By Abby Boling and Jeff Radford
Surprises may not be what you’d expect from a docile, greyish plant, even one that tends to wander. But then, maybe you don’t know much about succulents. A fictional variety featured in the 1960 move Little Shop of Horrors was a blood-thirsty cross of the lowly carnivorous butterwort plant. The varieties that soon will emerge from Bonnie and Al Putzig’s subterranean Corrales greenhouse are more tame, yet amazing nonetheless.
As might be expected in a hot, arid environment, many landscapes in Corrales incorporate cactus, a succulent, while fewer specialize in nurturing agaves, echeveria, sedums and other fleshy plants. The succulent many Corrales gardeners probably are most familiar with is aloe vera.
At their home in the lower sandhills, the Putzigs have more than 50 kinds of in patios and medium sunny outdoor spots. “They’re just different; they’re not like your typical geraniums or your typical cactus. People have never seen them before.” Among her favorites are euphorbia, climb chile, and mangave macho mocha. “which, when it blooms, is so incredible.” And, pointing to an aeonium, “These are amazing. They have big rosettes on them and yellow flowers. This one looks like a helicopter.”
Another, the paddle plant, also known as desert cabbage and red pancake, is among the most dramatic of succulents. “It spikes later in the summer, into the fall, and has these beautiful orange-red hues on it,” even though earlier in the growing season it is a pale beige. Her sedums also turn a handsome red-orange in the fall if they gets sun.
Until recently, since the succulents needed shelter from the winter cold, spaces were found for them indoors as chilly weather set in. “The house was like a forest,” Bonnie Putzig explained. “And then at Christmas, we had a Christmas tree in here as well! My husband eventually got tired of all that, and that’s when we came up with the idea of a greenhouse.”
Al Putzig researched what could be built in the yard to keep the succulents alive and warm through the winter. They chose a walipini, a design of Bolivian origin which lets the sun’s rays in even though mostly buried in earth. “Walipini” is an Aymara word meaning “a place of warmth.” They built one in 2018 which now houses dozens of plants including lemon and lime trees and geraniums sporting bright red blossoms. As the seasons pass, they’re still learning how to use and maintain it.
The walipini is designed to prevent the temperature inside from dipping below 40 degrees. As a safeguard, a thermostat turns on a space heater until such time that a solar heating apparatus is installed. “The space heater is more than sufficient so far. “The plants are really happy in there,” she added. “But by the end of the winter when they’ve been in there about six months, they’re ready to get out and into the sun.
“Over the last couple of winters, I’ve lost a couple, but now I know which ones to watch. It’s all experiment. It’s all learning. I try to adapt as I learn more. Every year, I learn more about what works and what doesn’t. And I get more confident in trying different arrangements and different pots.
“What I’m getting into now is arrangements of different varieties in pots. I’m doing that now for fundraisers. I had two arrangements at a fundraiser, and I didn’t know what price to put on them. But I put $50 on them, and they went in a heartbeat.” They moved to Corrales 13 years ago from the Nob Hill area where they were for the prior 20 years. They decided to buy a home here after driving out one fall to show visiting relatives the Wagners’ Farm store.
After moving to the Albuquerque area from Vancouver, Canada, they had to adjust to aridity and other harsh conditions. “There you don’t even have to think about watering. You just put a plant in, and it grows. But here, you’re watering daily in the summer with 100 degrees. It’s labor-intensive gardening. And here, you’re having to deal with a lot of bugs and pests we never had in the Northwest.
“And then, living out here in Corrales, there are rodents. You’ve got squirrels and rabbits. From experience, she now avoids vegetable gardens here, except for pots outside her kitchen window that grow kale and chard each spring. “There are different colors of kale and chard, so it’s colorful. And that works. But then the heat comes. In the beginning of May, they’re done. So I put herbs in as replacements.”
When they acquired the property in 2007, much of it was in sagebrush and four-wing saltbush. But growing succulents is very much a specialty unless you’re content with the common, usually volunteer cacti. Other than with cacti, the learning curve can be steep —and expensive. “Succulents are very touchy about sun,” she warned, and over-watering can kill them.
“You can’t be very aggressive with water, because in their natural habitat, they get little moisture. And they don’t need much moisture to start with. In their natural habitat, it’s cooler in winter, whereas here it’s colder. I’ve just learned not to be worried about water. I water them maybe every week and a half in winter. In summer I water a little very day, but not a soaking.”
As a planting medium, she uses regular planting soil with a little home-produced compost added. “I never replace an entire pot of its soil. I just amend what’s there. I put in fresh soil, some compost, and maybe a handful of manure. In winter, she does “armchair gardening,” thinking about what needs to be done, consulting books to discover plants with desirable colors. After a career as a hospital operating room nurse, she is now retired. She also studied landscape design while earning a bachelor’s degree in art. “All the classes I took were in the architecture department. If I had gone on for a master’s it would have been to learn more about healing gardens, which is what I do here.”
In her career as a nurse, she came to understand the value of such features in a health care setting. In hospitals, space and resources are assigned to facilities such as operating rooms and clinics but not spaces planted for therapeutic purposes. Kaseman Hospital has a small area, “and it’s really nice, but in the summer, it’s hot because it’s surrounded by four walls. In any other season except summer, it’s a really nice spot. “But in general, there has not been a lot of money or research that has gone into healing gardens,” she admitted. “Hospitals tend to spend money where money can be made, and you can’t make it with a landscape.”
But the research that does exist suggests that “if you are a patient in a room recovering from surgery or something else, and your room has a window that faces just a concrete wall, that doesn’t help you recover. But if you have trees and greenery, perhaps with birds to look at, it makes a world of difference in your recovery. Research has shown that, but there’s not a lot of information about it out there.” But progress is coming, she added. “Some hospitals are integrating healing landscapes, especially for cancer patients.” She referred to California landscape designer Topher Delaney, a breast cancer survivor whose projects have gained attention.
Over the years, Bonnie Putzig has gained a reputation as a plant doctor. In her back yard, she created a succulent nursing station where she tries to resolve sickly plants’ issues. “It’s for plants that I might be trying to start, or ones that are not doing well. Or somebody contacts me to say ‘I can’t take care of that plant. It’s failing, or I can’t get it to grow. Can you take it?’
“I say, ‘Sure,” and I’ll take it home and nurse it back to health and give it to somebody. One of them was a jade plant —big— and I put it outside in the shade and eventually brought it into the house. Four or five months later it was healthy as can be. I hated to give it away, but I didn’t need another one.” At her outdoor plant nursing station, she needs a good pair of gloves, appropriate shears, old scissors and fertilizers. (“Miracle Grow is a good stand-by) especially cactus juice, a liquid containing calcium and other nutrients formulated for cacti and other succulents. When attempting to re-pot a large, extra-spiney succulent she recommends thick gloves. It’s a task best undertaken with another person helping.
Usually, before she retired, she took her salvaged plants to work and gave them to co-workers. Now she has more difficulty adopting out recovered plants. “This year, I found two or three people to give plants away to. I give away a good amount… otherwise there wouldn’t been room in the greenhouse.
“Sometimes I feel like a hoarder. I just love these plants, and I like experimenting with them.” The main experiment is optimizing use of the walipini. Before that was built, she brought them inside for the winter, including to the garage that has a skylight. “But sometimes half of them would die after I had spent good money on them, so it was getting to be a big waste.”
Generally, her husband leaves the gardening, working the earth, to her. “He was a researcher on neurology at the University of New Mexico, she explained. “The last thing he was going to do was get his fingers dirty,” she said chuckling. But he did put his talents as an engineer and problem-solver to use in creating the walipini. While the roof of the structure is translucent, the walls are concrete block with reinforcement to keep the weight of overlying earth from collapsing them. Each course of the blocks sits on a grid-like sheet extending out into the berm to stabilize the wall. A plastic pin through the grid into the concrete block holds it all together.
The entrance to the earth-clad greenhouse is at the bottom of a long ramp. Just before the step up into the greenhouse is a large grate over a cistern that collects rainwater. “Once water in the cistern reaches a certain level, a pump starts to prevent water from backing up into the greenhouse. Remaining to be resolved is how to prevent the surrounding berm from eroding due to heavy rain. She said they will soon hire a consultant for the best solution, although nature is beginning to provide an answer. “ There are some plants coming up already, like some sage.
“Through the years, I’ve learned more and more about the light they need. Some are very prone to sunburn; succulents are very touchy about the sun. They can have early morning sun or late afternoon sun, but all day, direct sun in July, a lot of them just can’t take that.
“When I get a new plant, or one that someone has given me, I have to figure out how much sun it can survive. Watering can be tricky, too. Succulents’ water requirements can vary significantly. She lost one of three expensive plants due to over-watering.”Last year one of them lost all of its leaves. I shouldn’t have even watered it, but one day I touched the base of it and it was spongy. It had too much water. The others could probably have survived out in the greenhouse, but I brought three of them into our vanity because I don’t want to lose one again.”
Inside, she waters them just once a month. When she’s stymied by what to do for a particular type of succulent, she calls an expert at the Thomas Boyce Arboretum near Superior, Arizona. “It’s a huge outdoor arboretum with acres of land provided by a philanthropy. I’ve bought some plants there and my son has given me others. “One that he gave me from there is just like a pencil in the winter. After the leaves fall of, it’s just a pencil sticking out of the soil. So I called the arboretum to ask what I should do. They told me it was just the plant’s dormant stage.
“Sure enough, after the winter it started to grow leaves again.” The arboretum is a popular tourist and recreational site that offers a wide variety of displays including Argentine and Australian Outback gardens. She had begun orientation to serve as a volunteer at the Albuquerque Bio Park when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, so that was put on hold. She had intended to work in the cactus garden there. “In the meantime, I’ve got lots to do here.”
Their grounds do not include a significant vegetable garden although they do grow flowers and tend a small orchard of fruit trees; peach, pear, apricot, apple and cherry. Also growing in a pot on a porch is a pomegranate. The Putzigs are experimenting with training the trees to grow out, rather than up, to make fruit easier to harvest. They use espalier trellises to which branches are secured, making them grow along a two-dimensional plane.
“The tree is trained to grow flat on a trellis so that the yield can be more easily reached,” she explained. To complement the fruit trees, they have bee hives. “I’ve always wanted to keep bees, and when I retired, I figured that’s what I would do. My brother-in-law in Roswell is a beekeeper, so he has been an inspiration for me to finally get going. He has been a real mentor for me.”
She has two hives, and one has been active since April 2020. Bees for the second are on order to arrive this coming April. She understands that bees will gather nectar from a radius of up to two miles. In addition to fruit tree blossoms, she offers rosemary and abundant flowers through the spring and summer, as well as Russian sage. “They just love Russian sage,” she assured. “And I have a lot of that. I have a very healthy hive. There’s plenty for them in the immediate environment.” Elsewhere on the property are two sections of hay bale walls that have held up well over more than 20 years.
Her horticultural efforts have largely avoided outbreaks of plant diseases. But “mealybugs,” a common scourge among succulents, have been a vexation without remedy so far. The infestations, she said, “have a white, cottony cover” that gradually eats away at the plant under attack. Nothing she has tried has been successful. Now she’s hoping Bonide Systemic Granules will work.
The lemon and lime trees in the greenhouse developed scale last year. “Every time I went down to the greenhouse, I would remove it with my hand. I’m not going to spray unless I really have to. Who knows where it comes from, but the scale is not a bad problem. In April, when I start bringing things out, it disappears.” Tending to plants provides plenty of reward, just in seeing them respond to care. But she finds another that every gardener can surely appreciate.
Years ago when she lived in the Nob Hill area, she was out digging in the soil along her driveway when a neighbor passing by asked, ‘Bonnie, what do you get out of working in the dirt?’ “There are a lot of answers to that, but a big one is that it’s therapeutic,” allowing her to focus on what’s right in front of her rather than “any nonsense that’s going on on the periphery. I’m not thinking about every other thing that I have to do.”
Join Sandoval Extension Master Gardener online webinars to learn how to grow a wide variety of plants, from flowers to food, in local soils. Pre-registration is required for each class. The webinars will be recorded and posted on the Sandoval County Master Gardeners website, http://sandovalmastergardeners.org
On March 17, 2 p.m. the topic is “Developing Your Own Vegetable Variety” with Sandoval Extension Master Gardener Dave Pojmann. Pojmann developed his own beautiful yellow tomato, Coronado Gold, that is low in acid, high in flavor and well adapted to Sandoval County. You don’t have to rely on a seed company to provide you with your ideal plant. Over a few seasons through selective seed saving and growing you can adapt open pollinator plants to suit your needs. Register in advance for this meeting at zoom.us/meeting/register/tJ0qc-qqp jooHdJAs3lC21YVZKYywJ9tCPNk. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.
March 31, 2 p.m. “Home Composting Basics” with Bernalillo County Master Composter John Zarola. Learn the basics of composting as a way to improve and enrich your garden soil. Zarola is a former Sandoval Extension Master Gardener who lives and grows in Rio Rancho. He is a long time teacher of gardening and composting. Register in advance for this meeting at zoom.us/meeting/register/tJ0pfuGrq DgoGdDlEnmfT7p6Tc8fLrx8u1bD. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.
The old, collapsing adobe home west of Corrales Road on the south side of Coronado Road was demolished on Saturday, February 27. Little of it was still standing on March 1. Back in the 1920s, it was thought to have been more than 100 years old. Among its many occupants over the decades was Johnnie Losack, husband of the late Evelyn Losack. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXVII No.8 June 23, 2018 “French Family’s Home Along Coronado Road Now Collapsing.”)
Before that, the L-shaped farmhouse was the home of Irishman Christopher Fitzgerald and his multi-generational family. Another early occupant was Audrey Lietzow, featured in the 2018 Comment article. She lived in the home from ages three through 17 with her Spanish stepmother, Irish stepfather and French grandmother.
Texans Eugene and Merrie Merriam bought the property in 1946. When Gloria and Lynn Ashcroft acquired the land and already-ruined farmhouse, they discovered it would cost more to restore the adobe than to build a new home on the same site, which they did.
An unusual blend of oboe, viola and piano comprises the colorful trio of New England and New York-based Ensemble Schumann, whose music includes that of their name-sake Robert Schumann. They also perform works by Brahms, Saint-Saëns, Loeffler, Poulenc, Shostakovich and others. Thomas Gallant on oboe, Steve Larson on viola, and Sally Pinkas on piano formed the ensemble in 2005.
From March 20 through March 28, the group will perform works of Bach, Bruch and von Herzogenberg in a virtual concert made available to Music in Corrales. The concert will be available anytime starting March 20. In addition to the concert, a live Zoom conversation with the trio March 20 at 7 p.m. kicks off the project. Tickets are $15 per person, from http://www.musicincorrales.org/concerts
Possible acquisition of another conservation easement to save farmland is expected to be presented to the Village Council soon but probably not at its March 9 meeting. In an interview February 26, Village Administrator Ron Curry said the Village will have to move quickly to complete purchase of the easement under the timeline set by voters’ March 2018 approval of general obligation bond issuance. “We have almost $1.3 million in bonds for the conservation easement program, and those will expire in March 2022,” Curry explained. “But the process needs to begin this March as far as issuing the bonds because these things always take longer than people anticipate, expecially when they have to go through the N.M. Finance Authority.
“We’ve had a couple of meetings with the Farmland Preservation folks about this and we have another on March 1. What we don’t want to do is put the Village in a position where we lose that bond opportunity next March.” But Curry said March 1 that it was not clear that any of the options could be pursued at that point.
He said at least two property owners have expressed interest in the program in recent months. “We’re trying to work with the options that we have. “Our concern is that we want to issue the bonds for almost $1.3 million, but that will expire in March 2022.” Corrales voters approved $2.5 million in GO bonds to preserve farmland during the last municipal election; a little more than half remains after an easement was purchased on the Haslam farm in December 2020.
Hopes had been raised earlier this year that another easement was pending but that faded. And now, other options have apparently arisen. Minutes from the Farmland Preservation and Agricultural Commission’s January meeting indicated “An interested landowner has reopened conversations with Michael [Scisco, of Unique Places LLC who negotiates for the Village] regarding adding property to Village Conservation Easements.”
Corrales was the first municipality in New Mexico to start its own farmland preservation program to acquire real estate easements on private property to keep it in agriculture or as open space. Since the program began here in 2004, the Village has acquired such easements on more than 45 acres, although the very first easement was a completely private transaction when Jonathan Porter, son of famed photographer Elliot Porter, created it on six acres at the south end of the village in 2001 and donated it to the Taos Land Trust.
Back in 2004, while Village Council support for a municipal bond to finance farmland preservation seemed solid, councillors twice pulled back from passing a resolution setting up a bond election for it.
Sale of the Village’s general obligation bonds were to finance the community’s local match to use $1.1 million in a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant the previous year to purchase conservation easements on Corrales farmland. At the April 13, 2004 council meeting, then-Councillor Melanie Scholer again insisted that the proposal should not move forward without other bond questions being placed before voters at the same time.
Scholer said repeatedly she did not want Corrales voters to be presented with the farmland preservation bond without considering other funding needs. A consensus was voiced that voters should be asked to approve municipal bonds to raise at least $1 million, and perhaps as much as $2.5 million, to use as matching funds for a $1.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But councillors wanted to know precisely how much bonding capacity the Village of Corrales really had available before they committed to seeking bonds for the farmland preservation effort.
The Village Administrator at the time, Harry Staven, reported that Corrales’ bonding capacity stood at $7,946,764, while its outstanding general obligation bond debt was $195,000 although that was slated to be paid off by the end of 2004. Corrales voters approved their first set of municipal bond sales in the 1990s to raise local-match funds to build Loma Larga and to purchase land on which a new fire station would be built.
Shortly thereafter, Village officials approved the sale of other municipal bonds to buy the western half of Annette Jones’ pasture for a recreation center. Those were not property tax-based general obligation bonds, but rather were revenue bonds, secured by pledged gross receipts tax income. That second set of bonds is also nearly paid off in full.
Sayre Gerhart, Bonnie Gonzales and Taudy Smith had tried over the previous five years to prevent the farmland preservation effort from being entangled in the chronic power struggles and political clashes that plagued Village government in those years. While residents overwhelmingly supported bonding for farmland and open space preservation in a public opinion poll in November 2003, that enthusiasm was considered vulnerable to questions about other projects that could take millions of dollars as well.
But as of April 13 2004, the only bond proposal that had been drawn up read as follows: “Shall the Village of Corrales issue general obligation bonds in an amount not to exceed $2,500,000 for the purpose of acquiring conservation easements or other property rights or interests for the preservation of farmland, open space, wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities in the Village of Corrales? Such bonds shall be payable from the general (ad valorem) taxes levied on real property within the Village of Corrales. Such indebtedness shall be, until repaid, a general obligation of the Village of Corrales.”
Voters overwhelmingly approved the bond issuance in 2004. Public sentiment was still strong when another GO bond proposal for $2.5 million was presented in March 2018. Controversy arose again over the Farmland Commission’s recommendation that an easement should be acquired for acreage that was not visible from Corrales Road, or any other oft-used byway. Still, despite some suspicions and misgivings, the Village Council approved purchase of a conservation easement on 12 acres of farmland at its December 8, 2020 session. The vote was three-to-two to pay $960,000 for an easement on the Haslam farm between the Corrales Main Canal and the Corrales Lateral irrigation ditch at the end of Kings Lane. Councillors Stuart Murray and Kevin Lucero voted no, citing prospects that a more desirable tract might become available during the next six months.
That was almost certainly a reference to the long-discussed, and negotiated possibility that the Trosello tract farther north along the east side of Corrales Road might be saved from development as home sites. Murray, Lucero and several villagers had argued that the Village had negotiated an option to purchase the Haslam tract this past summer and still had six months remaining to exercise it. They argued there was no hurry to close on the Haslam land.
Former Village Councillor Fred Hashimoto urged a delay on the Haslam property. “Some very attractive proposals might pop up between now and June 1, and the council should not cave now to prematurely spend potential funds which might be used for a possibly more valuable proposal in the next coming months.” That reluctance drew sharp responses from then-Councillor Dave Dornburg and Mayor Jo Anne Roake. “I think it’s kind of folly to assume that another deal is going to come out of the woodwork at this day and age when property values in the village are only going up,” Dornburg said. “I think there has been enough man-hours and due diligence put into this process that the time has come to put it to a vote.
“There may always be another option down the road, but in my humble opinion, while I’m sure there are other pieces of property that people would rather have, this is the option we have and it meets the intent of conservation easement that we’re trying to protect.”
Mayor Roake was persuasive in arguing that waiting another six months on the Haslam option was not really an alternative, given the amount of time it had taken to get the Haslam option ready to execute. “Between getting our financing and getting the bonds issued and getting it approved through the N.M. Finance Authority and all the other gates that we have to go through actually does put the time limitations on this process. I want to address the idea that we can actually wait for months, because all of the pieces that you have voted for have gotten us to the point now where we are issuing the bonds, and that has to be done in a certain time frame… all of this was done based on two different appraisals and two different reviews by N.M. Taxation and Revenue, so I think that’s a false analogy.
“All of this work has taken place since July. It has taken a long time. It’s a lengthy and complex process,” the mayor stressed, making the point that the administration did not actually have another six months to exercise the Haslam option.
Before the vote was called, Councillor Dornburg made another plea for approval. “I think it’s a good idea today, it was a good idea six months ago and it will be a good idea six months from now. If we don’t think it’s a good idea, that’s a different conversation. But we have the will of the people for a bond to buy conservation easements. We have a great conservation property in front of us. If you like the property and think it meets the will of the people, either today or in June, the answer should probably be the same.”
The motion to purchase the Haslam conservation easement was approved. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXIX No. 17 November 21, 2020 “Haslam Easement May Be Approved By Council Dec.8.”) Corrales’ interest in preserving farmland dates back at least to its incorporation as a municipality in 1971. The first master plan produced for the new Village government in 1973 recommended techniques be explored to accomplish that. Successive planning documents and ordinances over the years have endorsed that goal. (See Corrales Comment Vol. II, No. 8, August 20, 1983 “Can Corrales Stay Farmland Forever? Yes, Say Planners, & Here’s How.”)
A collaboration among The Nature Conservancy, the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, the Village of Corrales, the City of Rio Rancho and the Southern Sandoval County Arroyo Flood Control Authority (SSCAFCA) is expected to produce a 10-acre wetlands at the mouth of the Harvey Jones Flood Control Channel.
“We hope to break ground in early summer when funding materializes,” Conservancy District Executive Director Mike Hamman told Corrales Comment February 27. “There is still a funding gap for earth-moving that still needs to be addressed.” Hamman said the final plan is expected to be finished next month after additional public outreach. SSCAFCA Executive Director Chuck Thomas was a little less optimistic about a start date. “The project will start construction in the fall,” he said March 1.
During a monsoon rain, stormwater drained from a wide area west of the escarpment above Corrales would be redirected to a vegetated area between the river and the Corrales Road bridge over the Jones Channel. And on a more regular basis, treated effluent from Rio Rancho’s sewage treatment plant near the Montoyas Arroyo also would flow into the proposed wetlands.
Public input for the proposal was gained during Zoom sessions February 2, 3 and 4. The Nature Conservancy’s description of the project notes that the Jones Channel carries more than 4.4 million gallons of stormwater annually to the river. And treated sewage from Rio Rancho also enters the river just south of the channel at quantities ranging from four to five million gallons daily.
“By utilizing the permanent flow of water, we can re-contour the bank elevation and create secondary channels to create an expanded wet area to increase wildlife, fish and bird habitat,” according to the proposal. The Nature Conservancy web page about the Harvey Jones Channel Improvement Project states these goals:
• to reconnect bosque vegetation to groundwater, lowering the bench elevation;
• to improve water quality as a finishing station to reduce stormwater pollution to the Rio Grande;
• to enhance bird, fish and other wildlife habitat;
• to reduce stagnant water and mosquito issues from stormwater impoundment;
• to illustrate the benefits of large-scale green stormwater infrastructure; and
• to demonstrate inter-agency coordination on a public-private partnership project.
