By Meredith Hughes
Corrales’ Jane Butel, maven of American Southwest regional cooking, with the upcoming Christmas holiday in mind, has posted a “Tamale Rolling” video up front on her website, which can be accessed for a fee. Butel writes that she “grew up with a mother whose favorite food her entire life was tamales. The video we just completed shows all the hints, tips and tricks for perfect, fluffy tamales which I learned from her.”
Tamales, those corn meal and chile concoctions wrapped typically in cornhusks, date back thousands of years, where they were prepared and eaten by the indigenous peoples who first gathered and later farmed the many vegetables native to the Americas, corn, beans, tomatoes, and chiles among them.
Scholars think that Mesoamerica, a historical region and cultural area in North America, that extends from approximately central Mexico through Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and northern Costa Rica, is likely where tamales may have begun their long history. California ethnohistorian Karl Taube writes that “Maya epigraphy supplies the most convincing evidence that the tamale constituted the principal maize food of the Classic Maya. It will be seen that tamales represented in Classic period texts and iconographic scenes were known widely by the Mayan term wa or wah, a word also signifying food or sustenance in a number of Mayan languages.”
So tamales = food! When you register for the Tamale Rolling video, for $49, Butel will send out four recipes for making both the tamales and the red chile sauce. Then you can order the products for making them on her website, http://www.janebutelcooking.com, including tamale masa, hot chile and mild red chile, if desired. As Butel puts it, “Tamale masa is a special coarser grind that yields fluffy tamales instead of greasy or hard tamales. And pure red chiles are needed for the fresh spicy clear flavor of the tamales and sauce.”
Along with rocking and rolling tamales, you can do a deeper dive into “All About Chiles.” This is a course focused solely on learning about chiles and how to cook with them. Butel launched her latest extensive on-line chile cooking course this fall, and now is taking the first 20 registrations for its 2021 iteration which will begin January 18. The cost? $650. Sign up via her website.
In a series of over 40 lectures by Butel, along with 150 kitchen-tested recipes, participants will use chiles in Southwestern and Mexican dishes. Hints and tips for cooking with both green and red chiles will be completely spelled out. Also, Butel explores chiles’ healthful benefits, including “how to eat your way to losing weight and reverse aging.” Also ways to use chiles for “improving your heart’s health as well as your skin,” and the history and lore of chiles.
As Butel wrote in “Real Women Eat Chiles,” “Those of us who have been ‘exposed’ to chiles early in life are constantly on a quest for a daily chile fix. Those who have not had the opportunity to eat chiles have much less tolerance for capsaicin. However, it is never too late to start a daily habit of chile eating and develop one’s own ‘chile drive.’”
Each lesson is based on a written document. People who sign up view the text and then create the recipes. And, according to Butel, “there are choices — they don't have to prepare all of the recipes— only those they wish to. Plus they have an extra month beyond the end of the series to return to any classes they wish to and as often as they wish to. Each comes with a grocery and equipment list, as well as the recipes to select from.” The last two classes will be devoted to participants creating their own chile recipes.
Once you sign up, you will receive some chile and chile-related goodies: Jane Butel’s Southwestern Kitchen, a comprehensive book on Southwestern cookery developed to back up her PBS series; a DVD on Bowl o’ Red Chile Party; eight ounces pure hot red chile powder; eight ounces pure mild red chile powder; eight ounces crushed caribe chile; eight ounces blue corn flour; four ounces crushed pequin quebrado chile; two ounces ground cumin; and two ounces ground Mexican oregano.”
While the course is not interactive, nor Zoom-based, Butel is setting up a chat room so that learners can ask questions. They also can feel free to call her at 505-243-2622.
Not all in Butel-land derives from the Americas. Her recipe for stollen, the traditional German Christmas bread which may have originated in Saxony, is best served up with champagne on Christmas morning, she urges. First traditionally made with oil, because of Advent restrictions by the Catholic Church on the use of butter, bakers pushed back, begged Papal circumvention, ranted, and then finally, 15th century Pope Innocent VIII relented, kind of. Finally, when Saxony became Protestant, (see Lutherans,) butter ruled.
