influx of applicants for recreational growth of cannabis, and the threat that ordinance 18-002 violated the Cannabis Regulation Act, the administration and council, likely out of fear of being sued, hastily passed an amendment to the existing ordinance eliminating the protections against the growth of Cannabis in our residential areas.

In a recent publication of the Corrales Comment, the administration was spinning their actions to better protect the village. I found this disingenuous as further action is only necessary because they recently eliminated the protections offered by Ordinance 18-002. I presented to the administration and council the following information at a recent council meeting.

I have a close associate who has been heavily involved with the Cannabis Regulation Act and had them review ordinance 18-002 for compliance. Today, I want to share with you the results of their opinion and the provisions from the Regulation Act that highlight that the old 18-002 ordinance was in fact in compliance with the act. The following is their opinion, and I quote “The Village of Corrales has the authority to prohibit the production of cannabis in certain zones so long as there are other zoning categories in which the production of cannabis is allowed, which is what the Village did when it adopted Ordinance 18-002. Sec. 12 of the Act states that a local jurisdiction may “adopt time, place and manner rules that do not conflict with the Cannabis Regulation Act or the Dee Johnson Clean Indoor Air Act, including rules that reasonably limit density of licenses and operating time consistent with neighborhood uses.” The ordinance prevents the production of cannabis (and the sale of the cannabis produced on site) in certain areas of the Village; however, it expressly states that it does not “impose any new regulations or requirements relating to facilities in zones other than the A-1, A-2, and H zones of the Village, leaving any regulation related to cannabis and cannabis-derived products in those areas for future consideration.” I believe prohibiting the production in certain zoning categories is allowed by the act, so long as there are other zones where production is allowed. The act does state that a “local jurisdiction cannot completely prohibit the operation of a licensee.”

So, as specified in the ct, a local jurisdiction has many methods available to them to adopt rules governing the production of cannabis. They can restrict allowable locations, limit the density of licenses and/or operating times consistent with neighborhood uses. This gives local authorities a wide range of ways to be in compliance with the act.

I would request that the mayor and council approve the action to further amend Ordinance 18-002.

Time is becoming critical as the state law for recreational growth becomes active on January 2022. If the administration and council does not take further action before that date, there is no recourse to stop the issuance of permits to recreational growers of cannabis. We have attempted without success to get this topic before the council meeting to at least place a moratorium in place until this gets further resolved. Realistically, there is only one council meeting left available to us to get some protections in place for all residents of the village.

If we do nothing, with the current amendments in place, let me give you an example of how this could be exploited. The village has spent a significant amount of expense and effort in acquiring farmland to preserve the lifestyle of Corrales. However, everyone one of those preserved properties could now be used for the intensive activity of cannabis growth. So, instead of having preserved lands from housing developments, we now will have greenhouses larger than any home that could have ever been built, operating night and day. So instead of driving through Corrales viewing large open protected areas, we instead will have row upon row of greenhouses while driving down our streets all of them easily visible day and night with their hot air balloon-like glow associated with their 24-hour lighting requirements.

Lastly, when the previous discussion came up on cannabis growth in the village, the state limited permits to 450 plants per license and the report I presented was based upon that level of production. Today, that number has increased nearly 10-fold to 4,000 plants. The operations potentially arriving here are ten times more intensive and, in my view, should be viewed more as industrial farming activities and governed as such. There is huge money involved for growers and sellers of cannabis, and as  such there is tremendous pressure being placed on communities like ours to force their way into our lives. I would strongly recommend that we take our time to carefully understand the requirements of the act, the impact it will have on the village and the people that live here. Know that we are not alone. Many communities throughout the state are equally being bombarded by strongly worded ultimatums by the cannabis industry. It would be in our best interest to take the time to understand how other communities are facing this pressure before hastily trying to accommodate this industry.

With some 12 applicants already in line for permits, this is no longer a possibility but a reality. If something is not done in the short term to protect our village from the amendments made to ordinance 18-002, we could soon find ourselves with large commercial-like activities taking place next to a significant number of homes within the village. Please contact the mayor and your Village Council representative to get this topic on the next council meeting for discussion and move forward on reinstating the protections enabled by ordinance 18-002.

By Fred Hashimoto

Let’s Approve the QOL Amendment

 In 1975, I got a job in Albuquerque and moved to Corrales.  Why?  Quality of life.  This includes:  open and natural space, clear and clean air, stars at night, peace and quiet, I won’t bother neighbors and vice versa, water easily accessible and safety.

