ISSUE 3-5-22 COUNCIL VOTES MARCH 8 ON LAND USE REGULATIONS

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A vote by the Village Council March 8 could change Corrales laws about construction of casitas, permitting of group homes and senior living projects,  fences and walls along Corrales Road and several other chronic controversies. Mayor Jo Anne Roake pushed for a council decision at that meeting despite Councillor Stuart Murray’s warning that the proposed changes to Chapter 18 of the Village’s Code of Ordinances are “not ready for prime time.” He said the regulations set out in recommendations to amend the Village’s land use laws could “change the whole dynamics of this village.”

Murray expressed concerns about changes that might inadvertently allow far greater residential densities, which could jeopardize groundwater quality. “With these changes, our controls over density can go out the window pretty quick,” the councillor cautioned.

Councillors are likely to attempt amendments to the proposed ordinance at the March 8 meeting, and a motion to table could be successful. An ordinance to adopt revisions to Chapter 18 of the Code of Ordinances would typically be presented to the Village Council for a vote whether to post and publish it. No such vote was taken at the February 8 or February 22 meeting, although Village Administrator Ron Curry assured Corrales Comment February 25 that legal notice for  such an proposed adoption would be posted and published as required by law.

Another concern  voiced at the February 22 council meeting involved proposed elimination of Special Use Permits. Councillor Tyson Parker said doing so could be “a really big mistake.”

The changes proposed to Chapter 18 land use regulations were developed by a committee  appointed by the mayor working with planners from the Mid-Region Council of Governments (MRCOG) and the Planning and Zoning Commission. In her presentation to the council February 22, MRCOG’s Bianca Borg said Section 18-45 would be better without a Special Use permit process, saying that the ordinance already has a “Use by Review” provision, which she contended is very similar to that for a Special Use. She said requirements for site development plan approval also would cover much the same concerns.

Murray and Parker disagreed, suggesting Borg didn’t really understand how the Special Use permitting system has functioned in Corrales.

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Concerned citizens are expected to give most scrutiny to land use policies regarding cultivation of cannabis here.  But the planners’ recommendations basically deferred to the Village Council’s recently adopted ordinance restricting marijuana growing for commerce to land not zoned for residential use.

In her presentation, Borg explained why she had recommended deletion of a special definition for senior living facilities, a topic of substantial interest in Corrales over the past three years. “The current language for senior living facilities only applies to one area in the Village and the regulations are highly restrictive and not feasible to meet. These regulations for a senior living facility have been removed, and MRCOG recommends looking into adding a special use zoning district in the future to adequately allow for these facilities.

“It should be noted that an update to the Village’s Comprehensive Plan may be necessary to allow for higher density residential development.

“With the proposed edits, senior living facilities would be permissible if they meet the one dwelling unit per acre standard or operate as a group home.”

Among what are likely to be less disputed provisions, she clarified that the standard for driveway access to private property would specify that “No driveway connection to residential or agricultural property in the A-1, A-2 or H zone shall be more than twenty-four (24) feet in width or less than 12 feet in width.”

More controversial, and in fact the subject of a lawsuit against the Village, is a recommendation clarifying home construction on steep terrain. It specifies that “Natural slopes greater than eight (8) percent but less than 15 percent may be regraded to create building pads, slab on grade, stem wall and split level, so long as the following conditions are satisfied….”

Borg said the phrase “but less than 15 percent” was added as recommended by Village staff.

If approved by the council March 8, or at a subsequent meeting, the rules for installing walls or fences along Corrales Road would change “to incorporate a standard for over four feet. Sixty-five percent of the fence above four feet must be open,” apparently meaning see-through, to retain scenic quality along the Corrales Road Scenic Byway.

The recommended changes to Chapter 18’s provisions will allow short-term rentals; group homes are to be considered a permissive use, but “cluster housing” would not. “Current language does not achieve clustered housing and can be revisited with update of the Comprehensive Plan.”

That was along several other issues the planners felt would be better left to community consensus as a new Comprehensive Plan is adopted, presumably sometime in 2023.

In Section 18-37, regarding commercial land uses,  the recommendation for a C-zone parcel in the  neighborhood commercial district along Corrales Road would eliminate the long list of specific permissive uses so that it covers similar types of businesses.

 On the other hand it clarified which kinds of business uses would require a site development plan and which would not.

Under provisions to govern group homes, the planners noted that “State statute says licensed homes can have up to 10 residents in zones where single family housing is allowed.”

In explaining to the mayor and council why the new land use ordinance should eliminate awarding Special Use Permits, Borg said “MRCOG (in cooperation with the working group assigned to this project by the Village Council) determined that the Special Use Permit process was nearly identical to that of the Site Development Plan process. After following up with the Planning and Zoning Administrator, MRCOG determined that the Special Use Permit had no formal application or fee, was never used to her knowledge, and was thereby removed from the code.

“At the Village Council meeting on November 9, 2021, MRCOG presented updates to the Village Council.

During this meeting, concern was expressed by a number of councillors about the removal of the Special Use Permit from Chapter 18. The example that was given was that a member of the council believed that the special use permit was used to allow Wagner’s Farm to host their annual Halloween event. Upon further research MRCOG determined that Wagner’s Farm is in an A-1 Zoning district and would not be eligible for a Special Use Permit as it only applies to property with commercial or municipal zoning.

“The primary concern is that because an allowance for zoning interpretation has been added, the Special Use Permit is now de facto re-zoning and could be considered a use variance which is prohibited under Chapter 18-48 (c)(4)d.

“MRCOG believes that the Special Use Permit should be removed and that the Site Development approval process provides an equal measure of review and allows the Village enough oversight of proposed projects in the non-residential zoning districts.”

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