The Corrales Bosque Advisory Commission has considered such a project, at least conceptually, for many years. Elsewhere in the preserve, projects have already been implemented to excavate away the river bank so that water flows, or at least seeps, into the riparian forest. The habitat plan was completed in 2010 after years of work. (See Corrales Comment’s nine-part series of articles starting Vol.XXVIII, No.7, May 23, 2009, “Bosque Preserve Habitat Plan Now Available”) In 2010, projects similar to what is being proposed now were implemented by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as elements of a “bosque restoration” effort.
A 1969 state statute that criminalized abortion in New Mexico was repealed on February 26, when Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed Senate Bill 10 into law. “A woman has the right to make decisions about her own body,” the governor said. “Anyone who seeks to violate bodily integrity, or to criminalize womanhood, is in the business of dehumanization. New Mexico is not in that business —not any more.
“Our state statutes now reflect this inviolable recognition of humanity and dignity. I am incredibly grateful to the tireless advocates and legislators who fought through relentless misinformation and fear-mongering to make this day a reality. Equality for all, equal justice and equal treatment —that’s the standard. And I’m proud to lead a state that today moved one step closer to that standard.”
“The time has finally come to get this outdated abortion law off the books and ensure that we keep abortion accessible, safe and legal in New Mexico,” said Senator Linda Lopez of Albuquerque, lead sponsor of Senate Bill 10. “Thank you to Governor Lujan Grisham for signing this legislation, thank you to every one of my fellow bill sponsors and community advocates, and thank you to all of the voters of New Mexico who made your voices heard in the last election. “Abortion is a personal health care decision. We can hold our own moral values on abortion and still trust individuals to make their own reproductive health care decisions.”
“New Mexico is a state where we respect women and protect their autonomy,” said Speaker of the House Brian Egolf. “I am glad that this fight for safe access to abortion in New Mexico has been won and look forward to further expanding access to all forms of healthcare.”
“Today feels very different than two years ago when the votes in the Senate didn’t reflect the opinions of over 76 percent of New Mexico voters,” said Representative Joanne Ferrary of Las Cruces. “Now we have signed legislation, repealing antiquated sections of law in order to ensure that women’s access to the full spectrum of health care options, including abortion, will continue if Roe v. Wade’s protections are undermined at the national level.”
“Women in New Mexico and around the nation fought for generations to secure the reproductive rights that we have today,” said Representative Deborah Armstrong of Albuquerque. “Today’s bill signing ensures that we never go backward.”
“When women do not have safe and legal access to health care, it puts families, healthcare providers, and entire communities at risk,” said Rep. Georgene Louis of Albuquerque. “My deep gratitude goes out to every New Mexican who has shared their voice and their stories to help repeal this outdated ban.”
An ordinance establishing a “landmark tree” program here has been amended to emphasize a village wide plan for trees. The amendment adopted February 23 changes the name of the volunteer committee from the Tree Preservation Advisory Committee to the Tree Committee, and calls for it to develop a “tree care plan.” The original ordinance was adopted in July 2009 after a stately cottonwood tree near the entrance to Corrales, just northeast of the Corrales Road-Cabezon Road intersection, was removed by a developer for a turning lane.
The amendment, Ordinance 21-02, was discussed at the February 9 council meeting and then adopted at the February 23 session. The substantive change to the existing ordinance is the new provision for a Tree Care Plan. It reads: “The Tree Committee shall prepare a Tree Care Plan for managing, maintaining, protecting, preserving and planting trees within the Village of Corrales. This plan details specific goals and objectives for tree inventories. tree risk management. tree protection and tree pruning standards. This document is intended to be a living document that is updated yearly to promote schedules for community education, tree planting programs, and updates to relevant information on tree selection and planting, best management practices and progress in stakeholder involvement in tree care.”
The ordinance would make no change to the process by which a Corrales tree might be designated a landmark. A nomination may be submitted by anyone, but it should give the tree’s location and a photo of it, as well as a written description of it and statement why it would qualify as a landmark. The nomination also is supposed to include written approval of the owner of the property on which it grows. “Any written approval required by this section must be notarized, and must include approval of all owners of the property.”
After the nomination is received by the Tree Committee, a recommendation is to be submitted to the Corrales Planning and Zoning Commission for its concurrence. The program generally has been uncontroversial —except when an old cottonwood next to the Old Church was cut down after one of its large branches fell onto a vehicle parked under it in 2011.
A decision to remove the designated Landmark Tree near the Old Church was made at the January 10, 2012 Village Council meeting. Councillors delayed a decision on whether to cut it down as recommended by the Corrales Historical Society at their December 13 session, opting to hear directly from a master arborist who had examined the tree.
Corrales’ Tree Preservation Committee had recommended keeping the old tree alive, along with measures to protect it and people upon whom branches might fall. A petition urging Village officials not to cut down the tree was presented to the council December 13, 2011. According to regulations for the municipal tree preservation program, the final decision was to be made by Planning and Zoning Administrator (then Cyndie Tidwell) following a recommendation by the Landmark Tree Preservation Advisory Committee.
As committee co-chairman Sue Hallgarth noted, “This is the first time the Tree Committee has received a request for removal of a Landmark Tree.” In this case it was submitted by the Village government, owner of the Old Church property. “The Village administrator has filed a request for tree removal,” Hallgarth explained. “The Village’s request appears to be motivated by insurance and liability concerns, as well as reluctance to relinquish parking spaces” that would occur if a roped-off buffer area is established around the tree. But then-Councillor Sayre Gerhart brought the matter before the council rather than have the process play out before the P&Z administrator.
Hallgarth said the tree, one of two in the northwest corner of the Old Church property, “has lost two branches in the past growing season, one very large and one much smaller that dented a car parked beneath it. After the first branch fell, a certified master arborist was enlisted, and happened to arrive for his consultation minutes after the second limb dropped. “He described the tree as ‘exhibiting many characteristics of being a hazardous tree,’ but he also provided recommendations for preserving the tree if a decision is made to do so.
“His strategy is to cordon off a no-parking area to protect the roots and mitigate any potential hazards, to water deeply, mulch heavily, and trim dead wood and any structurally unsound living wood. He also recommended that the tree be reassessed by an arborist after the next growing season and after any major storm events.”
On November 30, 2011 Corrales arborist Rob Hays trimmed the westernmost of the two trees at no charge, and paid a helper from his own pocket. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXX, No.22, January 7, 2012 “Historic Old Church Cottonwood Doomed? Council May Have Sawdust on its Hands.”) Even so, on a tie-break vote by then-mayor Phil Gasteyer, the Village Council voted the troublesome old tree be cut down and hauled away. In protest, all members of the Landmark Tree Preservation Advisory Committee resigned.
The original landmark tree ordinance spelled out the process by which a Corrales tree can be protected as a landmark. Below is partial text of the ordinance which will likely be retained by the council’s vote this month. “Within ninety (90) days after receiving a nomination, the Tree Committee shall review the recommendation and supporting materials, and shall make a recommendation to the Village's Planning and Zoning Commission whether the tree should be designated as a Landmark Tree.
To qualify for designation as a Landmark Tree, a tree must as a minimum meet at least one of the following criteria:
(1) Exceptional size for the species as measured by caliper, height, and/or breadth;
(2) Old age for the species;
(3) Distinctive and/or exemplary form for the species;
(4) Historical significance by virtue of location or history, including but not limited to proximity to a historic building, site, or road, or association with an historic event or person in the Village's past; or
(5) Position as a defining feature in the Village landscape due to location, public view, history, or similar qualities.
(d) No tree of a species that has been determined to be invasive or noxious by the State of New Mexico shall be designated as a Landmark Tree, and no such tree shall be qualified to be nominated for Landmark Tree status. It is desirable that trees nominated as Landmark Trees shall be of species native to the Corrales area.
(e) For purposes of evaluating nominations, the Tree Committee shall develop a set of criteria for the evaluation of trees meeting at least one of the minimum qualifying criteria. The committee may include such criteria as the Tree Committee deems appropriate, and may include but need not be limited to trunk circumference, height, crown spread, symmetry, or distinctive form, location and history. The Committee may, but need not necessarily, employ a set of criteria developed for use by another governmental entity, either inside or outside New Mexico.
(f) If the Tree Committee determines that a tree nominated for landmark status meets at least one of the minimum qualifying criteria, then the Committee shall evaluate the nomination and forward it to the Planning and Zoning Commission with a recommendation either to designate the tree as a Landmark Tree, or not to so designate it, with a brief explanation of the reasons for the Committee's recommendation.
(g) Notice of any meeting of the Planning and Zoning Commission where a proposal to designate a tree as a Landmark Tree will be considered must include individual notice, by certified mail, of the meeting date, time and location, including notice of the proposed Landmark Tree designation, to each owner of private property any portion of which is within fifty (50) feet of the dripline of the tree. In addition, a notice containing the same information shall be conspicuously placed in the most publicly visible location adjacent to the proposed Landmark Tree at least fifteen (15) days prior to the scheduled meeting.
(h) In determining whether to designate a particular tree for landmark status, the Planning and Zoning Commission shall not be bound by the recommendation of the Tree Committee.
(i) If a tree properly nominated for landmark status and meeting at least one of the minimum qualifying criteria is not designated by the Planning and Zoning Commission as a Landmark Tree, then it shall nonetheless be designated as a Nominated Tree and placed on a register of Nominated Trees for possible future consideration as a Landmark Tree. A Nominated Tree is eligible for reconsideration by the Planning and Zoning Commission for landmark status, on the recommendation of any person or entity, at any time after one (1) year following the date of the Planning and Zoning Commission's decision. A request for reconsideration must be accompanied by a demonstration, to the Tree Committee, that all owners of property or easement within fifty (50) feet of the dripline of the tree consent to the proposed designation and that all other necessary conditions for nomination still apply. Notice of the meeting at which a Nominated Tree will be reconsidered for Landmark Tree status shall be the same as required upon an original nomination.
(j) If a tree located on public property is designated as a Landmark Tree, the Village shall place a suitable marker on the designated tree bearing substantially the following statement: "LANDMARK
TREE - do not trim or remove without Village of Corrales approval."
(k) If a tree located entirely or partly on private property is designated as a Landmark Tree, the Village shall promptly notify the property owner or owners of the tree's status as a Landmark Tree, and shall include notice of the restrictions on damage or removal of Landmark Trees, the requirement of notification to future landowners, and the penalties for improperly damaging or removing a Landmark Tree, as provided in this article.
(l) Any person dissatisfied with a decision of the Planning and Zoning Commission regarding designation or non-designation of a tree as a Landmark Tree may appeal that decision within 20 days, in writing, to the Governing Body. The Governing Body, on appeal, may affirm or reverse the decision of the Planning and Zoning Commission. The decision of the Governing Body shall be final.
Section 14-130. - Protection of landmark trees.
(a) No person shall remove or damage any Landmark Tree, whether on public or private property, except as otherwise provided in this article. Normal pruning or trimming of trees on private property is expressly permitted. Except in case of emergencies as provided in this article, normal pruning or trimming is limited to pruning or trimming for the health and maintenance of the tree, in accordance with the current ANSI A300 standards of the Tree Care Industry Association. Excessive pruning or damage to the root system that threatens the life or health of any Landmark Tree is prohibited, except as otherwise specifically provided in this section.
(b) Any property owner desiring to remove a Landmark Tree shall submit an application for Landmark Tree removal to the Tree Committee, stating the reasons for the removal request. Within thirty (30) days following receipt of the application, the Tree Committee shall forward the application for Landmark Tree removal to the
Village's Planning and Zoning Administrator, with the Committee's recommendation whether to approve the application. The Planning and Zoning Administrator shall promptly either grant or deny the application. The Planning and Zoning Administrator shall take into account the recommendation of the Committee, but shall not be bound by that recommendation.”
When the Climate Solutions Act (HB 9) was introduced it was touted as a science-based approach that focused on protecting historically disadvantaged communities. Several community leaders praised it, calling on state legislators to protect public health and New Mexico’s air and water resources from climate change. “The Climate Solutions Act… is NM’s first step towards modeling environmentally conscious and resilient economic development, resulting in a more fair economy where all New Mexicans prosper while tackling the ever-growing threat of climate change to our everyday lives,” according to James Povijua, policy director for the Center for Civic Policy.
“HB9 begins the bold, long-term work NM needs to do to make sure historically marginalized communities across the state, especially rural communities and communities of color, can diversify their local economy and it guarantees New Mexicans are first in line to prepare for the high quality jobs and economic opportunities that will arise from clean energy industry,” he added.
That assessment was shared by Joseph Hernandez, Diné energy organizer. “The Climate Solutions Act will build upon the 2019 New Mexico Energy Transition Act, by taking a statewide approach of a just transition for every New Mexican.” Jon Goldstein of the Environmental Defense Fund and a former N.M. cabinet secretary, issued this statement. “This comprehensive bill will build on the leading climate commitments Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has made over the last few years. By enshrining science-based, emissions targets in statute and directing the New Mexico Environment Department to ensure regulations are in place to meet those reductions, it will protect local communities from the worst impacts of climate change, including worsening heat, drought and water scarcity. This bill takes an important step toward a just transition in New Mexico, by prioritizing historically disadvantaged communities for high-quality, clean energy jobs.
“As New Mexico tackles the existential threat of climate change head on, it will need to ensure that frontline communities across the state are at the table and able to play a central role in shaping policy action,” Goldstein said.
April 9 is the deadline to sign up to run for a seat on the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District (MRGCD) board of directors. One of the three seats coming open is that representing Sandoval County. The position is now held by Michael Sandoval, who ran for the position in 2015. Candidates need not be farmers or irrigators to serve on the board. Meetings are on the second Monday each month. Other board members whose terms are expiring are Karen Dunning, Bernalillo County, who is now chair; Joaquin Baca, Bernalillo County, vice-chair; and Valerie Moore, Socorro County.
Election day is June 8.
You need not register to vote since that comes automatically if you own property within the MRGCD “benefitted area” which in Corrales would be any land east of the Corrales Main Canal. A declaration of candidacy must be filed with the MRGCD election officer at the offices at 1931 Second Street SW no later than 4:30 p.m. April 9.
Absentee voting starts April 29.
The concept of cluster housing may be revived after discussion at the March 9 Village Council meeting. The topic was requested for that session by Councillor Mel Knight at the February 23 meeting but that agenda had not been set at press time. Knight said she would like the review being conducted by planners with the Mid-Region Council of Governments on Corrales land use regulations to include two new topics, not just revisions to provisions already in the Code of Ordinances on land use and zoning: abandoned properties and cluster housing.
Over the past three decades, when the topic of cluster housing has come up, it has nearly always involved grouping housing on one part of a tract so that the remainder could be preserved as farmland or open space. But that may not be what Knight has in mind. When she requested that cluster housing be discussed at the March 9 meeting, she referred to Corrales’ commercial area. “I would like the committee to address, in the commercial zone, cluster housing.” The committee she referred to is that which has been formed to interface with the Council of Governments planners.
Her specifying cluster housing in the business district would likely affect the proposal for a senior living complex on the Sunbelt Nursery site at the corner of Corrales Road and Dixon Road. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXIX No. 22 February 6, 2020 “Senior Living Rentals for Commercial District?”) Although contemplated in successive comprehensive plans for Corrales since the earliest days of the community’s incorporation as a municipality, proposals for cluster housing have nearly always been rejected by the Planning and Zoning Commission and by the Village Council.
That is primarily because the citizenry has remained adamant about retaining the community’s low-density residential tradition… even when that means loss of farmland. Since the early 1970s, Corrales’ land use laws have called for no more than one dwelling per acre, or per two acres in the territory previously within Bernalillo County. That has been bed rock consensus since the Village’s first comprehensive plan in 1973; it was strenuously reaffirmed with the successive election of Gary Kanin as mayor in the 1980s. (See Corrales Comment’s five-part series of articles on cluster housing starting with Vol.XXIII No.19 November 20, 2004 “Is Cluster Housing Acceptable In Corrales To Save Open Space?”)
One of the more recent cases came November 2004 when the Planning and Zoning Commission voted down a preliminary plat for an 18-lot “Villa de Paz” subdivision off Loma Larga on Corrales’ west side between Camino Sin Pasada and Angel Road. Plenty of reasons existed why commissioners axed the plan, but after doing so, several of them urged the developer, Ed Paschich, to try again. He says he would not… at least not until Village officials enacted ordinance provisions specifically for cluster housing. That has been a perennial topic with which the P&Z commission has wrestled over several decades as it attempted to revise Corrales’ zoning and subdivision ordinances.
In simplest terms, cluster housing is the concept of building all the allowable residences for a tract of land on one end and leaving the rest as open space. In Corrales, where a landowner is allowed just one home per acre and he or she has a 20-acre tract, 20 houses are allowed. But instead of dividing all 20 acres into one-acre lots, clustering might put all 20 allowable homes on ten acres and leave the other ten as dedicated open space.
Actually that example is too simple. Typically the owner of a 20-acre tract won’t get 20 one-acre lots, because the roadway serving the subdivision cannot be counted in calculating lot size. Subtracting out the roadway, a 20-acre tract might yield just 17-19 lots, depending on configuration. The plan proposed by Paschich back in 2004 would have put 18 smallish houses on 17.8 acres, but the homes were to have been grouped into five separate clusters with eight acres open space between. At the November 3, 2004 P&Z meeting, commissioners praised Paschich for his creativity, but rejected the plan. They —and the neighbors— found several violations of current Village ordinances, but settled on one particular reason for rejecting the plat.
Paschich had included the road serving the proposed subdivision as privately-owned and therefore to be counted as part of the one-acre lot calculation. Commissioners voted down the plat on the grounds that the Village’s subdivision ordinance requires publicly-dedicated roadways, not private roads, for any subdivision of ten acres or more.
Paschich was, of course, aware of that requirement, and had sought a variance, one of several that would have been needed to proceed. When commissioners rejected that variance request, the rest of the proposal was irrelevant. But before Paschich left the meeting, then-P&Z Chairman Stuart Murray, now 16 years later a member of the Village Council, urged, “Mr. Paschich, please pursue this” with a revised submission for cluster housing.
The following week, members of the Village Council briefly discussed the Paschich plan, and called for a public meeting to air the whole notion of cluster housing. At the time, probably most of the residents along Camino Sin Pasada and Angel Road who spoke against the Paschich subdivision said they were not actually opposed to cluster housing. It was the specifics of Paschich’s plan that were unacceptable, they maintained.
It seemed clear that most of the P&Z commissioners agreed; all but one, Mick Harper —16 years later again serving on the commission— voted against the road variance that killed the Paschich plan that night. For decades, a significant portion of Corrales residents have supported the idea of cluster housing for two reasons. First, it would be a chance to establish more affordable housing in Corrales, which has become a place where only the very wealthy can afford to live. Second, such proposals are a way to retain open space, a quickly vanishing community asset.
The need for affordable housing in Corrales has been recognized for some time. One of the down-sides of skyrocketing home prices (and extreme scarcity of rentals) hit home when Corrales’ fire fighters pointed out they could not afford to live here. (See Corrales Comment Vol. XXII No. 21, December 13, 2003 “Fire-Rescue Crews Can’t Live Here) The same has been true for most police officers and other Village employees. A third reason for finding a way to approve cluster housing which has been voiced in recent years is that some aging, true-blue Corraleños don’t want to continue maintaining an acre of land, but would like to stay in Corrales if possible.
Assuming property owners near the top of Sagebrush Drive can be assured a proposed paved trail there won’t bring in stormwater and eroded silt, that long-awaited project will get under way by the end of April. Village Engineer Steve Grollman and Corrales Public Works Director Mike Chavez met in an online conference with Sagebrush residents and members of the Village’s Bicycle-Pedestrian Advisory Commission February 26 to learn what concerns might still need to be addressed.
The trail, proposed more than two decades ago and now fully funded, would connect the west end of Sagebrush Drive to the existing north-south path along the escarpment in Rio Rancho. The commission has long advocated for it as a crucial link so that cyclists, horse riders and hikers can access a loop trail that offers spectacular views toward the bosque and Sandia Mountains.
The existing trail along the escarpment has been known as the Thompson Fence Line Trail since it follows the alignment of the historic Thompson Ranch fence —which also serves as the boundary between Corrales and Rio Rancho. The best-known section of the trail, visible to the south as motorists drive upper Meadowlark to and from Rio Rancho, is the paved path below Intel, also known as the Skyview Trail.
Most villagers probably are unaware that the developed path continues on northward from the north side of Meadowlark for more than two miles along the edge of the escarpment. That long trail has been recognized as a valuable asset, and is a crucial segment in the Corrales Trails Master Plan, especially for its potential to create a recreational loop route. But a substantial gap has existed between the cul de sac at the end of Sagebrush and the escarpment path, and much of it is steep, uneven terrain. Finally a collaboration among the Village, the Southern Sandoval County Arroyo Flood Control Authority, Sandoval County and the City of Rio Rancho has moved the proposal to the stage at which on-the-ground work will start next month.
A breakthrough came several years ago when SSCAFCA transferred ownership of a parcel of land to the Village which it no longer needed for flood control projects. So the trail connection can now be accomplished on land owned by the Village of Corrales. At the virtual meeting convened by Village Administrator Ron Curry, he assured the project is ready to go. “I signed the purchase order today” for a contract with Albuquerque Asphalt, which will pave the path after several weeks of earth-moving work.
Total cost will be $89,000. “We’re good to go for the whole thing,” Curry assured. Grollman provided details and specifications about the project he designed, including an “inverted crown” in the center of the pavement so that rain falling on the surface would be channeled to a pond rather than spill off uncontrolled. The path would be eight feet wide, with two-foot shoulders on either side covered with recycled (crushed) asphalt.
The homeowner nearest the trail, Carol Levy, was not convinced that the proposed stormwater control features will be adequate to prevent drainage onto her land. “We hope the Village is not creating a problem for us,” she cautioned. “If there is a problem, it’s going to be our problem.” She and other neighbors expressed concerns about future trail users parking in and around the cul-de-sac in a manner that caused obstructions. Should such problems arise, they might be addressed by the Village erecting “No Parking” signs and other deterrents, commission member Chris Allen suggested.
Are greater controls needed for walls and opaque fences along Corrales Road to preserve the community’s scenic quality? A discussion on that topic has been requested for the March 9 Village Council meeting.When Mayor Jo Anne Roake invited councillors to suggest items for next council meeting, Tyson Parker spoke up to ask that the agenda include a discussion about walls and fences. Parker, an architect, gave no further indication what that discussion might entail, but his suggestion followed recent remarks by Councillor Zach Burkett that he is concerned about the loss of scenic quality caused by erection of high walls fronting Corrales Road.
Burkett said March 1 he is researching what might be done to revive the status of Corrales Road as a designated scenic byway. The same point was made earlier this year by former Corrales Planing and Zoning Commission Chairman Terry Brown. Getting Village government to address the problem has been a high priority for him 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. Burkett raised the issue at a council meeting earlier this year shortly after tall, concrete block walls were erected along Corrales Road at the south end of the village. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXIX No.19 December 19, 2020 “Controls for Scenery-Blocking 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.’”
Bucolic 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.
Brown, an architect, is concerned that the community’s treasured scenic quality is being incrementally lost due to an unfortunate landscaping feature: view-blocking solid walls or fences at the edge of the road. “I was on the Planning and Zoning Commission for eight years, and I was the chair for two years. As an architect, I felt strongly that we needed to protect this view, this viewshed from Corrales Road,” Brown explained.
“People come here to see Corrales… they don’t come here to look at walls and fences. They come here to see horses and donkeys and llamas and cows, and the views that stretch from the fields to the riparian habitat and all the way to the Sandias. “They don’t want to see walls; they don’t want to see that ‘canyon effect.’” Back in 2010-11, Brown and others pushed hard for the Village Council to adopt an ordinance or regulation that would prohibit owners of property abutting Corrales Road from erecting a solid fence or wall taller than three feet at the road frontage property line.
Draft Ordinance 11-007, amending the Village’s land use regulations regarding fences, was tabled at a February 2011 council meeting and never revived for vote. No other proposals have been pursued, and tall cinder block walls and wooden fences continue to go up, blocking views. Corrales is left vulnerable, Brown cautioned. “In some places we have a tall wall along one side of Corrales Road, but it’s left open on the other side. I guess that’s probably acceptable,” he volunteered. “But what if a developer or homeowner says ‘Hey, I need to have more opacity on my side of the road, too.’ And then, the next guy says the same thing, and pretty soon, a hundred years from now, Corrales Road will be just one long canyon.”