You can access the recipe, from Jane Butel’s Freezer Cookbook, for free at http://www.janebutelcooking.com/post/great-deal-on-cooking-classes-for-2019-and-christmas-baking. Scroll down to take a gander through the following ingredients for two loaves, with butter up top: ¾ cup unsalted butter; ½ cup sugar; 1 teaspoon salt; ½ teaspoon nutmeg; 1/2 teaspoon mace (if you do not have mace, substitute more nutmeg;) Grated rind of 1 lemon; Grated rind of ½ orange; 2 eggs; ¼ cup dark rum, brandy or sherry; 1 cup milk 1 package active dry yeast; ¼ cup warm water; 6 cups all-purpose flour, approximately; 1 cup raisins;1 cup currants (if unavailable, substitute more raisins;) ¼ pound each candied orange peel, lemon peel, and citron;1 slice candied pineapple; 1 cup toasted almonds; 1 ½ pounds candied whole red and green cherries; ¼ cup melted butter; Powdered sugar.
Or, skip stollen, but pop the champagne, and dream of taking a seven-day foodie trip hosted by Butel to Oaxaca, Mexico’s mole-rich gastro capital, whenever the pandemic eases up and makes three hands-on cooking classes, tours of historic sites, market tours and artisan visits possible.
A new effort is under way to establish some controls over continued erection of cinder block walls adjacent to Corrales Road which detract from scenic views. At the December 8 Village Council meeting, Councillor Zach 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 former Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Terry 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.”
Construction is expected to begin in April for a long-proposed trail connection between the City of Rio Rancho’s paved Thompson Fence Line trail along the edge of the escarpment and the end of Sagebrush Drive in Corrales. Engineering work has begun after the Corrales Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Commission pushed for it at the June 16 Village Council meeting. The plan was explained in a Powerpoint presentation by the commission.
At the November 12 session Village Administrator Ron Curry said the work would likely begin in April since that is the availability of the firm contracted to build the trail link. In the meantime, he said adjacent property owners will be contacted to make sure they are aware of the project.
On August 31, Village Clerk Aaron Gjullin informed advisory commissioners that the project had launched. “Just a heads up. It has begun!” he emailed. “The Village is funding it, asking for additional money or reimbursements from the County and State. Engineering has begun.” The commission has held discussions with Rio Rancho officials, the Southern Sandoval County Arroyo Flood Control Authority and Corrales Public Works several times over the last five years. Public Works has estimated the trail link could cost around $74,000 including engineering and installation.
“The time is now,” the commission’s presentation urged. “A Parks and Recreation survey indicated residents want opportunities to exercise outside as individuals and as families. Trail connectivity is an important tenet of the Trails Master Plan. A loop trail is a great way to enjoy our village.”
The south end of Rio Rancho’s trail terminates at Corrales’ Meadowlark Lane, although just south of that is Intel’s recently improved Skyview Trail which extends on southward to the Skyview Acres Subdivision. “Together, they provide a three-mile path along the border between Corrales and Rio Rancho that offers sweeping views of the village and the Sandias,” the commission’s report stated. “Attempts to connect the north end to the village via Sagebrush have been ongoing for 30 years.”
It noted that “ad hoc” paths at the end of Sagebrush Drive to reach the Thompson Fence Line Trail have existed for years across private property. Now an opportunity to build the long-proposed trail connection can be achieved using Village-owned land adjacent to the cul de sac at the end of Sagebrush. “The Village owns the land on which the potential trail connection would be constructed,” the Powerpoint said. “Nearby lots are for sale. We have an agreement among current neighbors that the connection is a good idea. Benefits are significant: health, quality of life, potential economic boos for local businesses.”
The commission’s introduction noted that “the idea of a loop trail around Corrales was first imagined in the 1980s. Rio Rancho completed the Thompson Fence Line Trail, and Intel built their trail in the 1990s. “A few years ago, a lot in that area that would serve as a trail connection was deeded to the Village from the Southern Sandoval County Arroyo Flood Control Authority. Mike Chavez, Village Public Works director, viewed the possible connection, indicating it was doable and providing cost estimates. This link is on the Master Trails Plan.”