Since then, the population of the village has more than tripled with the large proportion of that increase being people who have moved here. Because relocating to Corrales is rather more expensive than to neighboring areas and very few have to live here, people (like me and probably you) who have moved here, have deliberately chosen to live here.  Why?  Quality of life (or QOL).

 Six months ago, the State passed the Cannabis Regulation Act that threatens QOL in Corrales.  The legislation legalizes recreational cannabis, which is a personal matter for people, but it, unfortunately and perhaps unwittingly, has adversely impacted Corrales by opening up residential neighborhoods here to invasion by commercial recreational cannabis producers.

 Several years ago, commercial medical cannabis greenhouses suddenly appeared next to the Corrales del Norte subdivision. Currently, those greenhouses grow medical marijuana but, in several months, they might also be producing recreational cannabis too —really big profits there.

 This has significantly affected the QOL of neighbors of that growing facility.  A few of their comments are:

“We have experienced and lived with the nuisance of a pot facility, i.e. the odor that is so strong that there were many evenings this past summer when we could not spend time on our portal or sleep with our windows open —one of the beautiful elements of living in Corrales— the traffic on Camino de Corrales del Norte has increased dramatically since the pot farm was constructed a couple of years ago, i.e. employees, customers, partners, etc.  There will be property value issues, crime will increase, roadside trash is already an issue.  We were here first and no one has considered the effects of the pot facility on us.”

“We have again had to suffer the smell from Komadina’s pot facility located 350 yards from my house. It’s just not right. Apparently, there was a favorable Komadina wind the night of Starry Nights.  If not for the wind those of you attending might have gotten to experience it.”

“The bad smell has been a killer for us every night for the past month as we are just one house away from the pot location.  It was nauseating for us at night and we had to close the doors and windows. It is a shame that we cannot enjoy the wonderful cool nights of the fall because of the smelly odor.”

“We have been forced to endure obnoxious and offensive odors produced from the cannabis operations, a tremendous increase in traffic on our once quiet streets, a lack of police enforcement of residential speed limits in our neighborhood, accumulation of trash on our streets and properties, crime and other undesirable consequences of the cannabis operation.”

“We have been overlooked and abandoned by our council for long enough.  It is time for you to pay attention to the residents that are paying the price for one family to prosper greatly. We invested in this neighborhood, and now our investment is suffering, and we can add violent crime to that long list!”

“Two of our neighbors have sold their homes because of the pot facility and/or the newly enacted and very permissive ordinance (21-06).  What do you think all of this has done to our property values?  Realtors, now, not only have disclosed the existence of the facility but also the crime. Probably nothing a potential buyer would want to hear. We have been seriously damaged financially and mentally. This is what our village government is supposed to protect us from.”

Commercial cannabis growing facilities are probably not going to pop up in every neighborhood, but for some, it will happen, and then what can you do?  Grin and bear your loss of QOL and decrease in property values? That stinks, and more.

Large vacant lots aren’t required to house commercial cannabis growing structures. A moderate-sized, intensive commercial greenhouse of 6,000 square feet covers less than 1/6th of an acre, which fits easily in many backyards.

My very close friend’s industrial greenhouse in Colorado has been burglarized.

 In 2018, the Village Council passed Ordinance 18-002, which banned commercial cannabis production, manufacturing and distribution in A-1 and A-2 zones, which comprise 97 percent of the village.

 Sadly, our current Village ordinances, driven by the State Cannabis Regulation Act, allow the invasive, intensive cannabis growing structures and facilities in A-1 and A-2 zones. This is not conducive to maintaining the well-known Corrales QOL.

On December 14, some councilors will propose the publishing and posting of an amendment (the QOL Amendment) reinstituting the ban of commercially growing, manufacturing, distributing and selling cannabis in A-1 and A-2 zones. At its last meeting, the council unanimously passed a moratorium to delay action on commercial cannabis business licenses in the village for 95 days.  This has allowed the re-introduction of the QOL Amendment. Time is of the essence here.

 Please support the QOL Amendment, which helps protect our quality of life and property values and the Village wherein we live.  Please sign the online or hard-copy petition —circulated by a non-partisan group of concerned citizens— supporting the QOL Amendment.

QOL is why we live here.  Let’s keep that.

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