On the other side of the river, regulations for Rio Grande Boulevard have apparently closed off that undesired future. “I believe along Rio Grande Boulevard you can only have a limited expanse of opaque wall and the rest of it has to be open. The walls are low; for the most part, you can see over them or through them. “Since Corrales Road is a scenic byway, I think it is worthy of getting the same treatment.”
Without any regulation requiring scenic views be maintained, Brown warned, “you get whatever a developer is going to give you.” In laying out the 2011 rationale for recommended action by the Village Council, then-P&Z commission Chairman Brown put it this way: “One of Corrales’ greatest assets that maintain the rural character of this village is the vistas of vineyards, agricultural fields, large animals, towering cottonwoods and the Sandia Mountains beyond. With this in mind, the P&Z commission recommends the modification noted above for fences along Corrales Road. Our concern is that without this proposed modification to our ordinance, Corrales Road could become a walled-in road where nothing could be seen beyond the six-foot high walls along both sides of Corrales Road. We already have portions of Corrales Road with this unappealing aspect.” (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXVIII No.3 March 23, 2019 “Can Scenery Along ‘Scenic Byway’ Be Preserved?”)
During early discussion about regulating the size and opacity of walls along property lines, the proposed rules would have applied to roadsides throughout Corrales. But P&Z commissioners and council members backed away from that, anticipating villagers’ resistance for reasons of privacy.
That continues to be a primary concern, although the thwarted 2011 ordinance exempted existing walls and fences; the rules would have applied only to new walls or fences. Even so, the draft ordinance that went to the Village Council back then would have applied only to property along Corrales Road, not residential neighborhoods east or west of it.
While privacy issues seem to have been dominant during the P&Z and council discussions about protecting scenic quality nine years ago, it’s clear that visitors to Corrales have no interest in knowing who’s rolling in the hay with whom. A secondary concern was road noise from increased traffic along Corrales Road. Proximity to the road is the critical factor in how disturbing tire-on-asphalt noise would be to residents. But if the residence is that close to Corrales Road, or any neighborhood road, the structure itself would likely obstruct a view of fields, farm animals or the mountains.
Brown said he is not aware of any road noise mitigation measures that might be used that still allow scenic views. He said a tall wall, fence or dense vegetation may be the only way to effectively block road noise if the residence is very close. In Brown’s February 25, 2011, letter of transmittal from the P&Z commission to the council, he pointed out “This revised proposed ordinance recommends modifications to the previous proposed ordinance by requiring all new fences along Corrales Road (Scenic Byway) to have no solid fence exceeding three feet in height erected on the front lot line or within the front setback area of any lot or within the vision clearance area abutting a driveway.
“If someone wants a fence taller than three feet, then that portion of the fence would have to be an open fence.” The wall or fence could actually be taller than three feet, but the upper portion would have to be open or see-through to some degree, he added.
Serving as Planning and Zoning Commission vice-chair at that time was Corrales’ current mayor, Jo Anne Roake. “The Village Council did not like the idea at that time,” Brown recalled. “They didn’t like the idea of dictating to a homeowner what type of fence they could have. However, we already have ordinances that cover what type of fence you can have and what it looks like; what is acceptable and what is not.”
“It’s like anything else in the village; it should be the villagers who decide what’s in the best interest of the village. We want to encourage tourism, but if, when they come, we have a canyon of walls on both sides of Corrales Road, that’s not going to be very attractive.”
A decision may come March 25 that determines Corrales’ eventual population as well as the safety of people living in homes below steep terrain sandhills. The Village Council will hear an appeal from the Planning and Zoning Commission’s denial of a variance that would have allowed construction of a roadway across steep slopes below the escarpment to access a proposed home site between the end of West Ella Drive and the Rio Rancho boundary.
At its January 20 session, the P&Z commission concurred with a recommendation from P&Z Administrator Laurie Stout that a developer’s requested variance from regulations regarding development on steep slopes be denied. The applicants, Denny and Crystal Frost of 10852 Arezzo Drive, Albuquerque, representing contractor Gary Bennett, argued he should be allowed to built a long driveway to the home site from the end of West Ella Drive over terrain that in some places is more than 15 percent grade, the maximum allowed by Corrales’ regulations.
The commission itself never ruled on the requested variance since Stout had advised the developer’s plan was not permitted. In her recommendation on Variance 21-02, Stout wrote, “Village Code 18-164(c)2(c) states that slopes over 15 percent must remain undisturbed. It then gives the possibility of a variance of up to 1,000 square feet in certain instances (a driveway being one), and the criteria that must be met for that 1,000 square feet of variance to be considered. If the issue were one merely of engineering, typically it can be satisfactorily demonstrated that anything ‘can’ be built. In this case, Village ordinances simply do not allow for the extreme amount of slope over 15 percent that is being proposed to be disturbed.” But the proposed steep area of disturbed soil, in this case generally fine particle sand, is more than 13,200 square feet —well over the 1,000 square foot limit.
The proposed home foot print is another 918 square feet, although that is on more level terrain.
Stout’s summary notes that “This application requests a total of 14,118 square feet of disturbance over 15 percent slope, 14 times what Village of Corrales ordinances allow.” The submitted application for a variance includes more than 50 pages of documentation regarding plans for the home and the driveway off of West Ella Drive. The developer said at least $20,000 had been spent on engineering for the project. and that the Village’s denial of a variance will “deprive the owner of the reasonable use of their land.”
The applicant asserts that the engineer’s design show that stormwater run-off and eroded silt will not affect nearby property. If the Village Council concurs with the developer and allows the proposed extensive disturbance at this location, the decision could have far-reaching implications for future home construction in steep sandhills terrain all along Corrales’ western border. Perhaps for that reason, the case has sparked the attention of many villagers not immediately impacted by the project.
A citizens’ petition opposing the Frost-Bennett variance request bears at least 85 signatures. The petition leads with an assertion that “This is in contraindication to the long standing maximum limit of 15 percent that was researched at length for the safety of all residents, especially those in the sandhills.”
It also lists the circumstances under which a variance might be granted. Those include a determination that approval will not be contrary to the public interest; will not adversely affect adjacent property owners; the need for a variance “is due to the unique characteristics of the property that were in existence prior to the adoption [of the regulations’ or that may have come into existence since that time through no action of the owner.”
Among those signing the petition were former Mayor Gary Kanin, former Councillors Pat Clauser and Gerard Gagliano and former P&Z Commissioners Terry Brown and Alpha Russell. A West Ella homeowner, Kevin Kirk, submitted a statement opposing the variance saying, “The sandhills of Corrales have a long history of extreme erosion events caused by stormwater run-off. The Village has, in conjunction with experts, determined that to allow development on steep slopes would be to invite disastrous and costly erosion.”
A lengthy and detailed presentation to the P&Z commission was submitted by West Ella resident Mike Sorce, who is another former P&Z commissioner, and architect Pat McClernon. In it, they point out that Denzil Frost purchased the 2.4-acre home site in July 2019 after detailed discussions with P&Z Administrator Stout about his intention to build on the acreage. The submission includes a copy of an email Stout sent to Village Administrator Ron Curry on September 11, 2020 which read, in part, “I told him numerous times I believed the lot was unbuildable and went over our slope ordinances in detail. He bought it anyway.”
The presentation by Sorce and McClernon includes the following observation: “It is unfortunate that the Frost family is in this described Catch-22 position, one that they placed themselves in over the last 18 months by purchasing this property expecting to build on an island surrounded by steep slopes.” The documents submitted regarding the variance request also includes an email message from Denzil Frost to Mayor Jo Anne Roake on September 3, 2020 complaining about what he considered threats by Stout. “We have heard some statements from Lorie during this process that raise concerns about the Village potentially taking possession of our land,” Frost wrote.
“For example, she has stated there is no guarantee it is a buildable lot, and suggested that the $20K that I am paying for engineering may be a waste if the variance is denied.
“However the P&Z administrator’s attitude has been threatening, insinuating that the Village may choose to condemn our property if they wish.…” In that statement, Frost’s use of the term “take” apparently refers to what might be called a “taking” by a governmental entity because the private property owner feels he or she is denied use of the land.
A graduate of Corrales Elementary and Cibola High is leading discussions in Europe and elsewhere about avenues for legal action to assign responsibility for human rights abuses and environmental violations.
Jeff Handmaker, Cibola class of 1988 and University of London graduate in law (1994) who also holds a doctorate in the sociology of law from Utrecht University, Netherlands (2009), now works in The Hague, at the International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University. He also teaches at Leiden University. He is now leading a team researching legal strategies to hold governments, individuals and corporations accountable for human rights, environmental and other legal violations.
Handmaker and four others were awarded a five-month fellowship through the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences in Amsterdam. Their focus is “the strategic potential and challenges of legal mobilization” to ensure consequences for illegal or inappropriate corporate behavior.
In an interview Handmaker give last year, he explained that the concept of legal mobilization “as a practice is aimed at advancing social justice.” As an example, he referred to advocacy for Greenpeace to mitigate climate change and other environmental harm.
“Legal mobilization is intended to function as a legitimate means to resolve conflicts, redress rule of law and justice deficits and address other governance problems. Legal mobilization is not the same as lawfare, whereby companies and governments instrumentalize law n a manner of questionable legitimacy.
“While lawfare serves to victimize, attempt to bankrupt or in other ways harm social justice advocates, organizations and even government agencies, of social justice cases, legal mobilization can serve as a form of resistance or counter-power. Handmaker added: “An important function of legal mobilization is to protect human rights defenders, environmental justice advocates, indigenous leaders and others against lawfare.
“An example of lawfare is “strategic litigation against public participation,” or SLAPP suits, including lawsuits directed against the environmental group Greenpeace regarding their advocacy on the Dakota Pipeline in the United States of America.”
Another example, he said, is “legal mobilization to protect academics, student and social justice activists who speak out for the rights and freedom of the Palestinian people.” Handmaker, a son of retired Corrales geneticist Stan Handmaker, began working in this field in the early 1990s as a human rights lawyer in the Republic of South Africa.
In the interview, he said “Human rights is just one of the topics I’m researching. It’s about more than just the language of human rights conventions. It’s also about how, and if, these conventions can function in complex societies. In particular, I examine the influence that politics has when it comes to complying with these conventions both in local and global contexts.
“For example, I look at how international crimes are tackled. You can approach different institutions to tackle crime” one of them is the International Criminal Court. But who approaches the court? It may also bee possible for the offender to be brought t justice within his country of origin, the country where the victims come from, or the country the offender goes to as well.
“What we’re actually doing is looking at how social justice can enhance the idea of justice. In this regard, non-governmental organizations often play a key role in this process — international organizations such as Amnesty Internation and local organizations such as the Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq.”
In 2019, Handmaker co-authored the book Mobilizing International Law for Global Justice. “One of the objectives was to provide information to international lawyers and international organizations who are also active in this area, to give them a better understanding of how politics relates to, and influences, law and human rights. The book addresses different topics, such as how efforts to challenge corruption through bribes paid in other countries is being waged where the companies are based, and the battle against child abduction.
“It also gives a few examples f how some citizens enforce human rights in cases where enforcement isn’t successful at the national level. “The big question is: what are the law-based options out there for addressing issues like this: It is difficult to hold a state or a multinational company liable for human rights violations, but it has happened in the past through, for example, boycotts, divestment and sanctions or other campaign and petitions.
“Another good example is the work of the Dutch organization Urgenda., The 2015 Urgenda climate case against the Dutch government wa the first in the world in which citizens established their government has a legal duty to prevent the harms caused by climate change. The options are there, and law often plays a pivotal role. That’s what we focus on.
“Lawyers have a tendency to cite the law repeatedly in the hopes that it will be respected in the end. But sometimes, putting pressure on a state, multinational company or institution is what’s needed to get justice.”
As if we needed more pandemic-related issues to consider in 2021, it appears that even the minimal recycling efforts we may be making are likely doomed to failure. Lee Dante, president of Roadrunner Waste Service Inc., which has served Corrales since 2004, says what he calls “commingling” of multiple so-called recyclables in one bin is a major issue. Plastic grocery bags, pizza boxes, unwashed fast food/takeout containers, no. Unrinsed tin cans, no. And the Earth Institute at Columbia University reports that “Single-stream recycling, where all recyclables are placed into the same bin, has made recycling easier for consumers, but results in about one-quarter of the material being contaminated.”
At least, though, as Dante puts it, “the public finally has learned to recycle, with New Mexico at least 20 years behind many parts of the country…” And now ironically, “it costs more to recycle than to bury items in landfill.” And Sandoval County is charging more for the use of landfill.
Even communities and companies committed to recycling are grappling with a range of complications. Before 2018, the U.S. sent mega amounts of ”trash” to China for recycling. According to a March 2020 report by the Earth Institute, “in 2016, the U.S. exported 16 million tons of plastic, paper and metals to China.” Of that, 30 percent was never actually recycled. Once China halted being the world’s trash can, the US tried sending largely plastic waste to Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand but that did not work out. Finally, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Ghana, Laos, Ethiopia, Kenya and Senegal were in the mix.
“The way the system is configured right now, recycling is a service that competes — and unsurprisingly often loses — for local funding that is also needed for schools, policing, et cetera,” said Stephanie Kersten-Johnston, an adjunct professor in Columbia University’s Sustainability Management Master’s Program and director of circular ventures at The Recycling Partnership. “Without dedicated investment, recycling infrastructure won’t be sufficient. In addition, we need to resolve the simple math equation that currently exists — when it’s cheap to landfill, recycling will not be ‘worthwhile’ so we need to start to recognize what landfill really is: a waste of waste!”
And here comes another topic for the Biden administration to tackle, maybe. This country does not have a federal recycling program. “Recycling decision-making is currently in the hands of 20,000 communities in the U.S., all of which make their own choices about whether and what to recycle,” said Kersten-Johnston. “Many stakeholders with many different interests converge around this topic and we need to find common ground and goals to avoid working against one another. That means companies coming together with communities, recyclers, haulers, manufacturers and consumers to try to make progress together.”
Roadrunner Waste’s Dante claims the City of Albuquerque dictates recycling practices for Corrales. In 2013 the City began a $2 million contract with Friedman Recycling, based in Phoenix, which had opened a 90,000 square-foot “materials recovery facility” in the North Valley. Friedman was outfitted by BHS, founded in 1976 and headquartered in Eugene, Oregon. The company “designs, manufactures and installs processing systems tailored to extract recyclables from the waste stream.”
Since then, whatever Roadrunner considers “recyclable” goes to Friedman, which is the only game in town. On September 30, 2020 an Albuquerque tv station KOAT reporter broadcast with a fire raging behind her at the recycling facility. Owner Morris Friedman said “We’re dealing with combustible products.” And seemingly fire comes with the territory. The journalist said on air that a year prior, another major fire had broken out there. She added that over the past seven years Friedman Recycling had racked up more than $50,000 in fines.
The City of Albuquerque is considering raising fees for trash collection more than 10 percent in 2021, given assorted difficulties encountered in handling recycling issues. Lee Dante says he sees local restaurant waste volume is down between 10 and 15 percent, while Roadrunner’s household waste business is up between 10 and 12 percent. Which all makes sense given the pandemic.
Who pays whom for what, in recycling? According to Earth Institute,“Germany recycles 56 percent of its trash by providing different colored bins for different colored glass and other items. The country uses the Green Dot recycling system: When a green dot is placed on packaging material, it indicates that the manufacturer contributes to the cost of collection and recycling. These manufacturers pay a license fee to a waste collection company that is calculated on weight in order to get their packaging picked up, sorted and recycled.”
Some American cities encourage glass recycling by putting a deposit on beverage bottles. Glass, mind you, can be totally recycled and reused. Albuquerque has set up glass bottle recycling bins around town, as companies such as Waste Management will not recycle bottles tossed in their trash cans.
An almost perfect recyclable is the cardboard box, mountains of which are now turning up as the pandemic-driven shift from in-person shopping to online, has resulted in more. A December 2020 article in the Washington Post stated that “More paper by weight is recovered for recycling from municipal solid waste streams than glass, plastic, steel and aluminum combined,” Heidi Brock, president and chief executive of the American Forest and Paper Association, said in an emailed statement. “As more people stay at home, it’s a good reminder that the box at your doorstep is designed to be recycled.”
Clean boxes, mind you. As for plastic….. “New plastic,” as in pristine products made from oil, is far less expensive to obtain than items made from recycled plastics. Plus it is surging as plastic shields, masks, containers, and medical gear are so crucial in the fight to contain COVID-19. A lengthy October report by Joe Brock for Reuters stated that “Since COVID-19, even drinks bottles made of recycled plastic – the most commonly recycled plastic item – have become less viable. The recycled plastic to make them is 83 percent to 93 percent more expensive than new bottle-grade plastic, according to market analysts at the Independent Commodity Intelligence Services (ICIS).”
With demand for oil down worldwide, due to stay-at-home restrictions, as well as increased interest in electric vehicles and cars with greatly improved gas mileage, the oil and gas industry is casting about for new ways to increase revenue. Brock’s report goes on to say that the industry is committing”…$400 billion over the next five years on plants to make raw materials for virgin plastic.”
Meanwhile, Roadrunner continues to recycle horse manure for residents, and loses money on it, even though the City of Albuquerque has need of it. Dante jokes that “it’s cheaper to feed a car than a horse…”
Just how transparent —and legal— are Village Council deliberations during pandemic limitations and online meetings? More precisely, have members of the council engaged in the illegal practice of a “rolling quorum” in discussing matters that may come up for a vote at a future meeting? Ostensibly as orientation for the newest member of the council, Tyson Parker, explanations of what constitutes a “rolling quorum” were given by Village Attorney Randy Autio and Village Clerk Aaron Gjullin at the council’s February 9 Zoom session.
Gjullin warned that infractions of the State’s Open Meetings Act probably have been occurring over the past year as councillors try to deal with difficulties arising from COVID-19 restrictions. But really, Corrales officials have run afoul of “rolling quorum” regulations for decades. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXIX No.13 August 21, 2010 “Do Officials’ E-mails Violate ‘Open Meetings’ Act?”)
The problem typically arises when councillors make phone calls or send emails to one another about things that will be on a future meeting agenda, he said. “It’s really easy to slip up,” he cautioned. “We all have made mistakes.” Sometimes it happens when, as Village Clerk, he sends out an email to all councillors about something that will be discussed at a coming council meeting. “It’s only when you respond [to such a shared email] that a ‘rolling quorum’ becomes suspect. “At the end of the day, it’s a really simple, easy mistake to make. And we have all made it at one point or another.
“It would be very sad if, for example, we were looking at an ordinance, and I sent a draft in a packet to everyone, and then you start discussing how you’re going to vote or any concerns you have with it, that should be done in a public setting, in an open setting.
“That has never happened at least in my tenure here, but that’s an extreme example of how a ‘rolling quorum’ can happen.” He summed up the ongoing problem this way. “For sure, if there are four or more councillors on an e-mail chain and you start talking among yourselves, that could easily results in a complaint if somebody did a request for inspection of public records.”
Mayor Jo Anne Roake explained how the problem arose when she served on Planning and Zoning. “It was very inadvertent. One Planning and Zoning commissioner would say something in a email, and somebody else would chime in and then maybe it would scroll down to somebody else. We just kept adding people. That also was a problem, although back then people hadn’t really thought about it.
“It wasn’t just that we were all there at the same time. It was like ‘Hey, so and so had a great idea’” and a discussion by email evolved.
Autio further explained, “That’s right. It doesn’t have to happen all at once. People might keep responding at different times to the email, and unless it’s only about scheduling, is not a good idea.”
Gjullin said “Even if it’s just you and one other councillor, you shouldn’t be doing business about what’s on the agenda outside of a meeting.” The Village Attorney added, “Kind of the key is, when you find yourself doing more than when council meetings are going to occur, and you get into the substance of what is on the agenda, and you’re doing it between councillors, that’s when it’s a problem. “If you’re doing it between you and staff, that’s not a problem.”
The New Mexico Foundation for Open Government has explained the ‘rolling quorum’ problem as follows. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s called a work session, retreat, training seminar or phone tree, under the Open Meetings Act, a meeting occurs whenever a quorum of a public body: a) formulates public policy, b) discusses public business, or c) takes action.
“A quorum is generally half the members plus one, unless otherwise specified in the board’s law or regulation. The quorum doesn’t need to be in the same room to hold a meeting; they might discuss public business in a series of e-mails or phone calls, over several days. This is called a rolling quorum, and it’s illegal unless the participants follow all the requirements of the Open Meetings Act.
At a work-study session with the mayor and councillors back on July 20, 2010 N.M. Municipal League Attorney Van Vleck listened to councillors’ complaints about what they felt were unreasonable constraints on what they could discuss among themselves online between regular council meetings.
Councillors engaging in phone calls, e-mails or sequential one-on-one discussions in person about pending public issues constitutes an illegal “rolling quorum” in which decisions are arrived at away from public scrutiny. Such practices have been a continuing source of controversy in Corrales for decades.
Then-Councillor Gerard Gagliano especially had argued current interpretations of the Open Meetings Act were unnecessarily impeding council members’ ability to learn about issues that were, or might be coming, before the council for decisions. At the 2010 work-study session Gagliano suggested that “We all get that creating a ‘rolling quorum’ is a bad thing,” and that councillors’ discussions about public issues should not be held in private. But he argued, as he had in the past, that contemporary internet techniques allow anyone from the public who wishes to do so to monitor, or perhaps even participate in, such online conversations.
Funds for Corrales from the N.M. Legislature last year that had been withheld have now been released. Money is now available for Casa San Ysidro Museum, Animal Control, Police Department offices, Fire Department water tanker and to extend water lines for fighting fire.
At the February 9 Village Council meeting, Village Clerk Aaron Gjullin reported “We have finally gotten, official, in-writing, bona fide grant agreements for capital outlay money that we weren’t sure we were going to get.” Gjullin said he had received word earlier that day that appropriations are approved for the following:
• Casa San Ysidro waste water and fire suppression lines - $25,000;
• Animal Control vehicles and equipment - $40,000;
• Fire Department water tender, a small, quick-response water hauler for wildlands fires- $225,000;
• Fire Department water line installation - $325,000; and
• Police station remodeling - $95,000.
“We’re really excited that we got this money and that we will be able to use these funds during the next couple of fiscal years,” Gjullin said. In a later interview, Village Administrator Ron Curry said the project for the police station is basically to make it “cleaner, neater and better. It’s not in very good shape, especially the bathroom.” He brushed off a facetious question whether funds would be used to enhance the police station’s holding cell.
In the Village’s Infrastructure Capital Improvements Plan (ICIP) submitted to the legislature, the request for “police station remodel” is to plan, design, renovate, repair, furnish and equip the police station.
The request for Casa San Ysidro Museum was for $50,000 to “plan, design and construct water and wastewater system improvement for Casa San Ysidro and the historic Old Church to Corrales Road for a visitor center.”
Corrales has turned back $167,417 to the N.M. Department of Transportation that now won’t be used to build trails for cyclists and horse riders along upper Meadowlark Lane. “This kind of sets us free,” Village Administrator Ron Curry said February 11, explaining that declining to use the grant means the Village will not have to comply with state-federal regulations.
Village officials had been stymied since 2018 in trying to move ahead with the long-planned paths after funders in Santa Fe denied Corrales’ request for a waiver from Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements due to steep slopes along the upper stretch of West Meadowlark. The multi-use trail along the north side of the road has been delayed after the Department of Transportation rejected a design for it that was deemed inconsistent with the federal regulations. The trail design for the west end of upper Meadowlark had unacceptable slopes both east-west and north-south. Apparently a slope in either direction would have been permissible unless it was too steep, but a slope in both directions was not.
Back then, the proposed solution was to obtain permission from property owners there to level out their driveway before it intersected with the future paved trail. But that never happened, so the over all project was stalled after the roadway was rebuilt with medians that incorporated stormwater drainage features.
Phase 2, the trails portion, will be accomplished with Village funds which, presumably, would not need to meet state-federal regulations, Village Administrator Curry said. Returning the money is “the first step in restarting the whole process,” he added. That will involve starting over with consultations among residents along upper Meadowlark, and the community in general, as to what is desired along the road connecting Loma Larga to bike lanes in Rio Rancho.
