On a 5-to-1 vote March 8, the Village Council adopted new regulations to control land uses here, including such controversial topics as construction of casitas, commercial marijuana cultivation, senior living facilities and restrictions on walls and fences along the Corrales Road Scenic Byway. Passage of the re-vamped Chapter 18 of the Village’s Code of Ordinances regarding land use came despite Councillor Stuart Murray’s dire warning that it could have “unintended consequences that are going to bite us in the butt.”
He urged that a decision on the Chapter 18 rules be postponed to a special session March 15. “If we approve this as it is, it’s going to be a disaster,” he cautioned.
Murray said the proposed changes 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,” Murray advised.
Other councillors were not persuaded, and saw a benefit to moving ahead with the long process without waiting until a new mayor and three council members are sworn in March 31.
At the council’s direction more than a year ago, the Village contracted with the Mid-Region Council of Governments to review, analyze and make recommendations to change Corrales’ land use policies. MRCOG planners were to collaborate with a committee appointed from the current Planning and Zoning Commission and citizens from neighborhoods all over Corrales. But that process had weak participation, as one of its members, retired architect Pat McClernon, pointed out at the March 8 council meeting. He said major recommendations were made without review from the appointed citizens until they were presented as the finished product.
McClernon was especially concerned about what he considered inadequate controls on residential density, adding that enforcement had been practically non-existent during the past three years.
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.”
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.
Councillors Parker and Murray succeeded; when the final recommendations were presented for a vote March 8, Borg had restored the earlier Special Use Permit provisions.
But generally, councillors were told that if they had concerns about other provisions, those could be addressed later, item by item.
(See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXXI No.2 March 5, 2022 “Council Votes on Land use Regulations.”)
Concerned citizens were 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.”
Rules for installing walls or fences along Corrales Road was changed “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.