Curry said he expects to launch a new public involvement effort in April, starting with consultations with the current Village Council member representing the upper Meadowlark neighborhood Tyson Parker, joined by its previous representative, Dave Dornburg, who has indicated a desire to participate.
First proposed well more than a decade ago, the project secured funding through the Mid-Region Council of Governments for a bicycle connection between the two municipalities. But the Village declined the money after the Village Council was caught up in property owners’ disputes mainly about drainage. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXX, No.10, July 9, 2011 “Corrales Gives Back $160,000 for Upper Meadowlark Trail.” ) But proponents kept the project alive, building support community wide. Village officials conceded that more preliminary, conceptual work should have been done, especially regarding drainage. In July 2013, villagers convened for a planning charrette to develop realistic proposals for better using the exceptionally wide right-of-way.
The sessions led by Architectural Research Consultants under contract to the Village attempted to resolve ongoing conflicts over the future of upper Meadowlark. Neighbor-against-neighbor conflict had erupted over anticipated disruptions from the earlier funded project to construct bike trails along one or both sides of upper Meadowlark. Residents claimed the proposed changes might dump stormwater run-off onto their adjacent property, would increase traffic unbearably, make it difficult to safely exit their driveways onto Meadowlark and obliterate their frontage landscaping.
Proponents noted that upper Meadowlark is one of the few Village roads where plenty of right-of-way exists to accommodate multi-modal transportation, that bike lanes there would significantly improve opportunities for bicycle commuting, and that, as an inter-municipal project, funding had been allocated for it. From the beginning, opponents argued that funding provided through the Mid-region Council of Governments was nowhere near adequate to do the project right. No funds, for example, were provided for anticipated costs of managing drainage from the modified roadway.
After heated debate at council meetings over what should, or could, be done along upper Meadowlark, the mayor and council appointed a citizens’ task force to develop recommendations. It was headed by Pam Cox, an upper Meadowlark resident. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXX No.13 August 20, 2011 “Task Force Created For Upper Meadowlark Issues.”)
Then-Councillor Mick Harper, a strong advocate of the original plan, called for a new project along upper Meadowlark and subsequently won fellow councillors’ approval to seek other grants through the Council of Governments to solve long-running problems along Meadowlark. The preamble “whereas” statements in the resolution passed August 16 summed up the political impasse.
“Whereas, West Meadowlark Lane between Loma Larga and the Village boundary with the City of Rio Rancho is a residential road with a right-of-way 60 feet wide; and… West Meadowlark, because of its volume of traffic, is considered an urban collector by the [Council of Governments’] Metropolitan Planning Organization; and…
“… on its southern side, seven calles and driveways provide access to the lane for approximately 26 residences, with, in some instances, obstructed line-of-sight problems for residents and passing motorists; and
“…on its northern side, approximately 16 residences access the public road with driveways;
“…because of its grade and existing obstructions, West Meadowlark Lane could present drainage problems for the public right-of-way and adjoining properties; and;
“…by vote of the Village Council October 26, 2004, sixteen speed tables or humps were installed to calm traffic flow on West Meadowlark Lane; …in the event of a civic emergency evacuation situation, West Meadowlark Lane is one of three improved roads for exiting the Village;…”
According to the resolution adopted August 16, 2011, the new four-member task force was to be composed of at least two residents from the Meadowlark neighborhood, at least one person trained as an engineer and at least one person trained in the legal profession.
During its 50-year history as a municipality, Corrales has worked its way through difficult and contentious conflicts by calling upon citizen advisory groups. A previous task force, the Westside Road Committee, came up with compromises that allowed the controversial “north-south road” to go ahead as Loma Larga. Another worked through competing interests to produce a plan for allocating activity space in the brand-new Corrales Recreation Center after the pasture land was purchased from the late Annette Jones.
Both of those previous efforts were led by Roy Soto, who went on to serve on the Corrales Planning and Zoning Commission. The unusually wide right-of-way along upper Meadowlark has attracted trails advocates’ interest for some time. That route was recommended for trail development in the 2009 Corrales Trails Master Plan.
Although the council endorsed the Meadowlark trail proposal in fall 2010, councillors rejected it the following April because residents along the road opposed the plan. Seeking a compromise, a representative of the Corrales Bicycle, Pedestrian Advisory Commission asked the mayor and council May 24, 2011 to use the funds ($160,500 from federal transportation enhancement funds and $53,000 from the State Legislature) to design a traffic plan to improve conditions along West Meadowlark. The plan, according to Commissioner Susan Zimmerman, would incorporate “traffic calming” methods that residents there have called for over the years faced with increased traffic to and from Rio Rancho.
“We recommend that the Mid-Region Council of Governments funds allocated for the West Meadowlark bike trails project be retained and applied as follows,” Zimmerman said. “We recommend using the combined funds for a comprehensive planning and design of an improved West Meadowlark Lane that addresses safety concerns as well as traffic-calming solutions. We note that MRCOG planner Julie Luna has indicated the appropriation for this original project could be used for preliminary, first-stage costs such as planning and design.
“There have been several meetings around town,” she continued, “including some by West Meadowlark residents who support pedestrian-bicycle and/or equestrian access on the road, particularly if it is designed and constructed in a safe and attractive way.
“Many of the residents have brought out legitimate concerns about West Meadowlark and the way it is used, including, but not limited to, drainage, visibility, safety and slope stability,” Zimmerman said.
“Our commission recommends using the funds available to contract with traffic planners and other professionals including engineers to produce a plan which incorporates a thorough public involvement process to address the concerns raised, as well as the potential for various alternative methods of transportation.”
Zimmerman pointed out back in 2011 that substantial public input had already been received, and would be useful in designing improvements to conditions along West Meadowlark. She urged the funds be used “to design a plan that is beautiful, functional and greatly enhances safety while honoring the rural character of our village.
The Bicycle, Pedestrian Advisory Commission’s recommendations came during the “Communications” part of the council’s May 24 meeting, so there was no opportunity for councillors to react to Zimmerman’s statement. But later in the meeting, Councillor Mick Harper urged that the council’s June 14 agenda include a discussion of those recommendations.
At the contentious April 12, 2011 meeting, the original inter-municipal project was rejected on a 4-2 vote. Councillors Harper and Sayre Gerhart wanted the project continued, citing unsafe conditions along upper Meadowlark, unusually ample public right-of-way and availability of grant money. Community discussion about a trail project along West Meadowlark from Loma Larga to the Rio Rancho boundary continued at Village Administrator John Avila’s trails master plan coordinating meeting a week later. Several Meadowlark residents attended, about half of whom expressed willingness to discuss a trail project there.
At the trails master plan coordinating meeting, MRCOG trails planner Julie Luna answered questions regarding the agency’s promised funding of the Meadowlark bike paths. Luna recommended the federal funding for the multi-modal project here not be turned back. She said her agency would likely be open to revisions to what had been proposed at that point for the Meadowlark trail project, including possible phasing.
For example, she explained, that might mean using the available funding for planning and design, and then seeking implementation and construction funds later. More than a half-dozen West Meadowlark residents attended the trails coordinating meeting April 19, 2011 and while some remained adamantly opposed to any trail project along their road, others expressed willingness to discuss alternatives that might be suitable and acceptable.
The council chambers were packed for the April 12 council meeting at which the Meadowlark trail project was voted down. Several of those residents spoke at the council meeting, citing safety issues, especially given the sight distances when they try to pull out from their driveways onto Meadowlark, and drainage concerns. They were apparently struck by Village Engineer Steve Grollman’s admission that the funding available to design the bike trail and compacted earth path did not specifically include money for drainage issues.
Opponents referred to the Village’s own trails master plan to contend that the Meadowlark trail would be unsuitable. The steep grade there was said to be counter to recommendations. They noted that the master plan’s priority list for implementation did not rank Meadowlark high for that and other reasons. But lots of villagers, especially trails advocates and bike riders, urged the council to approve the project.
Holly Roberts, then a member of the Village’s Bicycle, Pedestrian Advisory Commission, said the Meadowlark trail would start the community’s trails network. “The West Meadowlark trail will be the first real manifestation of our trails master plan,” Roberts said. “ It’s important for many reasons. It will provide us with a safe way to access Rio Rancho. It is the only way to get to Rio Rancho from the center of the village.”
Roberts said it would also allow villagers to get to the Thompson fence trail along the escarpment. She continued: “It will make it safer for school kids to wait for the bus, and it will be an important artery for the far northwest quadrant of the Albuquerque Metropolitan Area linking it with the rest of the city, allowing people to commute by bicycle if they so desire.
“Currently West Meadowlark is kind of safe… as long as you’re in a car. If you’re walking, riding a bike or on a horse, forget it. Landscaping has been installed to the edge of the road in many places, forcing anyone not in a car out into the busy road. Bikes must ride in the lane of traffic, slowing down all the cars behind them if there is no paved shoulder. The unpaved shoulder is sandy and full of obstacles, many placed there by homeowners.”
Villagers will have to decide soon whether they want to keep municipal elections on the first Tuesday of March every other year or switch to the date of general elections in November. The question, which involves complications related to timing as well as funding, was debated at the February 9 Village Council meeting, with no clear answer. The over all purpose was to eliminate conflicts and standardize schedules and procedures.
In 2018 , the N.M. Legislature passed the Local Election Act which allowed municipalities to retain their schedules for elections on the first Tuesdays in March in even-numbered years or to opt-in for consolidated elections on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November of odd-numbered years— that is, the traditional date for November general election.
As explained by Village Attorney Randy Autio at the council meeting, if the Village Council takes no action, municipal elections here would continue to come in early March of even numbered years, with the Village budget paying for all costs. But if the council opts in for consolidated elections, Village elections would be in November of odd-numbered years, with the Sandoval County Clerk conducting the polling and covering all costs.
Village Clerk Aaron Gjullin said conducting a municipal election here typically costs the Village $65-75,000. A further wrinkle is that if Corrales opts in, some terms for council members, the mayor and municipal judge would be lengthened or shortened to jibe with the new November schedule.
“It’s time for us to be making a decision,” Mayor Jo Anne Roake advised. In order to opt in and be included in November 2022 elections, Corrales would have to pass an ordinance to that effect by June 30. But the Village Attorney cautioned that the rules and implications of switching to consolidation under the Local Election Act constitute a “complicated, messy problem.”
Among other changes, the timetable for processes such as declaration of candidacy, would also change. The attorney said it is expected that voter turnout would increase if elections were consolidated in November. According to a list distributed to the council in its meeting packet, municipalities that will now participate in consolidated elections include: Edgewood, Los Ranchos, Cloudcroft, Tucumcari, Santa Fe, Española, Socorro, Las Cruces, Belen and Albuquerque, among many others.
Music in Corrales’s next virtual concert, “Boyd Meets Girl,” features Rupert Boyd and Laura Metcalf, a classical and contemporary guitar and cello husband and wife duo. They performs an eclectic and engaging repertoire, from Debussy and Schubert to the Beatles and Beyoncé. Their on-demand concert, created exclusively for Music in Corrales, will be available for ticket buyers to view anytime from Saturday, February 20 through Sunday, February 28.
In addition to the concert, ticket purchasers will receive a Virtual Backstage Pass for a live conversation and a question and answer session with the musicians via Zoom at 6 p.m. Saturday, February 20. Ticket buyers will receive their concert ticket link along with a link for their Virtual Backstage Pass 12 to 24 hours prior to Saturday, February 20. Tickets are $15/person for links to the concert video and the Virtual Backstage Pass. Tickets can be obtained at https://www.musicincorrales.org/concert/boyd-meets-girl-concert.
Acclaimed soloists in their own right, Boyd and Metcalf have played to sold-out houses around the world, but the first professional concert together was in Albuquerque in 2013. Since then, they have returned to New Mexico several times, performing as soloists and as a duo in Taos, Santa Fe and Albuquerque, including repeat engagements at Albuquerque’s Chatter chamber music series. In 2018 Metcalf performed as the cellist with the group Sybarites in the Old San Ysidro Church in Corrales.
Perhaps this is yet another scene in Corrales’ medical marijuana card holders’ Waiting for Godot moment…calls to Southwest Organic Producers, SWOP, in Albuquerque asking when the Corrales retail outlet would open revealed “I have no idea…they keep saying ‘in two weeks,’ every time we ask. ‘In two weeks.’” The end of last year there was a brief burst of increased activity at the eastern end of the former Kim Jew property at 4604 Corrales Road, as it appeared that the retail cannabis dispensary was almost ready to open. A SWOP source said in December that “furniture, including display cases” were being bought for the Corrales site.
Spencer Komadina, one of the project’s partners, said then that the New Mexico Department of Health was expected to do its inspection the week of December 13, and that the shop would then hold its soft open, with a grand opening following not far behind. And yet. In an email February 11, Komadina said “Corrales is making us connect to the sewer before we can open...That will be done soon.”
According to Planning and Zoning administrator Laurie Stout, on November 20, 2019, the site development plan for SWOP was approved by the P&Z commission. A week later on November 27, Stout sent a letter to SWOP outlining the required next moves. It said, in part, “your next step is to have your chosen contractor pull a building permit” and “an item discussed during the meeting was the tie-in needed to the Village wastewater system. Michael Chavez oversees this.” Stout provided his email. “Both are common next steps after a site plan approval.”
But, as Stout put it, “No building permit application was received until recently —all work was done without a permit and so the permit had to be issued retroactively, which comes with a double fee— and the wastewater tie-in is now underway.” She added, “This could have been accomplished in November of 2019.”
The Corrales outlet, whenever it opens at the corner of Corrales Road and Rincon Road, just north of Perea’s restaurant, at least now does have new SWOP signage. And the dispensary should benefit from what another SWOP partner, Aaron Brogdon, has described as “better quality product,” grown right in Corrales. The Komadina property at 379 Camino de Corrales del Norte has three greenhouses, as well as a “head house,” or nursery, for new plants.
Long lines of cars and trucks headed to the Corrales Recreation Center Thursday, February 11 as vaccinations for COVID-19 began here. Under the direction of Fire Department Battalion Commander Tanya Lattin, several Village and N.M. Department of Health (NMDOH) personnel guided and registered people who had previously established eligibility with the NMDOH.
On that first day, 167 people were vaccinated at the rec center “point of distribution (POD). Two injection stations were set up under the solar electric arrays in the parking lot for “drive-by shootings” into arms through vehicle windows. Lattin said those vaccinated February 11 experienced no adverse reactions during a short period of observation.
She said initial vaccinations here will continue once a week, Thursdays from 1 to 4 p.m. in the parking lot in front of the recreation center’s multi-use building. Vaccinations are by appointment only; those to be vaccinated must have registered with the N.M. Department of Health. Persons desiring vaccine protection from COVID-19 here or elsewhere in New Mexico should sign up at the N.M. Department of Health website, htpps://cvvaccine.nmhealth.org. Lattin urged villagers to call her for assistance with the registration process. She can be reached at 702-4182.
“For the first three weeks, the rec center location will be a site for initial vaccinations, and on the fourth week, it will operate morning and afternoon for second doses and first doses as long as vaccine is allocated.
“This is currently the only Corrales NMDOH location, and as it takes a large number of staff to operate, I do not see any other locations being set up in Corrales,” Lattin explained. She said she is aware that Corrales Pharmacy has been trying to gain authorization from NMDOH to vaccinate there as well. As of February 13, 262 cases of the deadly coronavirus were recorded in Corrales. There were 179.724 cases statewide, and 3,502 had died.
By age group, most Sandoval County COVID-19 cases were among people between the ages of 20 and 30, followed by those in the 30-40 age group. But the rates of infection were in steep decline in New Mexico, in line with trends nationwide.
“It’s so nice to report some good news on the COVID front,” Mayor Jo Anne Roake said. “Sandoval County, along with 14 others in New Mexico, has moved to ‘Yellow.’ In keeping with the public health order, Village outdoor recreational facilities are open at 25 percent capacity.
“Indoor dining is allowed at 25 percent, outdoor dining at 75 percent. Businesses can operate at 25 percent. Mass gatherings are now at 10.” The mayor urged Corraleños to continue wearing masks, try to remain at home and get vaccinated. “Along with COVID safe practices, to overcome the virus, we must get vaccinated. New Mexico already has 16 percent fewer cases because of vaccinations. Please register for your vaccine.
“Finally, please get tested. If the test is positive, you’ll get the help you need fast; if it’s negative, you’ll help reduce the positivity rate.” That positivity rate is the basis for loosening (or tightening) restrictions, such as those for restaurants, bars, sporting events and other sites where patrons might be exposed to the virus. The recent decreases meant the Health Department could show Sandoval County as having moved from the “Red” designation to “Yellow.” No counties had progressed to “Green” as of February 13.
New Mexico was among the highest ranked states for actually distributing vaccine available. As of February 12, the state had vaccinated people with 394,720 doses out of the 429,950 received, a delivery rate of almost 92 percent. But only around 13 percent of all New Mexicans had gotten their first shot. New Mexico ranked third in the nation, behind only Utah and West Virginia, for using the vaccine made available. The state was third, behind Alaska and West Virginia, for percentage of total population to have received at least the first dose.
The latest Corraleño to be named a local hero is John Perea. Mayor Jo Anne Roake made that announcement at the January 26 Village Council meeting. She noted he has served on several municipal committees and commissions, including Parks and Recreation and Farmland Preservation, and has served the broader community for years in various ways.
The family business, Perea’s Restaurant and Tijuana Bar, has hosted countless community gatherings over decades. The mayor pointed out that Perea, a former Peace Corps volunteer in Nicaragua, has been a consultant for several Pueblo governments, representing them in Washington DC.
Roake began an effort to recognize villagers as local heroes last year, starting with Red Cross volunteer Linda Crowden, and then Corrales Historical Society historian Mary Davis and Corrales Comment publisher Jeff Radford. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXIX No.16 November 7, 2020 “Local Heroes Honored.”)
State Representative Jim Townsend, an Artesia Republican, Representative Rod Montoya, a Farmington Republican, and Hobbs Republican Larry Scott filed a lawsuit January 30 with the New Mexico Supreme Court challenging House rules changes they considered unconstitutional one-week into the 60-day legislative session.
Those rule changes are significantly different than those of the Senate chamber, in which the Senate will operate in a manner where their chamber will ensure it legislates from “the seat of government” as is set forth in the New Mexico Constitution. During floor debate on these rule changes, House Republican lawmakers highlighted significant constitutional concerns as to the validity of any action the House may take, as well the significant reduction of public access to the legislative process.
While there were two instances of bipartisan agreement on rule changes, the House Democrat majority defeated numerous other attempts to reverse rule changes that were contrary to years of bipartisan support to encourage public access and create greater transparency in the legislature’s actions, they said.
Before the current session, there were bipartisan concerns expressed about holding the legislative session during the pandemic and legislators from both sides of aisle and from both chambers voiced a desire to hold the session later in the spring when the number of COVID-19 cases might be diminished and vaccines would be widely available. Delaying the session could have also avoided making these rule changes, they contended, and could have allowed greater public participation in the legislative process.
A bill in the N.M. Legislature would allow any registered voter to vote in the primary election for either major party. House Bill 79, or previous versions, has been considered in the legislature over the past five years as advocated by Corrales’ former State Representative Bob Perls, who heads what is now known as New Mexico Open Elections.
This year, the proposal is co-sponsored by Corrales Representative Daymon Ely who testified that the state’s current party-member-only voting for the primaries excludes nearly 300,000 citizens. In the early days of the 2021 legislative session, HB79 was favorably voted out of the State Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee with a 6-3 margin.
Under terms of the bill, New Mexicans who are registered as independents, or as members of minor parties, can vote in party primary elections of the Democratic, Republican or Libertarian Parties simply by requesting a ballot; there would be no need to register as a member of one of those parties to participate in the primary. This year, the current N.M. Secretary of State, Maggie Toulouse Oliver, testified in favor of the bill, which advanced to the House Judiciary Committee.
“If we can get it to the House floor, we are fairly certain it will move through to the Senate,” Perls said February 1. In recent years, New Mexicans have increasingly joined the ranks of independent voters. Around 22 percent of voters decline to register as Democrat, Republican or Libertarian. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXIV No.9 June 20, 2015 “Corrales-Based Campaign Aims for Open Primary Elections.”) A Corrales businessman and former U.S. Foreign Service officer, Perls last year ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat for Sandoval County Clerk. Elected to the N.M. House of Representatives as a Democrat in 1992, Perls served in until 1996.
In 2016, he explained why has advocated for open primaries. “New Mexico has more uncontested political races than any state, fewer independent or minor party candidates that any state, the highest and most discriminatory ballot access requirements of any state… and we wonder why democracy does not work well here. The answer is that we need competitive elections with engaged voters for it to work for everyone,” Perls said. “New Mexico Open Primaries believes that we must reduce the discriminatory ballot access requirements of independent and third party candidates to offer more choices for New Mexican voters.”
The non-profit organization is now known as New Mexico Open Elections. “The fundamental belief is that you shouldn’t have to join a political party to vote. In New Mexico, we have a closed primary system; that means you have to register Democrat or register Republican to vote in a primary,” Perls explained. “New Mexico has been a heavily Democratic state, and therefore probably 90 percent of the important decisions are made in the Democratic primary. Most elections are decided in the Democratic Party primary. That’s because there’s either no competition from the other party in the general election or there’s token competition in the general election. Ninety percent of the time, the candidate who comes out the winner in the Democratic party gets elected.
“Here is why it’s important for a primary to be open. These ‘electoral process issues’ are complex, not very sexy and yet are the root-cause of the political dysfunction we see in America and in New Mexico.
“The idea of New Mexico Open Primaries is to open up the primaries so that independents can vote and so that people don’t have to register as a Democrat or Republican to vote in the first-round election. “Most people think of the party primary as a first-round election; what our organization wants to do is educate people about the fact that elections are a fundamental responsibility of state government, and that it is going about it backward to have a private club, or private association [parties], running our elections.
“I believe strongly that parties serve a function, and I believe strongly that this movement is not anti-party,” Perls insisted. “But we need to look at why we have the gridlock and hyper-partisanship and dysfunction that we have in this country. The root cause of that is, in fact, partisanship.”
He thinks it’s wrong —even illegal— to allow private organizations, such as parties, to decide who they will allow to vote in an election for a public office. “Our tax dollars pay for primary elections, and it is illegal (or should be, once the courts catch up based on the N.M. anti-donation clause) for public dollars to go to private associations. We don’t tolerate it in any situation except the most important activity we do in our country —when we vote.”
As a Democrat, Perls won election to the N.M. House of Representatives in 1992 and was re-elected in 1994 before running unsuccessfully for Congress and then for a seat on the N.M. Public Regulations Commission. He applied for admission to the Foreign Service Corps after selling his medical equipment sales business, Monitech, in 2008. He joined the U.S. Foreign Service in January 2010.
During his four years in the N.M. House, he was regarded as something of a maverick for not strictly toeing the Democratic party line. That independent thinking cost him support from party leaders. The movement toward open primaries in state level elections began in the 1990s.
At the February 9 Village Council meeting to be zoomed starting at 6:30 p.m., an update will be given on the farmland preservation program. The briefing was requested at the January 26 session by Councillor Zach Burkett, who responded to a request forsuggestions for the next meeting’s agenda. “Can we get an update on conservation easements —just if there are any other properties that have been identified as interested? I have heard rumors there are some that are potentially in the works, so if we could get at least a broad update, that would be fantastic. Mayor Jo Anne Roake replied. “Absolutely. I hope it will be more than a broad update. Everybody, keep your fingers crossed!”
That seemed to contrast with the report submitted earlier in the same meeting that noted, “No private property owners are currently interested in participating in the easement program, but if opportunities arise the Village will pursue them.” However, when Corrales Comment asked Farmland Preservation Commission’s co-chair Lisa Brown, she said there is no current application to add a property to the Village’s program. “There is nothing pending.”
The Village Council approved purchase of a conservation easement on 12 acres of farmland at its December 8, 2020 session. The vote was three-to-two to pay $960,000 for an easement on the Haslam farm between the Corrales Main Canal and the Corrales Lateral irrigation ditch at the end of Kings Lane. Councillors Stuart Murray and Kevin Lucero voted no, citing prospects that a more desirable tract might become available during the next six months.
That was almost certainly a reference to the long-discussed, and negotiated possibility that the Trosello tract farther north along the east side of Corrales Road might be saved from development as home sites. Murray, Lucero and several villagers had argued that the Village had negotiated an option to purchase the Haslam tract this past summer and still had six months remaining to exercise it. They argued there was no hurry to close on the Haslam land.
With the Haslam easement purchase, that leaves approximately $1.5 million remaining of the $2.5 million raised from municipal general obligation bonds approved by voters in March 2018 for farmland preservation. Former Village Councillor Fred Hashimoto had urged a delay on the Haslam property. “Some very attractive proposals might pop up between now and June 1, and the council should not cave now to prematurely spend potential funds which might be used for a possibly more valuable proposal in the next coming months.”
Those questions drew sharp responses from then-Councillor Dave Dornburg and Mayor Roake. “I think it’s kind of folly to assume that another deal is going to come out of the woodwork at this day and age when property values in the village are only going up,” Dornburg said. “I think there has been enough man-hours and due diligence put into this process that the time has come to put it to a vote.
“There may always be another option down the road, but in my humble opinion, while I’m sure there are other pieces of property that people would rather have, this is the option we have and it meets the intent of conservation easement that we’re trying to protect.” Murray responded. “I’m not going to dispute the process. They have been working on it quite a bit. I have no objection to Mr. Haslam’s property. It’s a beautiful piece of property.” But he doubted that the offered parcel could be successful as a farm. “I’ve seen farmers back in my hometown who had 150 acres and couldn’t make a go of it and had to work two jobs to make a living…”
Mayor Roake cut in to say that was not relevant, and that waiting another six months on the Haslam option is not really an alternative, given the amount of time it has taken to get the Haslam option ready to execute. “Between getting our financing and getting the bonds issued and getting it approved through the N.M. Finance Authority and all the other gates that we have to go through actually does put the time limitations on this process. I want to address the idea that we can actually wait for months, because all of the pieces that you have voted for have gotten us to the point now where we are issuing the bonds, and that has to be done in a certain time frame… all of this was done based on two different appraisals and two different reviews by N.M. Taxation and Revenue, so I think that’s a false analogy.
“All of this work has taken place since July. It has taken a long time. It’s a lengthy and complex process,” the mayor stressed, making the point that the administration does not actually have another six months to exercise the Haslam option. Before the vote was called, Councillor Dornburg made another plea for approval. “I think it’s a good idea today, it was a good idea six months ago and it will be a good idea six months from now. If we don’t think it’s a good idea, that’s a different conversation. But we have the will of the people for a bond to buy conservation easements. We have a great conservation property in front of us. If you like the property and think it meets the will of the people, either today or in June, the answer should probably be the same.”
The motion to purchase the Haslam conservation easement was approved. More than 50 acres of Corrales farmland has been brought under conservation easement since the effort began here in 2000. Villagers overwhelmingly approved a bond proposal for $2.5 million for that purpose in 2004, but the last of those bond proceeds was spent in 2015. Since the bonds now have been paid off, more bonds were issued without increasing property tax. The first conservation easement here was donated by former Corrales resident Jonathan Porter on land west of Corrales Road at the south end of the valley. Similar to the Haslam farm, the Porter tract is not visible from Corrales Road, nor are most others.
Corrales’ interest in preserving farmland dates back at least to its incorporation as a municipality in 1971. The first master plan produced for the new Village government in 1973 recommended techniques be explored to accomplish that. Successive planning documents and ordinances over the years have endorsed that goal. (See Corrales Comment Vol. II, No. 8, August 20, 1983 “Can Corrales Stay Farmland Forever? Yes, Say Planners, & Here’s How.”) Corrales’ first conservation easement of six acres along Mira Sol Road in 2001 was donated by the landowner, not sold. Jonathan Porter believed in keeping fertile land under cultivation and his donation of the easement to the Taos Land Trust provided helpful tax benefits.
More trees will be removed at the north end of the Corrales Bosque Preserve in the weeks ahead as the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District continues remedies for the threatened siphon pipe that delivers irrigation water to Corrales. Starting during the second week of February, the work with heavy equipment will continue through early March, according to MRGCD Executive Director Mike Hamman.
Much of the work inside the preserve involves creating a boat ramp downriver from the rock weir over the Corrales Siphon constructed last year. Safety concerns have been raised about the risk to boaters, rafters and other watercraft users as they encounter the new rapids caused by the small boulders placed all across the Rio Grande. (See Corrales Comment letters to the editor in the January 23, 2021 issue.)
To mitigate that threat, Hamman said some of the boulders nearest the west side of the river will be removed and replaced with a more gentle, smoother passage from the upriver side of the weir to the downriver side. “We’ve gone through two separate projects here designed to save the siphon from the threat posed by the flow of the river,” he explained January 28 in a riverside interview for Corrales Comment.
“That down-cutting of the riverbed [which until recent years covered the 80-year old wooden culvert] has been going on since construction of Cochiti Dam. The original project in 2016 protected about 100 feet of the exposed siphon, but then we had heavy river flows of 2019 when flows here were consistent for weeks on end. That meant the down-cut went even further so that the siphon was completely exposed at the end of that run-off season.
“So that’s when we installed the rock weir that extends clear across the active channel. We feel like we’ve protected the siphon very well now for many years to come.” He said his agency is considering another technique called “slip lining” that would insert an inner lining material that could be expanded inside the wooden pipe to support it even further.
Since the weir has been in place, MRGCD and cooperating federal agencies have observed the results to see whether the river and its sediment load are behaving as expected. One of those has been the river dropping some of its sediment on the upriver side of the boulders which is having the effort of building up a more gentle ramp. “But we did recognize that this creates a hazard for boating, wading and possibly swimming in this area because we did raise the river up about two and a half feet or so from what it was before,” Hamman pointed out. “But we know from experience that the river will continue to moderate that leading edge so that it will start to meld into a more gradual slope.
“But we realize we will have to take additional action to make it more safe. One of the things we wanted to do, after we learned what the river was going to do, was to change this part here on the river-right side [west], to make it a smoother ramp from the upriver side of the weir to the downstream side.” He said the intended slope in the riverbed would be about 70 feet wide east-west starting at the Corrales side. The detour around the boulder weir will be on the Corrales side of the river channel rather than the east side which is under Sandia Pueblo jurisdiction. “They are very concerned about trespass there.”
Hamman said a sign will be posted along the east side warning people on watercraft not to try to go over the boulders, but instead to “stay river right” and pass through the smoother slope along the Corrales side. “People of the low to moderate skill set will probably have no problems coming through here. A skilled kayaker could probably take that rapid, but there are some sizable boulders in there.
“Now, for people who wish to put in here to go downstream and may be a little nervous about coming through this passage, we’re going to take out some of these older trees that are kind of aged out —and some of them are even being undercut by the river, so about four or five trees are going to come out. That way we can have another ramp going down to the river in a gradual slope. So people who want to avoid the weir as it is now will have two options.”
Another advantage, he said, is the new ramp will make it easier for river rescue teams to launch their watercraft at the north end of the preserve. Once the new ramp is completed, probably before summer, boaters and rafters headed down river could take out at the ramp recently built north of the weir, portage across the parking lot bypassing the weir, and put in again at the new ramp.
Another component of the improvements already completed is expansion of the visitor parking area. “We know this is a very popular area. And we wanted to make sure people can use it safely. We’ve had people who backed into the canal as they were trying to leave this area, so we wanted to make it safer.” The 83 year old 1,000-foot wooden pipe has been buried under the river bed since the early 1930s but was being uncovered by chronic erosion of the channel since upriver dams were constructed, reducing sediment deposited here. When the problem was revealed more than eight years ago, the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District implemented temporary fixes while trying to figure out what the real solution might be.
With assistance from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, MRGCD constructed a rock weir immediately downstream of the pipe near the west bank of the Rio Grande. “The MRGCD had previously had an inspection performed on the siphon and found that the wood pipe was in remarkably good condition with the exception of one missing wood stave in a section near the east bank,” the district’s executive director said.
The wooden culvert brings irrigation water from the east side of the Rio Grande to the west and into the Corrales Main Canal. About eight years ago, rapids began to appear where water flowed over the pipe. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXII, No.16, October 5, 2013 “River Bed’s Drop Disturbs Buried Irrigation Culvert.”)
The former executive director, Subhas Shah, explained to the mayor and Village Council that the uncovering of the siphon had been caused by a reduction in silt pouring into the Rio Grande after Cochiti and other dams were constructed upstream. “In 1975 when Cochiti Dam was built, we started getting less silt coming into the river, and the river bed was getting eroded. So this is what we are seeing after 38 years.” (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXX, No. 2 March 5, 2011 “So Far, River Bed Still Degrading Here.”)
The siphon is made of a series of 20-foot long by five-inch wide wood staves that are held together with steel bands to form a pipe that is approximately 900 feet long. It brings irrigation water conveyed through Sandia Pueblo under the riverbed and into Corrales.
If you don’t have your own photovoltaic panels to generate electricity for your home or business, might you be interested in subscribing to use the output from a community solar facility? A bill under consideration in the 2021 session of the N.M. Legislature calls for rules to govern how a community solar facility should operate. Senate Bill 84 was introduced by Liz Stefanics and Linda Lopez.
The bill directs the N.M. Public Regulation Commission to adopt rules to implement such a program around the state, with special consideration for Native American communities. The bill defines a community solar program as one which is “created through the adoption of rules by the commission that allows for the development of community solar facilities and provides customers of a qualifying utility with the option of accessing solar energy produced by a community solar facility in accordance with the Community Solar Act.”
It would operate based on a community solar bill credit that is the credit value of the electricity generated by a community solar facility and allocated to a subscriber to offset the subscriber's electricity bill on the qualifying utility’s monthly billing cycle. SB84 defines a “low-income customer” for such a program as “a residential customer of a qualifying utility with an annual household income at or below eighty percent of county area median income, as published by the United States department of housing and urban development, or that is enrolled in a low-income program facilitated by the state or a low-income energy program led by the qualifying utility or as determined by the commission; And a “low-income service organization” would be an organization that provides services, assistance or housing to low-income customers and may include a local or central tribal government, a chapter house or a tribally designated housing entity; A “subscriber” means a retail customer of a qualifying utility that owns a subscription to a community solar facility from a subscriber organization; A “subscriber organization would be an entity that owns or operates a community solar facility and may include a municipality, a county, a for-profit or nonprofit entity or organization, an Indian nation, tribe, or pueblo, a local tribal governance structure or other tribal entity authorized to transact business in New Mexico; Selected text of the bill reads as follows.
Section 3. Community Solar Facility Requirements.
A. A community solar facility shall:
(1) have a nameplate rating of five megawatts alternating current or less;
(2) be located in the service territory of the qualifying utility and be interconnected to the electric distribution system of that qualifying utility;
(3) have at least ten subscribers;
(4) have the option to be co-located with other energy resources;
(5) not allow a single subscriber to be allocated more than forty percent of the generating capacity of the facility; and
(6) make at least forty percent of the total generating capacity of a community solar facility available in subscriptions of twenty-five kilowatts or less.
B. The provisions of this section shall not apply to a native community solar project; provided that a native community solar project shall be located in the service territory of a qualifying utility and be interconnected to the electric distribution system of that qualifying utility.
Section 4. Ownership of Community Solar Facilities.
A. A community solar facility shall be owned or operated by a subscriber organization.
B. Third-party entities or subscriber organizations developing projects on the land of an Indian nation, tribe, or pueblo are subject to tribal jurisdiction.
Section 5. Subscription Requirements. A. A subscription shall be:
(1) sized to supply no more than one hundred twenty percent of the subscriber's average annual electricity consumption; and
(2) transferable and portable within the qualifying utility service territory.
B. The provisions of this section shall not apply to a native community solar project; provided that subscriptions to a native community solar project shall be transferable and portable within the qualifying utility Community Solar Program Administration.
A. A qualifying utility shall:
(1) acquire the entire output of a community solar facility connected to its distribution system;
(2) apply community solar bill credits to subscriber bills within one billing cycle following the cycle during which the energy was generated by the community solar facility;
(3) provide community solar bill credits to a community solar facility's subscribers for not less than twenty-five years from the date the community solar facility is first interconnected;
(4) carry over any amount of a community solar bill credit that exceeds the subscriber's monthly bill and apply it to the subscriber's next monthly bill; and
(5) on a monthly basis and in a standardized electronic format, provide to the subscriber organization a report indicating the total value of community solar bill credits generated by the community solar facility in the prior month as well as the amount of the community solar bill credits applied to each subscriber.
B. A subscriber organization shall, on a monthly basis and in a standardized electronic format, provide to the qualifying utility a list indicating the kilowatt-hours of generation attributable to each subscriber. Subscriber lists may be updated monthly to reflect canceling subscribers and to add new subscribers.
C. If a community solar facility is not fully subscribed in a given month, the unsubscribed energy may be rolled forward on the community solar facility account for up to one year from its month of generation and allocated by the subscriber organization to subscribers at any time during that period. At the end of that period, any undistributed bill credit shall be removed, and the unsubscribed energy shall be purchased by the qualifying utility at its applicable avoided cost of energy rate as approved by the commission.
D. The environmental attributes, including renewable energy certificates, associated with a community solar facility may be sold or transferred by the owner of the community solar facility to the qualifying utility.
E. Nothing in the Community Solar Act shall preclude an Indian nation, tribe or pueblo from using financial mechanisms other than subscription models, including virtual and aggregate net-metering, for native community solar projects.
Section 7. Public Regulation Commission Rule making.
A. The commission shall adopt rules to establish a community solar program by no later than November 1, 2021. The rules shall:
(1) provide an initial annual statewide capacity program cap of one hundred megawatts proportionally allocated to investor-owned utilities until November 1, 2024. The annual statewide capacity program cap shall exclude native community solar projects and rural electric distribution cooperatives;
(2) establish an annual statewide capacity program cap to be in effect after November 1, 2024;
(3) require a target thirty percent annual statewide carve-out of the annual statewide capacity program cap to be reserved for low-income customers and low-income service organizations. In facilitation of this target, the commission shall issue guidelines to ensure the carve-out is achieved each year and develop a list of low-income service organizations and programs that may pre-qualify low-income customers;
(4) establish a process for the selection of community solar facility projects and allocation of the statewide capacity program cap;
(5) require a qualifying utility to file the tariffs, agreement or forms necessary for implementation of the community solar program;
(6) establish reasonable, uniform, efficient and non-discriminatory standards, fees and processes for the interconnection of community solar facilities that are consistent with the commission's existing interconnection rules and interconnection manual that allows a qualifying utility to recover reasonable costs for administering the community solar program and interconnection costs for each community solar facility;
(7) provide consumer protections for subscribers, including a uniform disclosure form that identifies the information that shall be provided by a subscriber organization to a potential subscriber, in both English and Spanish, and when appropriate, native or indigenous languages, to ensure fair disclosure of future costs and benefits of subscriptions, key contract terms and other relevant but reasonable information pertaining to the subscription;
(8) provide a community solar bill credit rate mechanism for subscribers derived from the qualifying utility's total aggregate retail rate on a per-customer-class basis, less the commission-approved distribution cost components, and identify all proposed rules, fees and charges;
(9) reasonably allow for the creation, financing and accessibility of community solar facilities; and
(10) provide requirements for the siting and co-location of community solar facilities.
B. The commission shall solicit input from relevant state agencies, public utilities, low-income stakeholders, disproportionately impacted communities, potential owners or operators of community solar facilities, Indian nations, tribes and pueblos and other interested parties in its rule making process.
C. By no later than November 1, 2024, the commission shall provide to the appropriate interim legislative committee a report on the status of the community solar program, including the development of community solar facilities, the participation of investor-owned utilities and rural electric distribution cooperatives, low-income participation, the adequacy of facility size, proposals for alternative rate structures and bill credit mechanisms, cross-subsidization issues, community solar facilities' effect on utility compliance with the renewable portfolio standard and an evaluation of the effectiveness of the commission's rules to implement the Community Solar Act and any recommended changes.
Section 9. Exclusion from Commission Regulation.. Subscriber organizations, or the subscribers to a community solar facility, shall not be considered public utilities subject to regulation by the commission under the Public Utility Act solely as a result of their ownership, interest in, operation of or subscription to a community solar facility. Rates paid for subscriptions shall not be subject to regulation by the commission.
After its usual winter hiatus, Casa San Ysidro Museum: The Gutiérrez-Minge House, across from Old Church, is once again up and running, with COVID-19-safe tours, five-person per tour, New Mexico residents only, via timed tickets available for purchase only online through Hold My Ticket. And, according to Site Manager Aaron Gardner, the museum also is offering a full roster of online programming. You can get each relevant Zoom connection by going to http://www.cabq.gov/culturalservices/albuquerque-museum/events
• February 13: The Unique Legacy of Abraham Lincoln in New Mexico
Abraham Lincoln spoke very little about the far western territory of New Mexico. Yet, during his presidency, two different wars were fought here and the territory’s landmass was divided in half. Lincoln signed into law legislation that would eventually aid in the settlement and development of New Mexico. New Mexico has a county, town, range of mountains and national forest named in his honor. New Mexico State University Professors Christopher Schurtz and Dwight Pitcaithley describe Lincoln’s connection to the New Mexico Territory.
• March 13: Traditions of the Santero: Bulto Restoration Techniques
Bultos, sculptures of saints and other religious figures, are a living tradition within the religious iconography of Spanish folk art. They played an integral part in the Spanish colonization of the Americas. The tradition of wooden santo carving has been preserved as a folk art in parts of Mexico and Northern New Mexico.
Conservators Allison Herrera and Keith Bakker discuss bultos and bulto restoration techniques while referencing objects from the Museum's collection and other pertinent examples in New Mexico.
• April 10: Native American Language Revitalization in New Mexico Christine Sims will discuss the leading efforts in indigenous language revitalization, language maintenance issues, and how the American Indian Language Policy Research Center is providing technical assistance to indigenous nations and training for American Indian language teachers.
In his 1991 revision of Acoma: Pueblo in the Sky, Ward Alan Minge references some of the early work that initiated a bilingual program at Acoma Pueblo’s local school.
Acoma’s bilingual program today is directed by Sims, who is also the state director for the National Indian Bilingual Center and an associate professor at University of New Mexico.
• June 12: Native Dye Plants of New Mexico
Native American and Spanish weavers traditionally have used native plants to dye wool with an array of colors to create one-of-a-kind textiles and clothing.
A weaver’s expertise not only required the skill and dexterity to create intricate patterns but the knowledge of where to find the plants that yielded the desired colors.
Las Arañas weaver Myra Chang Thompson and Rio Grande Return Conservation Director Cameron Weber describe native dye plants, their uses, and the local practices that people have employed in New Mexico for generations.
• July 10: Bioregional Perspectives with Jack Loeffler. With the ever expanding civic and suburban sprawl of the Southwest, understanding how ecosystems can sustain development in the face of unexpected change is needed now more than ever. Jack Loeffler describes bioregionalism occurring in New Mexico and the Southwest. A bioregionalist, aural historian, environmentalist and author, over the past 50 years Loeffler’s work has focused on the vital importance of indigenous-minded environmentalism —citing Native American, Hispano, Anglo, and countercultural excerpts from interviews and folksongs he’s recorded for local history projects.
• August 14: Herreros: The Spanish History of Blacksmiths
Herreros, or Spanish blacksmiths, were highly valued members of Spanish expeditions to New Mexico. They shoed horses and repaired armor, made horse gear, firearms, and small tools. As more colonists arrived, blacksmiths turned their attention to providing domestic goods like griddles, roasting spits, ladles, and knives. Dave Sabo, a local blacksmith skilled in the traditional methods of herreros, describes some of the early iron manufacturing and blacksmithing practices that were used in New Mexico.
• October 9: From Spain to New Mexico, The Journey to Keep a Secret. Who were the Crypto-Jews and Conversos?
An award-winning journalist and educator, Norma Libman describes a history of the Jews in Inquisitional Spain, how crypto-Jews kept their secrets, and the forces that brought them to the American Southwest.
Libman has researched crypto-Jewish history for more than 25 years and has interviewed more than 50 individuals about their family histories and religious practices. This program is co-sponsored by the Historical Society of New Mexico.
• November 13: Civil War History in the Lower Rio Grande Valley
Long known as a place of cross border intrigue, the Rio Grande’s unique role in the Civil War has been largely forgotten or overlooked. Few know the complex history of ethnic tensions, international intrigue, and the clash of colorful characters that marked the aftermath of the Civil War in Texas.
Professor of anthropology at Rio Grande Valley Texas University, Russell Skowronek discusses Civil War history in the Southwest through the university’s traveling exhibit. In addition to its Second Saturday Programs via Zoom, Casa San Ysidro also will virtually experience the El Camino Real Trade Fair, throughout April. The fair celebrates 1800s life along the Camino Real, and will be filled with living history, music, demonstrations, local artisans, educational sessions, and other family-friendly free activities.
Come May, it’s entirely possible that Heritage Day, May 15, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., could be experienced actually, rather than in that other manner. The museum joins the Corrales Historical Society in a free event that explores local heritage through exhibits on the living traditions of New Mexico, and a variety of activities that highlight local art and history.
Finally, Corrales Harvest Festival rolls around again on September 25 and 26, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. This is the village’s largest festival, with events at various venues. Family events at Casa San Ysidro will be free. Last year’s program was entirely virtual, alas, and assorted fingers are crossed for a return to an in-person, live festival this 2021. Contact Gardner with any questions via email to email@example.com For tour tickets, go to https://tickets.holdmyticket.com/location/casa-san-ysidro-the-gutierrez-minge-house-in-corrales.
Frank Steiner, who wants to create a complex of five duplexes on the 1.89-acre parcel where his Sunbelt Nursery now sits, said recently he wants to be clear that these two-bedroom dwellings all will be rentals. At this time the actual rental price per unit is not known, because it all “depends on when I get the approval to build, as the cost of construction is increasing almost daily,” as he put it. He added that the project’s cost estimates have risen 47 percent since he first proposed it in the fall of 2019.
Steiner wants to keep rents “as affordable as possible.” And would be delighted were “the Village to reduce or forgive the construction impact fees.” Renting out houses since 2001 on his compound off Espinosa Road, Steiner believes his tenants “love it there and stay forever.” And if a vacancy does come up, it is rented in hours because of referrals from satisfied customers.
He typically requires a year lease, with tenants paying for gas and electricity. Steiner pays for water and trash removal, and his son Brandon, a contractor, does all the maintenance and repair work. “We usually can respond to the needs of tenants on the day they notify us of a problem.”
The planned duplex would sit on land at the corner of Corrales Road and Dixon Road, in the commercial district, which would make walking or bike riding to village stores, restaurants and the Bosque uncomplicated for residents.
The longstanding one-home-per-acre rule that dominates Corrales real estate may no longer apply to plots in the commercial zone, if Steiner can convince the right people. As Steiner suggested in early January, “We need a majority of the Councillors to vote for approval of this project and direct P&Z to offer the appropriate zoning solution.”
By Meredith Hughes
It was big news a week ago, when the University of New Mexico opened its Health COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic at The Pit, the university’s basketball arena. Those in charge had hoped to inoculate 3,000 people a day at The Pit, but started out doing about 1,700 a day, then, on the day this reporter got there, 700. The entire operation was efficient, friendly, and professional —there were traffic control people guiding cars into the enormous parking lot. There were greeters, doing the obvious in the huge Pit walkway area, lined with tables or numbered stations. Most all shuffling through appeared to be in the “elder” category.
There were “runners,” aiding supply drop-offs; “scribes,” who checked in patients and handed out small paper cards; vaccine preparers, and of course, vaccinators, these latter two categories filled only by medical pros. The Pfizer shot administered, by a pediatric specialist, a longtime nurse from New Jersey, retired, and now a volunteer, guided the recipient to an open space near some exit doors, the space filled with socially distanced folding chairs. On which one sat, either for 15 minutes, or 30, depending on what one had admitted to, allergy-wise.
Here the “post injection observers” roamed, looking for signs of imminent collapse among the fully masked occupants, who checked phones, and noted the appointment for shot number two on that little card, roughly three weeks in the future. And then rose, to exit The Pit when appropriate. Or maybe some people scooted out early.
After an essentially positive experience, one soon noted the news was filled with reports that The Pit would close for a week. Not enough vaccine, even with assistance from N.M. Senator Martin Heinrich. Supply chains are iffy everywhere, and N.M. Health was concerned, rightly, that people awaiting shot number two, had to be considered. Hence, the pause on administering the first shot.
Meanwhile, on January 28, “Oregon health workers who got stuck in a snowstorm on their way back from a COVID-19 vaccination event went car to car injecting stranded drivers before several of the doses expired….” January 29, according to the Washington Post, “…staff and volunteers with Seattle’s Swedish Health Services had been rushing to administer hundreds of doses of the coronavirus vaccine set to expire early in the morning after a freezer malfunction. Finally, they had only a few dozen shots left and about 15 minutes to get them into people’s arms.”
“In the end, none of the more than 1,600 soon-to-expire doses in Seattle were wasted, health officials said, after a colossal scramble that showcased both the enormous pressure on those immunizing millions of Americans and the hope these vaccine doses have brought. The rollout of shots nationwide has been plagued with bottlenecks, frustrations and disagreements over who should get protection first.”
Good people are stepping up everywhere, and working hard to get these pesky vaccines into waiting arms. In fact, New Mexico is among the top ten states/US territories in getting that first shot to people. Do register for the vaccine at https://cvvaccine.nmhealth.org, create a profile, and wait. A text and email will arrive regarding your appointment. Really.
Responding to villagers’ concerns that Corrales’ long-standing one-home-per-acre policy is consistently being circumvented, the Village Council has imposed a six-month moratorium on permits to build secondary dwellings on lots and on applications to operate short-term rentals. After substantial public comment at its January 26 session, the council voted five-to-one to impose the 180-day moratorium noting that “the size of accessory structures is virtually unregulated, sometimes resulting in what appears to be two homes on one lot,” and that such residences “are being utilized for the commercial purpose of providing short-term rental accommodations.”
The approved resolution noted that “the proliferation of loosely-regulated accessory structures being used as short- and long-term rentals has the potential for far-reaching deleterious effects on the village, including negatively impacting neighborhoods with greater numbers of vehicles and persons not previously present and increasing the effective density above that permitted or intended in the A-1 an A-2 zoning districts.”
Much of the discussion during the Zoom meeting, to which at least six listened in as audience, focused on the perceived need for a moratorium when the same issues are being addressed by planners with the Mid-Region Council of Governments (MRCOG) through a contract with the Village approved last month.
The lone hold-out member of the council who objected to the moratorium, Councillor Zach Burkett, said he thought the resolution was “duplicitous” because its stated purpose is to allow time for the Planning and Zoning Commission to analyze the problem and come up with recommended fixes, “but this is exactly what MRCOG is supposed to be doing” by the end of the year.
The problem has been recognized for years, even decades, but it has become more acute with the advent of Airbnb and other short-term rental opportunities. Going back to the 1980s, pressures to bust the prohibition against higher residential density were expected to intensify when the Village installed a sewer line, thereby obviating groundwater pollution from septic leach fields. But nowadays, the pressures actually come from neighborhoods not served by the wastewater system, especially where new homes are built on vacant lots. The current controversy apparently erupted over a new home being built on West Ella Drive last year. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXIX No.13 September 19, 2020 “West Ella ‘Casita’ Draws Neighbors’ Ire.”)
Construction of a large “casita” next to a new home underway at 489 West Ella Drive last summer riled neighbors, including the mother of former Mayor Scott Kominiak. The new home construction site on West Ella Drive is at least the third project in recent years where a house and “casita” have been built simultaneously in seeming contravention of the one-dwelling-per-acre regulations.
Corrales’ laws allow “casitas,” or guesthouses, on a one-acre lot, as long as the secondary residence does not have a full kitchen. And the builder at 489 West Ella, Wade Wingfield, assured Corrales Comment that the “casita” there complies with that rule. “You can have a separate living quarters as long as it doesn’t have a fully-functioning kitchen,” Wingfield said August 11, 2020. “You can have a refrigerator, a microwave, a sink and anything else, but you just can’t have a stove and oven.” Wingfield said he had obtained all the permits and approvals needed through the Corrales Planning and Zoning Department.
However, one of the main protesters against Wingfield’s casita, Mary LoGuercio, has provided photos to Corrales Comment and Village officials of the interior which show a kitchen area under construction plumbed for a full kitchen, including stove vent and gas line stub-out. LoGuercio also forwarded a 2018 email from former Village Attorney John Appel referring to a similar dispute with the same builder, Wingfield, erecting a guesthouse in the Tierra de Corrales neighborhood.
Appel’s memo to the mayor and to the Planning and Zoning Commission reads as follows, in part. “I just wanted to alert you to an issue that could become ‘significant’ in the near future. Yesterday [P&Z Administrator] Ms. Stout, on [Village Administrator] John Avila’s instructions, called me during a meeting with developer Wade Wingfield to address a proposed 1,100-square foot ‘casita’ (open-plan living area, kitchen, bedroom suite with bath, storage room, carport) that was proposed as an additional structure on a lot in Tierra de Corrales that already has a house on it. “Mr. Wingfield’s asserted reasons why this second home on a one-acre lot in the A-1 zone should be allowed (my paraphrase, of course) were:
• He himself had just such a ‘casita’ on his own lot, approved by C. Tidwell.
• Manuel Pacheco had been consulted about this proposed ‘casita’ and said it was fine.
• The homeowners’ association had approved it.
• Such structures had always been allowed up until some change in the Village Code during the past two or three years.
• It was all still one family, because the present (elderly) residents were going to move into the new casita and let their kids and families live in the big house.
• ‘Life style’ changes make it necessary for the Village to change its policies to allow these sorts of structures.
“My responses to Mr. Wingfield were, basically:
• If he has such a casita on his property, his property is in violation of the Village Code. (Unless it was grandfathered before about 1987, which I doubt.)
• If Mr. Pacheco said this was OK [and I expect he probably did], Mr. Pacheco was incorrect.
• Homeowners’ association decisions under the covenants are irrelevant.
• There has been no such change in the Code.”
Former Village Attorney Appel continued his explanation regarding Wingfield’s assertion that is permissible to build such a guesthouse. “Two houses on the same lot are two houses on the same lot. Period. Doesn’t matter who lives in them. And, of course, what are they going to do with the ‘casita’ after Mom and Dad die? Tear it down? Of course not. It becomes a rental property. That’s the huge fallacy with this ‘family accommodation’ argument that we keep hearing.
“I refused to waste my (Village-compensated) time listening to Wingfield’s “life style” argument. I told him if he wanted to change the Village Code, he needed to talk to his councillors. “Just wanted you to know about this, since I expect we have probably not heard the last of it.” Before the council imposed the moratorium, they heard or read statements from villagers giving both sides of the controversy.
One of those was from builder Norm Schreifels of Sun Mountain Construction who wrote, “It has come to my attention that there are those in the village as well as council members that are trying to impose a moratorium on the construction of casitas. I have several upcoming construction projects that are casitas for family members of my clients and was told that I will not be allowed to obtain a permit for the casitas.”
Schreifels forwarded to Village Clerk Aaron Gjullin and Councillor Zach Burkett what he said is in State statute that specifically allows such casitas “which cannot be overridden by local municipalities. The law not only allows for casitas for family members but it also allows for a second kitchen.
“I am aware of why this has become a concern, and hope that one occurrence by a certain builder does not reflect on all builders. I have built many casitas and outbuildings here in Corrales and the neighbors didn’t have any concerns or objections. The casitas were considerably smaller than the main house, and the total area never exceeded the allowable percentage of construction that is allowed by the Village of Corrales.
“A way that we have done this in other areas is to have the homeowner sign a letter stating that the casita is to be used by family members and not as a rental.” Presenting the other side was a letter from Bob Pinkerton, who resides along Dancing Horse Lane. “My concern is with the apparent speed that accessory dwelling permits and short-term rental permits are under consideration without a real, focused study of impacts to our village and maintaining our rural heritage per the Corrales Comprehensive Land Use Plan.
“[I] strongly urge adoption of Resolution 21-03 moratorium on all accessory building permits and short-term rental permits until conditions and procedures are thoroughly studied with due care and diligence, precluding adverse effects upon our village. Foisting partially thought-out permit procedures in a rush to approve is absolutely out of character, and detrimental to the citizens, homeowners and residents of the Village of Corrales.”
At the council meeting that adopted the moratorium, no mention was made of the casita project on 489 West Ella. The former mayor’s mother, Patricia Kominiak, was one of six villagers who wrote to Mayor Jo Anne Roake on August 13 last year protesting the project on West Ella. Others were Charlotte Anderson, Dan and Estelle Metz, and Joe and Meryl Hancock.
“Secondary dwellings, guest houses or ‘casitas’ are simply not allowed in our land use codes, and it is therefore a mystery to us how the Village would issue a permit for such development, yet you appear to be doing so,” they wrote. “Multiple inquiries to the building inspector about this question have been effectively ignored. No information has been made available about the project in question, and it was not until construction was well underway that the problem became apparent to us and our fears were confirmed.”
At the time, Corrales Planning and Zoning Administrator Laurie Stout explained how the casita on West Ella gained approval, and suggested the Village Council may re-visit the rules in the months ahead. “In Section 18-29, the definition of dwelling unit in Village Code states: dwelling unit means any building or part of a building intended for human occupancy and containing one or more connected rooms and a single kitchen, designed for one family for living and sleeping purposes.”
The definition of kitchen, she added, “means any room principally used, intended or designed to be used for cooking or the preparation of food. The presence of a range or oven, or utility connections suitable for servicing a range or oven, shall be considered as establishing a kitchen. “This means a second structure on a lot, as long as there is no range or oven (or utility connections for such) meets the letter of the law in Village of Corrales Code. Contractors can and will exploit this loophole if their clients request.”
Stout said the mayor and council may try to tighten up relevant regulations. “Potential options in Corrales could be looking into limiting the size of the accessory unit, requiring that it merely be an addition to the home, etc. The intent of the N.M. Statute is to allow family members, such as elderly parents, to live on-property with their relatives.
“The reality is that often at some point the separate structure ends up having a kitchen added retroactively, and that structure eventually becomes a long-term rental with a tenant —thus becoming a zoning violation.” The council’s moratorium adopted January 26 reads as follows, in part. “Be it resolved by the Governing Body of the Village of Corrales, that:
1. Beginning on the effective date of this Resolution there shall be in force a 180 day moratorium on the acceptance, review, or consideration of any new applications, including but not limited to land use applications, building permit applications, and business registration applications related in any way to the development, erection, or establishment of an accessory structure built or modified to accommodate human habitation.
2. Beginning on the effective date of this Resolution there shall be in force a 180 day moratorium on the acceptance, review, or consideration of any new applications, including but not limited to land use applications, building permit applications, and business registration applications related in any way to the development, erection or establishment of Short-Term Rentals in an existing or planned accessory structure.
3. The moratorium imposed by this Resolution shall not be deemed to affect the status of any facilities existing and operational in the Village, nor permits having been properly issued on the date of adoption of this Resolution.
4. During the time that the moratorium described in the foregoing sections of this Resolution is in place, the Village of Corrales will exercise due diligence and work in good faith with the citizens and interested parties to develop and implement balanced and workable public policies relating to these issues.
5. During the time that the moratorium described in the foregoing sections of this Resolution is in place, the provisions of this Resolution shall prevail and have precedence over any contrary or inconsistent provisions of any prior ordinance or resolution of the Village; provided, however, that the provisions of prior ordinances and resolutions are not deemed to have been repealed by this Resolution, and shall remain in full force and effect to the extent not inconsistent with the provisions hereof.
6. The moratorium enacted by this Resolution shall terminate and be deemed repealed in its entirety on the date that is 180 days after the effective date of this Resolution, unless otherwise specifically provided by resolution or ordinance duly adopted by the Governing Body subsequent to the effective date of this Resolution.”
The Village’s contract with its current law firm has been renewed. Only one firm, New Mexico Local Government Law, headed by Randy Autio, sought the contract. It was approved by the Village Council at its January 12 session.
Under terms of the contract, the Village is to pay no more than $140,000 (plus gross receipts taxes) over the coming year. The hourly rate will be $180 for the firm’s senior attorney, and $140 for a junior attorney’s time. Work by a paralegal will be billed at $75 an hour.
According to the contract, the firm will represent Village government in legal matters, will offer legal advice and help prepare ordinances, resolutions and other documents as requested. As usual, under some circumstances, the mayor may contract for other legal representation for specialized attention, such as municipal bonds.
Autio earned a bachelor’s degree magna cum laude from the University of New Mexico in 1982 and then a law degree from UNM Law School in 1986. He was an attorney for the City of Albuquerque before he opened his own practice. When Mayor Jo Anne Roake, an attorney herself, took over the administration after her election in March 2018, she ended the Village Attorney contract with Coppler Law Firm of Santa Fe awarding the contract instead to the Cuddy and McCarthy firm, based in Albuquerque.
The contract with Cuddy and McCarthy was approved at the August 8, 2018 council meeting. Under the contract, the firm was to be paid at a rate of $205 per hour when the work was done by one of the partners. For tasks handled by legal assistants, the rate was $65 an hour; a senior law associate’s rate was $170 an hour, and a paralegal’s work was charged at $75. For years, the Coppler firm’s John Appel customarily attended all Village Council meetings. When Cuddy and McCarthy took over, it sent partner Charles Garcia to meetings here.
Corrales’ Janet Ruth, retired research ornithologist, author of the 2018 book Feathered Dreams, instrumental in having the Corrales Bosque Preserve named an “Important Bird Area,” recently wrapped up a major avian opus on which she and her photographer husband, Dave Krueper, had worked for well over five years.
It’s the remarkable Annotated Checklist of the Birds of the Village of Corrales and the Corrales Bosque Preserve, published by the New Mexico Ornithological Society (NMOS) as a “special publication.” Such a checklist typically involves researching all the records for birds observed in a particular location. Ruth said her sources primarily were “eBird, the NMOS Field Notes, Hawks Aloft, Jim Findley's 2013 publication, Birds in Corrales, and Dave and my personal records.”
Fellow Corrales birder Jim Findley, professor emeritus at the University of New Mexico, the prime mover for building the Museum of Southwestern Biology into one of the pre-eminent university-based natural history museums in the United States, died in 2018. He was founder of the Corrales Bosque Preserve and the Corrales Bosque Advisory Commission.
Available as a downloadable PDF at http://www.nmbirds.org/special-publications/, scroll down to #8, this checklist also is easily viewed on Ruth’s website, https://redstartsandravensdotcom.files.wordpress.com/2021/01/ann-checklist-birds-of-corrales-final2.pdf In addition to finishing off the Annotated Checklist, “in my copious free time,” Ruth held her own personal bird count, the Corrales Big Year, which just ended. One hundred sixty-five species were noted, many of them photographed by Ruth, including one of the pair of Western Screech-Owls, and a Curved Bill Thrasher couple which hang out in Ruth’s Corrales yard.
Asked if she had seen evidence of the recently reported bird die-off in the Southwest, Ruth responded that while she did not personally see evidence of this, other local birders told her that they did see some dead birds. She added that “the cause is not completely understood and “the early cold is likely only a secondary cause.” Rather, long-term starvation was the culprit, possibly exacerbated by early cold weather which “may have forced these stressed birds to migrate early before they had enough fuel.”
Corrales Big Year is viewable here: https://redstartsandravensdotcom.files.wordpress.com/2021/01/janets-corrales-big-year-2020-record-final.pdf. And, there’s “a one page/two-sided field checklist posted as well for anyone who still prefers downloading and writing on such a form rather than using eBird.” eBird itself is a rich online platform, ebird.org, a project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, where you are invited to “join the world's largest birding community.” Lists, apps, maps —sign up and plunge in.
Ruth’s website bio states that “she grew up in southeastern Pennsylvania, lived for almost 20 years in Washington, D.C. and Virginia, five years in Colorado, and has called Corrales her home since 2001.”
“Much of her life has revolved around birds. This included her doctoral dissertation at George Mason University —“Effects of vegetation structure and surrounding land-uses on avian communities in the floodplain forests of Maryland”—and continued through field research with U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), resulting in scientific papers about winter grassland bird habitat preferences, songbird migration patterns in the US-Mexico borderlands using NEXRAD weather radar, and breeding ecology of Grasshopper Sparrows in southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico.”
Bird visitors to Ruth’s home in fall, winter and spring can partake of Nyjer or thistle seed, along with a shelled no millet mix. “I used to feed black oil sunflower seed, but tired of all the shells beneath feeders.” She also fills a tube with shelled peanuts, and hangs several cylinder feeders, a mix of seeds, nuts and fruit. Foraging species such as a range of sparrows, juncos and quail get some mix on the ground. She maintains watering opportunities year round.
In the summer Ruth puts up two or three hummingbird feeders, and supports plants that provide food for birds, such as salvia, honeysuckle, pyracantha, sand cherry and similar. No bird cams, but nest boxes —including one for bluebirds that Ruth reports “has gone unused.” Nesters have included thrashers, greater roadrunners, bushtits, mourning doves and Gambel’s quail.
In coming months, it’s possible that Ruth’s Corrales Big Year will be posted on the Village of Corrales website. Her Annotated Checklist was posted there earlier this month. And now, with two major accomplishments behind her? “I’ve thought of establishing a ‘sit spot’ in my yard, and spending an hour or so on as many days of the year as possible, at different times of day, to get a real feel for all the wildlife here… not just birds.”
An online exhibition of art by Corrales Elementary School students can be seen at the Corrales Arts Center website from January 23 through the end of February. The show includes results of arts education exercises guided by the center’s Elaine Manicke, Heidi Ames and artist-teacher recruits for its Art Up! after school program.
The techniques illustrated are Blind Contour Drawing, Concentric Circles, Patterns and Designs, Big to Small and Directed Drawing. The goal of the first, Blind Contour Drawing, is to teach students hand eye coordination, described as “a drawing exercise where an artist draws the contours of a subject without looking at the paper.”
The students, in kindergarten through fifth grade, were told to concentrate on looking at the person across from them, and pretend that the drawing pen or marker is touching the outline of that face. They were to draw the contour of the face with one continuous line, without lifting the marker from the paper and without looking at the paper until the drawing was finished.
Then the artist became the subject and the subject of the first drawing became the artist for the next. Results were later colored in. The center’s Art Up! program is meant to “promote creative thinking, risk-taking, problem solving and collaboration. This process builds confidence and strengthens decision-making and observation skills.”
Since the exercise involved in-person instruction and participation, the program was halted due to the pandemic. But the results achieved can be viewed online at http://www.CorralesArtsCenter.org/ArtUp.
Reporting in on Planning and Zoning actions in 2020, administrator Laurie Stout said housing starts in the village were steady, with 28 permits for single-family homes issued, one more than in 2019. She added that there had been “no action on that large tract of land” in the Far Northwest Sector, where the photovoltaic solar farm went in. Stout said a “floodplain still runs through” that area.
Since early 2018 and before, discussions have ensued about correcting stormwater drainage from the industrial park by collecting it on the Rio Rancho boundary and piping it through the subdivision planned by Abrazo Homes to the Montoyas Arroyo. Southern Sandoval County Arroyo Flood Control Authority, SSCAFCA, expressed a willingness to help solve the drainage problem and allow stormwater from the industrial park to enter the arroyo which it manages.
Again in 2018, a drainage channel was proposed which would carry stormwater run-off from the industrial park through an existing 50-foot easement to a two-acre holding pond just inside the Corrales boundary. From the pond, detained water would be released via a drainage pipe to the Montoyas Arroyo after contaminants were removed.
According to Stout, this has not yet happened. A couple of proposed 5-lot subdivisions are in the pipeline for 2021. Preliminary plats were heard at the last P&Z meeting in 2020, and final plats on both are probably going to be heard in 2021. Stout added that “There is one other 2-lot subdivision, from one larger tract, that I am aware of.”
Regarding home occupation permits, a total of 23 were issued last year, down from 35-40 in the previous few years. In all other categories, applications were consistent or even up in spite of the challenges faced by the COVID-19 pandemic. A residential short-term rental permit ordinance was passed at the end of 2019, and became effective in 2020. As Stout put it, “Some amendments were made later in 2020 regarding parking guidelines and occupancy.” A total of eight short-term rental applications were submitted.
P&Z oversaw four variances and two commercial site development plans. There was an appeal of one of the Site Plans, but the P&Z decision was upheld unanimously. Seven summary plats, two final plats, each heard twice, three sketch plans and two preliminary plats were submitted and heard. All ultimately were approved, and are now filed in Sandoval County, with the exception of one that still has to meet certain conditions.
P&Z heard two zone change requests, one to extend existing commercial zoning and a request to change from Commercial to A-1 Agricultural and Rural Residential. Seventeen grading and drainage plans were submitted prior to building permits being requested. The Village of Corrales was able to retain the ability to issue construction permits, and collect associated fees, a good source of revenue, by hiring a certified building official, Joe Benney, and signing a Memorandum of Understanding, MOU, with the City of Rio Rancho for trade inspections, within the statutory deadline.
The capital improvements, impact fees, and land use assumptions ordinances for the Far Northwest Sector were updated in 2020, as required by Village ordinance and New Mexico statute. This allowed for continued collection of impact fees there, to offset a continuing loan payment for infrastructure the Village financed.
Should you wish to eavesdrop on the discussions regarding strategies for gathering input regarding accessory dwellings, join a P&Z Zoom teleconference work study January 13, from 1-3 p.m. No public comment is possible during the work study, but, you may add your two cents at P&Z’s January 20 meeting, which begins at 6:30 p.m.
The Corrales-based campaign to establish near-universal, affordable health care for New Mexicans is gearing up for a final push in Santa Fe later this month. The 2021 session of the N.M. Legislature begins January 19. “Now the time has come to roll up our sleeves and create the critical design elements that must be in place prior to the start-up of the plan,” Mary Feldblum urged. “The legislation that is being introduced in 2021 specifies how this will be accomplished.”
For decades, Feldblum has directed the Health Security for New Mexicans Campaign based here which has garnered statewide support from doctors, hospitals and more than 170 local governments and organizations. “Everything we have worked for all these years, to give all New Mexicans the best possible secure health care coverage, is now within reach.”
The 2021 legislation would establish advisory committees and enlist public input for a Health Security Planning and Design Board “whose members will have various areas of expertise (health policy, management, finance, systems design, etc.),” Feldblum explained.
A second step to be launched by the 2021 legislation would be “creation of a geographically and demographically representative Health Security Plan Commission, consisting of consumers, business owners, health care providers and health facility representatives,” she added. “This commission, which will be responsible for administering the plan, will complete the final design elements, conduct a cost analysis of the plan as designed, develop a funding system based on real numbers and, finally, seek legislative and executive approval so plan enrollment can begin.”
Even if the next session of the legislature approves the next steps, as expected, it will still take several years before it can go into effect. “It will take an estimated three years to work out all the details to make certain that the Health Security Plan will perform according to expectations,” she said. “We know that is a long time, but a lot of careful planning and decisions need to be made to ensure that this innovative solution performs smoothly from the start.”
The elections last month improved prospects that the plan can be implemented. “It has brought some very positive developments for Health Security. The N.M. Senate, long a roadblock for Health Security, has moved in a much more favorable direction. We will have different senate leadership in 2021, and there are several new senators who support the Health Security Plan. The path for moving forward is now open.
“In addition, a Biden victory means that it will be much easier for our state to receive the federal waivers needed for the Health Security Plan. So now is the time for the big push.” County governments that have called for passage of the Health Security Act include Bernalillo, Sandoval, Cibola, Valencia, Doña Ana, Grant, Guadalupe, Hidalgo, Los Alamos, Luna, Mora, Otero, Rio Arriba and Taos, among others.
Municipal governments endorsing the plan include: Corrales, Albuquerque, Rio Rancho, Santa Fe, Las Cruces, Bayard, Belen, Carlsbad, Deming, Ft. Sumner, Grants, Hatch, Las Vegas, Los Alamos, Los Lunas, Mesilla, Roswell, Taos and Silver City, among others.
As expected, legislators have been cautious about setting up a state-run near-universal health care system without knowing the costs. So in the 2019 session, they appropriated nearly $400,000 for a comprehensive analysis of the plan’s economic feasibility. The results basically confirmed two earlier studies. (See Corrales Comment Vol. XXXVII No.20 January 5, 2019 ‘Health Security Act’ Could Pass N.M. Legislature.”)
The most recent and thorough analysis by KNG Health Consulting of Rockville, Maryland and Reynis Analytics in Albuquerque “confirms what two previous studies determined: the Health Security approach guarantees universal health care coverage and control rising health care costs,” Feldblum said “These conclusions show why we need to proceed now with the next phase, setting up the Health Security Plan.”
She cited the KNG report on page 48 as “Over our five-year projection window, the Health Security Plan is projected to reduce health care spending in the state” with savings over the five-year period estimated at $1.6 billion to $2.7 billion depending on the scenario analyzed.
That’s even with what KNG refers to as “near-universal coverage” that would reduce the percentage of uninsured New Mexicans to almost zero.
Feldblum had been critical of KNG’s draft report, but was relatively pleased with revisions made for the final report. “We were pleased to see adjustments and clarifications in response to our feedback,” she said.
She noted that in the report’s introduction the analysts wrote “In some scenarios, the Health Security Plan may be funded through existing revenue, while in other cases there may be a funding shortfall.”
She added, “In fact, the fourth scenario produces a funding surplus. It provides a clear pathway to a viable funding approach. In the other three scenarios, the shortfalls decrease with year. New programs generally cost more at the beginning, so this is not surprising. The key finding is that it is possible to fund the plan in a way that results in a surplus, not a shortfall.”
Factors in the report yielding that result include:
• reduced administrative costs after merging Medicaid, state employees and the State’s existing health insurance exchange programs;
• lower drug costs through bulk purchasing;
• reduced billing and insurance costs for hospitals and health care providers;
• stabilized hospital revenues through global budgets for a guaranteed funding stream that allows hospitals to invest in better systems of care; and
• lower worker compensation and automobile insurance premiums.
“While the 2019 Health Security Act described guidelines to be followed when developing the Health Security Plan, there are many specific decisions that need to be made,” Feldblum explained in a December 4 newsletter. “For example, how providers and health facilities will be paid, how the bulk purchasing of drugs program will function, how the appeals system will work for consumers, providers and health facilities, and many, many more.”
She urged citizens to press their legislators to adopt the Health Security Plan bill during the upcoming session of the legislature. “New Mexicans cannot afford, quite literally, to wait any longer to set up our own Health Security Plan. We must make sure that legislation is passed now, in 2021, so that the detailed set-up decisions, which will take time and include lots of public input, can finally be worked out,” she added.
Had the country recently not been on high alert for further acts of domestic terror after the assault on the U.S. Capitol January 6, a revised inauguration, the departure from Washington of a twice impeached president, more of us might have been focused on redistricting.
Every ten years voting districts are redrawn. In 2021 these will be based on the results of the 2020 census. And as the Brennan Center Law Institute points out, “…all states must ensure that districts have approximately the same number of people and comply with the Voting Rights Act. But in other areas, each state has discretion over how to draw its own lines, and, more importantly, over who will draw them, usually as stipulated in the state’s constitution.
“Unfortunately, this discretion sometimes results in redistricting abuses. For example, while some states use processes that check partisan excess, others allow for legislators from a single party free rein to implement biased maps that keep their party in power through good election cycles and bad. This manipulation of maps is known as “‘gerrymandering.’”
Gerrymandering was named for Elbridge Gerry, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. As governor of Massachusetts (1810–1812), Gerry approved a redistricting plan for the state senate that gave the political advantage to Republicans.
The Brennan Center adds that “…politicians [may] manipulate district lines for their own gain. And over the last two decades, these manipulations have grown increasingly common and sophisticated.” Manipulating the map especially can adversely affect minority communities.
Fortunately, one New Mexico group has been riveted on redistricting for years, the League of Women Voters of New Mexico. And now the league is gearing up with more than 20 other organizations to support passage of a New Mexico Senate bill entitled the “Redistricting Act,” that will create a seven-person State Redistricting Commission (SRC), according to league Action Chair Dick Mason.
The appointments to the commission will be made as follows: one by the Speaker of the House; one by the House Minority Leader; one by the Senate President Pro Tempore; one by the Senate Minority Leader; and three by the New Mexico Ethics Commission, one of whom shall be a retired N.M. Supreme Court Justice or N.M. Appellate Judge who will act as chair.
Mason added that “Our preference is for a constitutional amendment to create an independent redistricting commission, but it is too late to do that for the 2021 redistricting cycle.” As for the 2020 Census itself, on January 13, “President Donald Trump’s effort to exclude people in the U.S. illegally from being counted in the process for divvying up congressional seats was dealt another blow Wednesday when the Census Bureau’s director indefinitely halted an effort to gather data on the citizenship status of every U.S. resident,” according to the Associated Press. An annual distribution of $1.5 trillion in federal spending, among the states, is also affected by Census results.
The AP story also said “An influential GOP adviser had advocated excluding them from the apportionment process in order to favor Republicans and non-Hispanic whites. Trump’s unprecedented order on apportionment was challenged in more than a half-dozen lawsuits across the United States, but the Supreme Court ruled last month that any challenge was premature.”
The New Mexico Senate bill will be co-sponsored by Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino (D-Albuquerque) and Senator Mark Moores (R-Albuquerque). Once the bill is filed, there will be a number of additional co-sponsors from both the Senate and the House, Mason said.
According to the League of Women Voters, “the Senate Rules Committee will work with the professional services vendor hired by the Legislative Council to develop three to five sets of district maps for the Congressional districts; Public Education Commission; New Mexico Senate; and New Mexico House. The Legislature will vote for one of the set of maps without amendment. The commission will also be responsible for overseeing the public hearings and public input for the redistricting process.
“The bill provides that certain factors shall not be considered when preparing redistricting plans. Specifically, it provides that districts shall not be drawn to favor any political party, incumbent legislator, member of Congress, any other person or group, or for the purpose of augmenting or diluting the voting strength of a language or racial minority group. The above criteria reflect the best of the traditional and emerging standards for fair redistricting.”
“Fourteen states have created some form of independent redistricting commission and at least ten other states have put in place reforms that have made their redistricting process fairer and more transparent. New Mexico was one of the last states to create an Ethics Commission. We should not be one of the last to reform our redistricting process,” Mason said.
In an op-ed article published by the Albuquerque Journal January 17, former Corrales resident, retired Appeals Court Judge Rod Kennedy and retired N.M. Supreme Court Chief Justice Edward Chavez, described their efforts to improve redistricting. “Last fall, the non-profit New Mexico First, with funding from the Thornburg Foundation, established a 25-member Redistricting Task Force to bring justice, fairness and transparency to the redistricting process beginning in 2021.” Chavez and Kennedy agreed to co-chair the task force.
"Task Force members were selected from over 140 nominees by a cross-partisan selection committee and included people from different political parties or affiliations. The task force is racially, ethnically and geographically diverse, including members from sovereign pueblos and tribes.
“The Redistricting Task Force worked for 12 weeks to study state and federal redistricting requirements, best practices from other states and concerns from specific communities and groups in New Mexico to develop a set of recommendations to be considered by the state legislature in the 2021 session for the 2021 redistricting process. The task force developed 18 recommendations published in a public report available at NMFirst.org.”
To learn more about redistricting, the league offers an webinar on the subject at https//:tinyurl.com/yxnfucry. It even includes a portion of John Oliver’s explanation of gerrymandering. Oliver hosts the HBO show, “Last Week Tonight.” You can watch the entire segment, which aired April 19, 2017, on YouTube.
Reflecting on the much-televised and social media-shared turmoil on Capitol Hill January 6, Corrales’ Marg Elliston pointed out that the 2018 Women’s March protesting Donald Trump’s inauguration was much larger.
She was one of those marchers, and returned home to become chair of the Democratic Party of New Mexico, a position she has held for the past three years. Elliston has announced she will step down from that position at the end of April. Previously, she chaired the Sandoval County Democratic Party for five years. Corrales Comment asked her to reflect on that experience and preview challenges ahead, as well as to give her views on the attempt earlier this month to storm the U.S. Capitol to overturn the presidential elections.
“What happened last week in the Capitol is heart-breaking,” she said. “They did try to undermine our democracy, but the transition in power is still rolling on despite this domestic terrorism.” She does not feel that America’s democratic system is really threatened. “Our democracy is working so far. I would point out that we just had the largest voter turnout in our history.”
And while the citizenry needs to be vigilant against an authoritarian tendency, our democratic values remain strong, she suggested. The New Mexico context for the pro-Trump movement is provided by actions taken by Republican Party leadership in this state, Elliston said. “Steve Pearce and the Republican Party continue with their misinformation and conspiracy theories. They challenged results of the 2020 elections; they impounded ballots that had been certified’ they sent in squads of people to analyze those ballots for fraud, but none was found. They still haven’t given us an honest account for what they saw. They tried to sue the Secretary of State for a huge amount of information, although that lawsuit somehow just withered away..”
At any rate, she said, “The Republican Party in New Mexico has still not acknowledged Joe Biden as our next president. I’d like to see them step up and say we had a free and fair election in 2020 and commit to work together to address the tremendous challenges we all face.”
She was asked to explain how the nation, and New Mexicans, became so divided. “I don’t know how to answer that… it’s been going on for years. We have more technology now that fomented those conspiracy theories that have been floating around. We need to focus on what is equitable and fair in our economy and our society. The problems we face in those areas are at the heart of some of that divisiveness… not all, but a lot of it.”
The retiring state party chairwoman blamed some of the divisiveness on the significant “urban-rural divide in New Mexico. I’m very concerned about that. I think a lot of Trump’s support is coming through that divide. So I think there are some important things we need to consider when we’re looking at what is happening in rural areas compared that what’s happening in the urban.
“There’s a huge disinvestment. We have a lot of towns in New Mexico that are struggling because people are leaving. I was struck with that when I went up to Clayton and Roy. Mechanization has ruined small towns just like it has ruined steel mill towns and places like that. You don’t need cowboys on horses to go out and take care of cattle because everybody has got these little four-wheel devices. There are just not as many people needed to run a big ranch. So towns that used to serve the ranching community are drying up. Just like we don’t need coal mines any longer, because increasingly we’re not using coal.
“It would be great if we could find some way to parachute in a thriving economy for those areas because those towns are great and they have a wonderful spirit of community pride. But the economy has kind of left them behind.”
That abandonment, she said, has left people in those communities susceptible to conspiracy theories. “They’re not getting help from the folks in charge, and they start railing against elites, whoever they may be, and they cling to their guns.” Elliston recapped her accomplishments as party chair, pointing to Democrats’ wins in all statewide races and increasing margins in the State legislature. And she is particularly proud that women are even better represented in public offices in New Mexico. “We’ve been pretty darn successful in doing that. There is now a majority of women in the N.M . House of Representatives. Our party leadership now has a lot of women at the county level…. and for good reasons: we work hard and we’re really dedicated to making a difference in our state. The guys who are used to running things are feeling a little left behind, too. But we don’t talk about that out loud too much.”
Since she was appointed to the state party chairmanship, she has fulfilled her promised to work in all 33 counties statewide. A big part of that year-round effort was to attract younger voters and organizers.
“It’s really great to get the perspective of young people who need a job. A lot of them don’t necessarily have time to volunteer for political work as some of older and retired people do, but they are eager to be involved and they have lots to say about the world that we are leaving them— which isn’t in very good shape right now.” Elliston said the younger Democrats are especially interested in the mounting climate crisis, economic fairness and ending structural racism.
In what was thought to be a first for Corrales, a property in the community’s designated business district was re-zoned from commercial to residential by the Village Council January 12. The owner, Barbara Kline, had requested down-zoning for the property at 3842 Corrales Road, across from the Corrales Comment office. She had explained that during the 16 years she has owned the parcel, its use has never been feasible for commercial purposes.
Instead, she has received approval from the Planning and Zoning Commission to use it for residential short-term rentals. That came at the commission’s December 16 meeting. When the plan came before the Village Council January 12, the only councillor to vote against the zone change was Stuart Murray. He noted that a short-term rental operation is already permissible in a C-zone, so he saw no reason for the zone change.
He pointed out that the home at 2842 Corrales Road had originally been a residence. “I don’t want to see this property flip back and forth from A-1 to C and back to A-1.” The parcel was commercial when Kline bought it. In explaining her unusual zone change request to the council, she said “It has been very difficult to use that property as commercial,” particularly due to the parking requirements.
She did so for some time, renting out office space to small businesses. The site has been known for many years as “CEO,” for Corrales Executive Offices.
Planning and Zoning Administrator Laurie Stout concurred with Kline’s claims that the layout of the building on the property makes it difficult to comply with the Village’s regulations for business use. Stout pointed out that the P&Z commission had recommended approval of the zone change and had approved the short-term rental proposal.
Minutes of the commission’s December meeting report its online deliberations as follows. Applicants Jim Hammond and Barbara Kline of 6 Santa Ana Trail in Corrales are requesting a Zone Map Amendment for property they own at 3824 Corrales Road. The .98-acre property is currently zoned C – Commercial, and the applicants are requesting it be rezoned A-1 Agricultural and Rural Residential.
Barbara Kline (applicant, 6 Santa Ana Trail N., Corrales, sworn): We are asking to change zoning from commercial to residential. I am a commercial realtor, and really don’t feel that particular location is viable for commercial. Want to keep expenses down, and not pay commercial property tax rates. Also we’ve got a fantastic residence there.
Commissioner Stermer: Was it at one time used as commercial?
Kline: It was. I tried to use it as commercial and discovered that it’s extremely difficult. It was zoned commercial when we bought it. I know that at least once it was operated as a bed and breakfast. We’ve got commercial on one side and A-1 on the other. It’s in the mixed-use area along Corrales Road.
Chair McCandless: You’ve had the property for how long?
Kline: Sixteen years. I’ve experimented several times with ways to use it commercially, and it just hasn’t worked.
Commissioner Stermer: More recently has it been used as a long term rental?
Kline: No, we were living in it.
Bob Pinkerton: (5 Dancing Horse Lane, Corrales, public commenter, sworn): Your reason for request “not physically or financially feasible to bring it up to code”. What is the code problem there?
Kline: One of the biggest issues is that the driveway that leads to the back and the major parking is only 11 feet wide. Not wide enough to really allow people to get into the back. And I can’t see any way to put in the buffer that would be required.
Commissioner Stermer: Right now we’re discussing changing simply from Commercial to Rural Residential (zoning)?
Chair McCandless: That’s correct.
Commissioner Killebrew: I move we approve the zone change request ZMA 20-02 from Commercial to Residential. Second: Sam Thompson. Vote, Yes: John McCandless, Sam Thompson, Michele Anderson, Ken Killebrew, Jerry Stermer, Melissa Morris. (Unanimous.)
Chair McCandless: Ms. Kline, as I’m sure you’re aware, this now needs to go before Village Council.
[The commission then took up her application to use the same property for a short-term residential rental business.]
Assuming approval of the above zone map amendment request changing the property from Commercial to A-1 Agricultural and Rural Residential, applicants Jim Hammond and Barbara Kline of 6 Santa Ana Trail, Corrales, request residential short-term rental permit approval for a four-bedroom short term rental at 3824 Corrales Road, housing up to eight adults (with children under the age of 12 also allowed by Village ordinance).
Barbara Kline (applicant): My husband and I moved into the property (at one time.) We have now moved back to 6 Santa Ana Trail. We feel that the short-term rental market provides us the opportunity to get the capital Airbnbs, and had some rooms rented out there, and feel it is an excellent use for that property. It will suit our needs and provide lodgers’ tax to Corrales.
Commissioner Stermer: How does the math work? Do we need those parking spaces?
PZA Stout: They have the required number of spots in front.
Chair McCandless: The parking spots at the back of the house are not necessary to meet the requirements of the short-term rental?
PZA Stout: That’s correct.
Chair McCandless: The rooms you intend to rent out are at the corners at the house. Then there are common areas —a courtyard and living area. Are those going to be accessible to the short-term renters?
Kline: Yes, that entire area will be dedicated as short term rental except for a couple of areas we marked off as personal storage. Essentially the entire house would be used for the short-term rental. There are no barriers that would keep someone from moving throughout the house.
Chair McCandless: Do all rooms have access from the outside?
Kline: There’s one master bedroom and most of the common rooms have doors that go outside. One bedroom has a door within five feet. On the northwest side where there are two bedrooms, there is a door at the end of the corridor that goes out into the courtyard.
Commissioner Thompson: In the event that you and your husband travel, will there be another designated individual who could be called if there are any problems?
Kline: We have a property manager we’ve hired.
Commissioner Thompson: So she will be available 24/7?
Chair McCandless: Is she nearby?
Kline: Reasonably nearby. About 15-20 minutes.
Commissioner Anderson: Are you planning on renting this to one person at a time or four different people who don’t know each other?
Kline: No, it would be a four-bedroom rental; not divided amongst four people who didn’t know each other.
Commissioner Anderson: It would be just one contract?
Chair McCandless: And you are aware of the ordinance and the concerns about events, parties, that sort of thing?
Kline: Absolutely. Don’t want anyone there unsupervised holding parties where alcohol might be available.
Chair McCandless: How do you anticipate making sure that doesn’t happen?
Kline: Two ways. One, it’s in the contract, and we have very vigilant neighbors, and if there were any problems I’m sure we’d hear about it.
Bob Pinkerton (public commenter, sworn): Going back to the previous issue on zoning. The issue was the 11-foot driveway. The short-term rental application states a fire inspection will be required. Has there been a fire inspection relating to the proposed use?
Kline: Not on the proposed use, but there have been numerous fire inspections over the years.
Pinkerton: At what point in this process is there going to be a fire inspection?
PZA Stout: It’s part of the business license process. If the short-term rental is approved, there will then be a fire inspection required, for that use.
Pinkerton: In the application it states Ms. Kline and her husband are the (emergency contacts). Where will it be posted for neighbors to call this other person, who will take over when you are out of town?
Chair McCandless: I’m envisioning the neighbors would contact the police, or someone in the Village, and that person would contact whoever is responsible for the property.
PZA Stout: In this case, if there is another potential contact person, I can add her to the list of contacts.
Kline: It’s very rare that we can’t be reached. The phone number is our cell number.
Pinkerton: I found one administrative glitch. When this issue came up, we were notified. There was (a delay) getting the application online. We’re looking at long-term potential problems. We are asking that an in-depth study be made of the ordinance. Santa Fe just came up with a limit of the number of short-term rentals one owner can have, and a cap of 1,000 rentals in the City. Los Ranchos is working on seven-day maximums, we have 29. This whole thing seems to be moving quite quickly. Prior to COVID, there were 100 short term rentals, now we’re down to 53. I understand there are applications for construction of accessory structures. We’ve got to be careful that we’re not rushing into accessory buildings and short-term rentals and perhaps even open the door to zone changes, for example to the two acre minimum. We’re urging caution. On December 8 Councillor Stuart Murray suggested a moratorium on short-term rentals until thorough due diligence has been conducted. Is this rush worth it?
Apparently, this is still being used as a short-term rental. There’s been a green and white pickup parked (at applicant property) with California plates on it. What’s going on? It appears it’s being used now as a short-term rental without a permit.
Chair McCandless: I appreciate your comments and concerns. I’m sure you are fully aware this is an issue for council. Our responsibility is to apply the ordinance that is in force. If it is currently being operated, that is an issue for code enforcement. We have to look at the application before us, and apply it to our ordinance that is in hand, and in adherence with that ordinance and in the best interests of the Village.
Matthew Bradley (public commenter, speaking on behalf of family at 3858 and 3856 Corrales Road, although his residence is in Denver): I realize you can’t change the law. The commercial designation wasn’t a good fit here.
They are asking to change the complexion of the neighborhood. While only one contract, that can be up to eight individuals. In most places, you can’t have eight unrelated folks in a regular house, why make an exception? Are they on the sewer line, or on one leach field? They say they will prevent parties by contract. That’s not great. And saying we have “neighbors who pay attention” —there shouldn’t be a burden on the neighbors.
Kline: The septic system is approved for four bedrooms. I provided a copy of the approval. Let’s talk about burden on the neighbors. It wouldn’t matter whether it was a residence or a short-term rental with regards to someone having a party. I just make it very clear to people coming in that it will be very uncomfortable for them if they have a party. Their tenancy would be immediately terminated. I think we are taking on most of the burden. In our experience people have been very well behaved. Short-term renters go from renting with us to purchasing property in the Village. We have people who are relocating or temporarily working at Intel.
Commissioner Thompson: Did you say that this property is connected to Village wastewater?
Kline: That was a proposed layout; it is not. We basically ran out of money. We are in the process to get that place rehabilitated. My understanding is that is something that must be done when property changes hands; it hasn’t.
Commissioner Killebrew: I’d like to address Mr. Pinkerton’s concerns. Municipalities are behind the curve when it comes to Airbnb use around the country. Airbnb’s just took off. A lot of them didn’t have permits or business licenses. Corrales is actually a little bit ahead of other small towns and cities, as far as our ordinance. This is only a four bedroom; we require off-street parking. Albuquerque does not require that. Santa Fe allows two residences per lot with owners not in residence. We could tweak the ordinance. Santa Fe is requiring liability insurance. Corrales is in pretty good stead as far as the ordinance goes.
He moved approval, subject to zone map amendment ZMA 20-02 passing Village Council. It was seconded by Sam Thompson. Voting yes were: John McCandless, Sam Thompson, Michele Anderson, Jerry Stermer, Melissa Morris and Ken Killebrew.
The approval was unanimous.
Architect Tyson Parker is the new Village councillor, appointed to fill the vacancy left when Dave Dornburg resigned from his Council District 4 position. He was selected by Mayor Jo Anne Roake from among eight villagers who stepped forward to serve out the term until March 2022. Her selection was confirmed by the council at its January 12 session. Others who volunteered were: Drew Burr, Jonathan Martinez, Rob Black, John Alsobrook, Mike Hanna, Chris Allen and Mary Chappelle. Allen and Alsobrook have previously served on the council. Parker joins Bill Woldman, Stu Murray, Zach Burkett, Kevin Lucero and Mel Knight on the council.
“Raising a young family with three generations living together on our ‘compound’ has allowed me to see Corrales through the eyes of each group,” Parker explained in his December 29 letter to the mayor offering to serve out Dornburg’s term. He referred to coaching youngsters in basketball and swimming at the recreation center, participating in focus groups for Albuquerque Public Schools and other involvement “as well as frequent sit-downs with the Village matriarch, Evelyn Curtis Losack, before her passing, learning what it means to be a Corraleño.”
Parker is owner of two architecture and design firms, Studio 151 LLC and Tyson Parker Design which he started in 2012. Prior to striking out on his own, he was a senior associate with the Edward Fitzgerald Architects firm where he started in 2002. He holds a master’s degree from the University of New Mexico School of Architecture and Planning (2003). He served on the Corrales Parks and Recreation Commission from 2013 to 2016; served on the board of directors for Corrales Arts Center 2012- 2015. He was District 4 commissioner on the N.M. Public Education Commission from 2013 to 2015.
Parker studied wild monkeys in Costa Rica in 1996 while working on his degree in psychology at the University of Redlands, California. It was not clear whether that entry on his submitted resume was a deciding factor in the mayor’s decision. After citing his range of experience in the December letter to Mayor Roake, Parker suggested “this background creates a unique perspective that touches on many of the realities that Corrales and its residents face, and would be of benefit in the search for solutions and compromises to current and future issues needing to be addressed” by the council.
The Nature Conservancy has proposed a project at the mouth of the Harvey Jones Flood Control Channel to improve bosque habitat by using stormwater flowing down the Montoyas Arroyo and treated wastewater from Rio Rancho’s sewage plants. Online Zoom sessions for public input about the project are scheduled for February 2, noon to 1 p.m., February 3, 5-6 p.m. and February 4, 3-4 p.m. For the Zoom link, see http://www.nmconservation.org/hjc.
The project is a collaboration among The Nature Conservancy - New Mexico, the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, the Southern Sandoval County Arroyo Flood Control Authority, the City of Rio Rancho and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation as well as the Village of Corrales. The 10-acre project, if it gains final approval, would implement an idea that was floated more than six years ago: to divert at least some of the water flowing through the Jones Channel and/or effluent from the Rio Rancho sewage treatment plan on the edge of the arroyo east of Highway 528.
The Nature Conservancy’s description of the project notes that the Jones Channel carries more than 4.4 million gallons of stormwater annually to the river. And treated sewage from Rio Rancho also enters the river just south of the channel at quantities ranging from four to five million gallons daily. “By utilizing the permanent flow of water, we can re-contour the bank elevation and create secondary channels to create an expanded wet area to increase wildlife, fish and bird habitat,” according to the proposal.
The Nature Conservancy web page about the Harvey Jones Channel Improvement Project states these goals:
• to reconnect bosque vegetation to groundwater, lowering the bench elevation;
• to improve water quality as a finishing station to reduce stormwater pollution to the Rio Grande;
• to enhance bird, fish and other wildlife habitat;
• to reduce stagnant water and mosquito issues from stormwater impoundment;
• to illustrate the benefits of large-scale green stormwater infrastructure; and
• to demonstrate inter-agency coordination on a public-private partnership project.
“We want your input,” the website urges. “The project team has created a conceptual design and want to gain feedback from the local residents and recreationists who frequent that area. If you are a runner, walker, equestrian, bird watcher, community member or interested stakeholder, please join us for one of the listed community engagement opportunities.
“At each of the one-hour long events listed, members of the project team will present the conceptual plans for the area, and provide a forum for community feedback on the design.” The website includes links to participate in the three Zoom sessions on February 2, 3 and 4. The Corrales Bosque Advisory Commission has considered such a project, at least conceptually, for many years. Elsewhere in the preserve, projects have already been implemented to excavate away the river bank so that water flows, or at least seeps, into the riparian forest. The habitat plan was completed in 2010 after years of work. (See Corrales Comment’s nine-part series of articles starting Vol.XXVIII, No.7, May 23, 2009, “Bosque Preserve Habitat Plan Now Available”)
In 2010, projects similar to what is being proposed now were proposed and implemented by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as elements of a “bosque restoration” effort. Faced with the coming die-off of aging cottonwoods, the Corps proposed a restoration project that would employ several methods to get river water into the woods during periods of high river flows.
Bulldozers and other heavy equipment would be called in to cut away the river bank in some locations and to excavate channels that would divert water into certain areas, as well as to dig out ponds and wetland swales.
Among the Corps’ “key project purposes” were:
• “improve habitat quality and increase the amount of native bosque plant communities… while creating greater stand diversity in terms of stand age, size and composition within the bosque (a mosaic);
• “promote bosque habitat heterogeneity by recreating pockets of new cottonwood, willow and other native species throughout the proposed action area, where root zones reach the shallow water table;
• “implement measures to re-establish fluvial processes in the bosque, including removal of non-functional jetty jacks, bank destabilization, and high-flow/side channel creations to promote over-bank flooding;
• “create new wetland habitat, while extending and enhancing high quality aquatic habitat in existing wetlands;
• “reduce the fire hazard in the bosque through the reduction of fuel loads, to include exotic species identified as hazardous;
• “recreate hydraulic connections between the bosque and the river consistent with operational constraints; and
• “protect, extend and enhance areas of potential habitat for listed species within the existing bosque.”
Not surprisingly, the 2021 session of the New Mexico Legislature which kicked off January 19, has been impacted by security issues as well as pandemic protocols, which will not make the legislators’ daunting, get-it-done-fast jobs any easier. House sessions will be virtual, with the Senate planning to combine in-person with virtual.
As Representative Damon Ely, District 23, explained in an email, “Los Alamos National Lab conducted a modeling of different scenarios during the legislative process. It is very clear that if we are not careful, there will be a COVID-19 outbreak which is both dangerous and disruptive.” As House rules chair, Ely drafted those rules “to assure that everything we do will be seen by the public and the public will have full access to comment during the committee process.”
Regarding Corrales-specific concerns, Mayor JoAnne Roake recently published a pdf on the Village website produced by Parks and Recreation chief Lynn Siverts and Technical Services librarian Brynn Cole which details three priority projects, including purchase of a vehicle and equipment for Corrales Animal Services, of which $40,000 has been raised, with $40,000 more required.
Next, $75,000 to plan, design, and construct a bicycle, equestrian and pedestrian trail that connects the Thompson Fence Line Trail to the Village of Corrales in Bernalillo County. Then, to plan, design, construct, and equip new water lines and water distribution system in Corrales for fire suppression, a request for $1,855,000. The project costs $2,536,000, of which $681,000 has been secured.
The mayor added that the state budget is “unchanged from last year, which means monies will be available for state legislation and for local infrastructure projects.” Ely expects “a full plate of proposals - early childhood funding, legalizing marijuana, eliminating the criminal statute on abortion, funding for businesses with an emphasis on micro-businesses and the self-employed, rent assistance and other COVID relief, further election reform, infrastructure spending (including a real push for state-wide, high quality internet), a review of the emergency declaration to give the legislature a role during a long term pandemic like the one we are now in, predatory lending, liquor license reform, sick leave and more.”
Not mentioned by Ely was an ongoing push to eliminate or even reduce the state's tax on Social Security income. In February 2020 the House Taxation and Revenue Committee tabled two bills proposed to address that. Both Republican and Democratic legislators were said to be worried about “altering the tax without having a plan to replace lost revenue.” Only 13 states tax Social Security benefits.
Ely concluded with this: “The hope is that we will come out of this crisis with a chance to leap forward both economically and with a better outcome for New Mexico citizens. We learned from the 2008-2014 recession that sitting passively is not the answer.” Damon’s legislative e-mail address is daymon.ely @nmlegis.gov and his cell is 610-6529. Brenda McKenna, of Senate District 9, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Representative Jane Powdrell-Culbert can be contacted at jpandp@comcast. net or by calling 721-9021.
For those citizens more motivated than ever to learn more of what their state senators and representatives will be tackling, and to possibly participate in relevant discussions, the League of Women Voters of New Mexico is helping to make the legislature website, legis.gov, easier to navigate. See below. (It notes that not all newly-elected legislators have been slotted into the website.)
Find Your Legislator. nmlegis.gov/ lcs/legislator_search.aspx---Gives you many search options. Bill Finder http://www.nmlegis.gov/lcs/bill finder/ bill_finder.aspx. Gives you various ways of finding legislation My Roundhouse. nmlegis.gov/lcs/ roundhouse.This site allows you to register and receive updates on specific legislation. Bill Locator. nmlegis.gov/lcs/session_locator.aspx Click on the relevant session and it will give you a numerical listing of the legislation. House bills first and then the Senate bills.
Committees, http://www.nmlegis.gov/lcs/committees_standing.aspx---This lists the Committees that meet during the Legislative Session.These are live links and will show the members and usual meeting times. Accessing Meetings. The “What’s Happening” tab will let you know what meetings are going on and how to access them electronically. Click on the “html” versions to get “live” links. The “Webcast” button will let you access any meeting that is underway.
Interim Committees. http://www.nmlegis.gov/lcs/committees_interim.aspx- These committees meet in-between sessions. Much of the preliminary work is done in these Committees Abbreviations. nmlegis.gov/lcs/action_abbreviations.aspx. You might want to print this out for reference since they are used throughout.
Corrales Fire Department Commander Tanya Lattin reports that this holiday season “With everyone’s help, we assisted 41 families.” At least 148 people, of whom 86 were children, were helped. In fact, several citizens have steadied families with internet service for online school, as well as food, since March. Lattin says the Fire Department will continue to have food available for families in need.
She wants to thank those who donated funds, and “adopted” children or whole families. As well as Kiwanis Club of Corrales for being the fiduciary entity, and local businesses that collected and donated. Village Mercantile made the drive their “giving Tuesday” event and doubled all donations on Giving Tuesday. Casa Vieja, Mercado de Maya/ Ambiente and Roadrunner Waste were supportive, too, and Corrales Growers’ Market donated fresh food.
Along the same lines, the Village of Corrales granted funds to 29 local businesses under the CARES grant for a total of $255,600. The Village currently is closing out the grant and paying out all grantees.
Thankfully, 11 members and staff at the Corrales Fire Department received the Pfizer vaccine on December 22, with the second shot coming on January 12, 2021. The department also is assisting the New Mexico Department of Health with vaccinations for healthcare providers.
With Joe Biden in the White House and John Kerry taking charge of the nation’s side-tracked response to climate change, prospects have improved that the planet’s livability can be retained. The president-elect’s proposal to direct some $2 trillion for that goal over the next four years may be blocked by a reluctant Congress already gagging over proposed trillions for pandemic relief. But since he first proclaimed climate change to be one of his top priorities, Biden has cloaked his plan as a job-creation bonanza.
On the president-elect’s long list of things he’ll do on day one is re-joining the Paris Climate Accord, a loosely binding pact to reduce greenhouse gas emissions enough to suppress and then reduce ever-rising global temperatures.
In tandem, Biden has endorsed Senator Tom Udall’s legacy-sealing legislation, the 30 By 30 Resolution which calls for concerted and sustained action to halt destruction of natural ecosystems, establishing a national goal of conserving at least 30 percent of the land and ocean of the United States by the year 2030. In it, Udall asserts that “conserving and restoring nature is one of the most efficient and cost-effective strategies for fighting climate change.” (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXIX No.13 September 19, 2020 “Senator Tom Udall Urges Push to ‘Save Nature’ By 2030.”)
Biden’s own climate plan as enunciated during the campaign has the following goals:
• Ensure that the United States achieves a 100 percent clean energy economy and reaches net-zero emissions no later than 2050.
The Democratic candidate said he would immediately sign a series of new executive orders to correct reckless orders issued by Trump. He said he would demand that Congress enact legislation in the first year of his presidency that: 1) establishes an enforcement mechanism that includes milestone targets no later than the end of his first term in 2025; 2) makes a historic investment in clean energy and climate research and innovation; and 3) incentivizes the rapid deployment of clean energy innovations across the economy, especially in communities most impacted by climate change.
• Build a stronger, more resilient nation by making infrastructure investments to rebuild the nation and to ensure that our buildings, water, transportation and energy infrastructure can withstand the impacts of climate change.
• Aid in development of regional climate resilience plans, in partnership with local universities and national labs, for local access to the most relevant science, data, information, tools and training, and
• Rally the rest of the world to meet the threat of climate change. Biden said he will not only re-commit the United States to the Paris Agreement on climate change, he will go much further.
Even if Biden fails to move bold initiatives through Congress, it has been clear for more than five years that much of the needed action to confront climate change would come from the private sector, and that continues to be the expectation. Partly due to the pandemic’s drag on the economy, greenhouse gas emissions are expected to drop dramatically in 2020, probably to their lowest level in the last 30 years. That means the United States at least temporarily is on track to meet the pledged reductions made by John Kerry and the Obama administration at the 2015 Paris conference. Even without the Trump administration’s participation in the global agreement, by the end of 2020, the United States was nearly half-way to meeting the reduction goals set by Obama-Kerry in 2015.
U.S. corporations and others around the world have pledged deep cuts in emissions and conversions to renewable, green energy sources. This fall, Japan’s leadership pledged to transform that nation’s economy to be carbon-neutral by 2050. The European Union and South Korea have pledged to reach net zero by then as well. Earlier this year, China promised to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2060.
Current projections indicate that production of electricity from renewable sources will surpass that from burning coal within the next five years, according to the International Energy Agency. Closer to home, Public Service Company of New Mexico continues its plan to convert electrical generation from coal to renewables in the near term. PNM is moving ahead with announced plans to close the San Juan Generating Station as well as the Four Corners station in compliance with the N.M. Legislature’s Energy Transitions Act.
The act sets a statewide renewable energy standard of 50 percent by 2030 for New Mexico’s investor-owned utilities and rural electic co-ops leading to a goal of 80 percent renewables by 2040. Investor-owned utilities are to reach zero carbon emissions by 2045. Three solar electric generating projects in San Juan County are planned to partially make up for those closures. The first expected to begin delivering electricity would be the San Juan Solar project to generate 598 megawatts of power, accompanied by 300 megawatts of storage capacity nearby. Another indication of the way things are going: the N.M. General Services Department last month cleared the way to order 28 electric vehicles for the State’s motor pool. Installation of 30 charging stations is nearing completion at state government locations around Santa Fe.
Biden’s choice of John Kerry as the administration’s point-man on climate change offers maximum leverage for effectiveness at home and abroad. Not only was Kerry U.S. Secretary of State under President Barack Obama, he also headed the U.S. delegation to the United Nations conference on climate change in Paris. As such, his role was key to the international agreement’s success. (See Corrales Comment’s coverage of the Paris conference starting with Vol.XXXIV No.21 December 19, 2015 “U.N. Climate Change Accord: Citizen Action Made It Happen.”)
Kerry’s commitment to confronting climate change runs deep. Along with Al Gore, Kerry was a delegate from Congress to the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 when he was 49 years old. That global conference established the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change which set in motion years of international collaboration culminating with the 2015 Paris accord. As a senator from Massachusetts, Kerry was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and delivered a benchmark address to the United Nations on the 20th anniversary of the Earth Summit.
“When it comes to the challenge of climate change, the falsehood of today’s naysayers is only matched by the complacency of our political system,” Kerry said in that 2012 speech, promising unrelenting support for the campaign to confront climate change. “We knew the road ahead would be long. But we also knew that this was a watershed moment —that it created the kind of grassroots momentum that made people sit up and start to listen to the damage we were doing to the environment.”
He was the Democratic Party’s candidate for the presidency in 2004. Kerry also led U.S. delegations for negotiations at the U.N. climate conferences in Kyoto in 1997, Buenos Aires in 1998, The Hague in 2000, Bali in 2007, Poznan in 2008 and Copenhagen in 2009.
Al Gore, 44 when he chaired the U.S. Senate delegation to the Earth Summit in Rio, later founded and still leads The Climate Reality Project. Like Kerry, Gore ran for president of the United States, winning the popular vote in 2000 but losing to George W. Bush in a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.
In an op-ed essay for the New York Times Sunday, December 13, Gore expressed hope with Kerry leading the Biden effort on climate. “Even as the climate crisis rapidly worsens, scientists, engineers and business leaders are making use of stunning advances in technology to end the world’s dependence on fossil fuels far sooner than was hoped possible.…
“Slowing the rapid warming of the planet will require a unified global effort. Mr. Biden can lead by strengthening the country’s commitment to reduce emissions under the Paris agreement —something the country is poised to do thanks to the work of cities, states, businesses and investors, which have continued to make progress despite resistance from the Trump administration.”
By Meredith Hughes
When you are 22, athletic, and have a free summer ahead, even during a pandemic, you go for it, especially if you have supportive Corrales parents. Nicolette Jones has it all, and in November completed the 3,100-mile trek that is the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail, stretching from just above the edge of northern Montana to the Crazy Cook Monument on the Mexican border.
According to the Trail Coalition website, “The Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (CDT) is one of the most significant trail systems in the world. Established by Congress in 1978, it spans 3,100 miles between Mexico and Canada, traverses five states and connects countless communities along the spine of the Rocky Mountains.” What may be more important, it separates the watersheds that drain into the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic Oceans.
The establishment of the Appalachian Trail in 1925 kicked everything off. Years later, the passage of the National Trails System Act in 1968 officially designated the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails, and directed that 14 other possible routes be studied, including the Continental Divide Trail.
As Jones hiked on her own, over a period of four months, she posted entries on her new blog, “A Walk In the Park, on WordPress, whenever in range of a wifi signal. One of her early entries was this: “It wasn’t until my first day alone that the reality of my solitude hit me. I realized how much I would be missing my friends and family for the next few months, but all the same I was excited to be hiking. Being out on my own also made me appreciate how much getting here has not been an individual endeavor. I’ve had so much support and help from the people around me to make this hike possible! That day was filled with a mix of emotions while I saw lots of bear footprints and enjoyed some beautiful views.”
Yes, bears. Grizzlies. Montana is rich in them. And even though Jones recently graduated from Adams State in Alamosa, Colorado, whose mascot is a grizzly, she admits to being “bearanoid.” Jones was not carrying an actual tent —just material on which to lay her mat and sleeping bag, and a modest tarp to erect over her, as needed. Her first night was… relatively sleepless. But, she got with the program. As she put it, “I had always wanted to explore Montana and Wyoming, having never been there, the COVID-19 regulations were not strict, and the area was very hiker friendly.” Her backpack’s “base weight” was about 11 pounds, including a small stove, her sleeping gear, and minimal clothes. Food and water added about two pounds per day, and at one stretch she traveled nine deeply backpack-heavy days without reprovisioning.
Somewhere in Wyoming, she posted this: “The past four days have been hot, dry, dusty and filled with cow poop. This was one of the most difficult stretches for me. The days felt really long and the terrain was not always inspiring. The first night out, I realized there was something wrong with my stove, and, too tired to fix it, I just cold soaked my food for the past three days. Most of the time, I really just felt like I was walking from water source to water source, not really hiking. As a fun bonus, most of the water sources were littered with cow poop and cows pooping. Luckily, I was able to download some podcasts before I left so I had something to listen to other than the wind.”
Her parents back in Corrales periodically mailed her supplies, and kept a bead on her via a GPS tracker. Her mom, Heidi, is a long time mechanical engineer, and her dad was the parent-in-charge of the household of two sons and daughter. A couple of times her parents swooped in to relieve her, once from an unexpected snow storm, once when her boyfriend’s father fell ill and unexpectedly died. Jones and her boyfriend had intended to hike together for about a month, but that plan crumbled.
Along the way, Jones did some walking and camping with fellow hikers, but also stayed in what might be called hostels, and occasionally showered and bedded down in hotels, when she reached towns with grocery stores and laundromats. But she also became adept at washing undies in a plastic bag while on the trail. Water, environmentally correct soap, much shaking, rinsing, then hanging to dry from her pack.
One of the most strenuous portions of the journey involved an 8,000-foot climb among 14,000-foot peaks, then walking a ridge line trail at about 12,000 feet. No surprise — the CDT has been described as “the highest, most challenging, and most remote of the country’s National Scenic Trails.”
As you might imagine, shoes were key. She went through seven pair of Altras in four months. As of early 2021, the trail from the Crazy Cook Monument at the Mexican border to Waterton Lakes National Park at the Canadian border is 95 percent complete, with only 164 miles remaining to be protected on public land.
Now back with her boyfriend in Leadville, Colorado, where she will again be a ski instructor, Jones, an English major who also studied something called Adventure Leadership, a pursuit her mom dubbed “majoring in recess,” might indeed like to work with youth in outdoor education. But also, recreationally speaking, go bike packing with her boyfriend somewhere outside the United States post pandemic. She sees no need to commit to a career as yet.
As she notes in her blog, which she intends to continue, “This summer has been immensely rewarding, and in the face of the joy and strife I’ve experienced on trail, this stone marker [to the Crazy Cook] at the Mexico border seems like an awfully arbitrary ending to the endeavor. Of course, the perspective I have gained and the joy I’ve felt do not end at that terminus. The goal, after all, is to bring back those important things which can be gained from this sort of undertaking.”
Such as learning that the “crazy cook” was a kitchen worker who killed someone.
Her blog can be found at https://awalkinthepark906214396.wordpress.com.
Explore the trail remotely at https://continentaldividetrail.org
If you love digging in dirt and fussing with seeds, and now are inclined to become better informed, soon you can dive into the 15-week Master Gardener Training offered each winter-spring by Sandoval Extension Master Gardeners, in partnership with New Mexico State University. The training program is expected to start by February and end by early May 2021.
Due to the ongoing pandemic, the training will be virtual, in the classroom, along with small group activities guided online by Master Gardener mentors. The training program covers practical horticulture topics including sustainability, botany, plant identification, soil biology, entomology, integrated pest management, arboriculture, perennials, vegetable and fruit production, plant pathology, weeds, pollinators, companion planting, and irrigation.
To be certified as a Sandoval Extension Master Gardener, you must successfully complete the training program, but also complete a 30-hour internship that includes 10 hours of public outreach activity and 20 hours of other community service activities. Given COVID-19 restrictions, the details of the internship are being reassessed. To maintain your status as a Certified Master Gardener, you must volunteer at least 40 hours each year, of which at least 10 hours must be earned in continuing education classes.
Class size for this program is limited to 24 people. To apply for the 2021 Training program, fill out the online application here: http://sandovalmastergardeners.org/intern-application/ You will be contacted when further information becomes available.
A team of Corrales woodworkers has built small, student desks for children trying to learn at home during the pandemic. Ben Blackwell said he was inspired to start such an effort here after seeing a CBS Evening News story in early October. He took a prototype to Corrales Elementary School this fall for feedback, and then modified his design to make desk legs shorter for a better fit for a typical kid in kindergarten through third grade.
As of January 1, he and other woodworkers have produced 24 small desks for Corrales Elementary, Alameda Elementary and Bernalillo Elementary., and for distribution through the Corrales Fire Department.Rick Thaler, his son, Jacob Thaler, and Tracy Murray have joined the team, along with Rio Rancho’s Mike Murray, members of the Albuquerque Woodworker’s Association.
They enlisted help from the Kiwanis Club of Corrales which donated $300 to defray cost of materials, about $30-40 each. Donations have come in from other sources. National Wood Products provided materials, while Shannon Perry of Bluedog Fine Woodworking donated computer numerical control programming and machine time to cut desk parts, and Billy Warriner and Mike Otero of DS Assemblies provided assembly time.
Music in Corrales volunteer Jannie Dusseau recently described the organization’s pandemically truncated season as “a significant learning experience and undertaking for our small volunteer organization, as we navigated what for us have been the unknown waters of obtaining and presenting online concerts.”
And still they persisted. The schedule already was set for September 2020 through April 2021, when COVID-19 blew everything up. The president of Corrales Cultural Arts Council’s Music in Corrales, Lance Ozier, along with Mike Foris and Deb Dapson took a deep dive into how to switch from in-person to online concerts.
They sought a new platform vendor who could support video on demand, and their usual ticket sales platform using brownpapertickets was no longer viable. They decided to offer the first online presentation for free. It featured Russian pianist Arsentiy Kharitonov, and ran through January 3, 2021.
Kharitonov, working from the University of North Texas, had quickly sent Music in Corrales an elegant concert video in 4G, which sadly had to be converted to 1080 in order to flow online. According to Ozier, about 67 people registered for 89 tickets, with the cost covered by funds from New Mexico Arts, as well as donors to Music in Corrales.
They contacted every artist already committed to its Corrales season, and slowly made renegotiated deals. Next up, running from January 23 through January 31 is a concert featuring Celtic fiddle and cellist duo, Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas, making their fifth appearance with Music in Corrales. For this one, music lovers will pay $15 per ticket.
Following the first viewing opportunity on January 23, Fraser and Haas will participate in a live question-and-answer session right after the concert, beginning at approximately 8:15 p.m. Tickets are available at http://www.musicincorrales.org/concert/fraser-and-haas-concert/
The vast repertoire the Scottish fiddler and the American cellist have developed over a 20-year partnership spans several centuries of Scottish music as well as Fraser’s own compositions, and blends the Scottish tradition with cutting-edge musical explorations. And their work has helped revive and reinvigorate the Scottish tradition of playing dance music on violin and cello.
One critic suggested that what makes their music soar is its “tonal variation and attack to spare,” along with “the responsiveness each shows to the other.”
They tell stories as well, sharing the lore surrounding Scotland’s musical heritage. And, in addition to performing, when not constrained pandemically, they both teach at fiddle camps across the globe.
Fraser, described as "the Michael Jordan of Scottish fiddling,” was inducted into the Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame in 2011. Haas, a Juilliard graduate, has performed with most of the fiddle world’s greats. Begun in January 2020, the pair’s latest CD, “SYZYGY,” is finally rolling out. The title apparently references “the nearly straight-line configuration of three celestial bodies, such as the sun, moon, and earth during a solar or lunar eclipse, in a gravitational system.” The duo says to “Make sure you check the livestream page for album release shows coming to a computer screen near you.” See https://culburnie.com/alasdairandnatalie.html
Ozier thinks the live streaming online video platform Music in Corrales selected, Dacast, based in San Francisco and London, is meeting its needs. A few glitches here and there may well pop up, as concert venues and performers reinvent ways to reach their audiences. Look for Boyd Meets Girl online come February. Australian classical guitarist Rupert Boyd and American cellist Laura Metcalf, based in New York, will serve up an “eclectic and engaging range of repertoire, from Bach to Beyoncé.”