Councillor Dave Dornburg has resigned from the Village Council effective January 1 since he and his family are moving away. He made the announcement at the December 8 council meeting; Mayor Jo Anne Roake encouraged anyone interested in filling the vacancy to contact her as soon as possible. She will name a replacement to represent Council District 4 until the 2022 municipal election.
The district boundaries are generally from Loma Larga on the east to the Rio Rancho boundary on the west and from Applewood on the south to West Ella on the north. Anyone interested is urged to notify the Village Clerk by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. At the council meeting Dornburg did not say why he is moving away, but that he had not intended to move so quickly. He said his home had sold within three days of putting it on the market.
When running for the council seat in 2018, he said he worked for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration as deputy director for the Office of Nuclear Weapon Surety and Quality. He lives along upper Meadowlark Lane and had led in the ongoing discussion on how to complete the improvements between Loma Larga and the Rio Rancho boundary. His term ends in March 2022.
By Meredith Hughes
A burst of increased activity at the eastern end of the former Kim Jew property at 4604 Corrales Road is evidence that Southwest Organic Producers (SWOP), which first began business in 2009 selling medical marijuana, is opening a retail cannabis dispensary in Corrales as soon as this month.
The store is opening at the corner of Corrales Road and Rincon Road, just north of Perea’s restaurant. A company employee at its first Albuquerque retail location on Montgomery, just east of Interstate 25, said “furniture, including display cases” were being bought for the Corrales site.
Spencer Komadina, one of the project’s partners, said 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. The Corrales outlet will immediately benefit from what another 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.
The SWOP outlet has been a long time in coming. Although the site development plan application was approved by the Village Planning and Zoning Commission on November 20, 2019, assorted hoops required jumping through, or what P&Z Administrator Laurie Stout described soon thereafter as “applicable state and federal agencies on their specific requirements.” At that time, a long-time Corrales cannabis grower, Tom Murray, explained to P&Z prior to their positive ruling that he was “the first cannabis producer in Corrales, and one of the first four in New Mexico.”
Murray emphasized the gross receipts coming to the Village via a retail outlet would be based on an estimated “$4.2 million of revenue that will originate through that point of sale and will include a good portion of customers outside of the village.” Komadina pointed out that the retail outlet would likely involve three to four employees, with an office for human resources above the store front. He added that “all manufactured products would be made outside Corrales by six extraction companies” the group works with.
At the moment SWOP pays rent to Kim Jew, still the building’s owner, but the group has first refusal on any upcoming purchase of the place. Komadina said SWOP hopes to own the property within a year or so. The interest by New Mexicans in medical cannabis continues to grow. As of May 31, 2020, New Mexico had 94,042 registered Medical Cannabis Program card holders, with Sandoval County at 6,514, and Bernalillo, 30,562. By November 30, 2020, 101,770 patients were registered, 7,281 in Sandoval County, and 33,976 in Bernalillo County.
Across the state, by far the biggest number of patients were suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), jumping from 48,010 to 54,391 by the end of November. People experiencing “severe chronic pain,”for which they sought cannabis, increased to 31,956 from 29,862. While a bill to legalize recreational cannabis in New Mexico was shot down in February of last year in the N.M. Legislature, signs indicate this time around the bill will have greater support.
According to a report by Ultra Health, the largest marijuana seller in New Mexico, the state “is now landlocked between three states with more flexible cannabis policies than its own. Legalization in Arizona is likely to create greater momentum surrounding legalization of cannabis for adult use in New Mexico during the 2021 Legislative Session.”
“New Mexico’s medical and adult-use cannabis market is estimated to generate $600 million in consumer sales and $90 to $100 million in recurring tax revenue. The path to a legalization market of such size will require legislators and regulators to work collectively to create a robust cannabis model.”
In addition, again according to Ultra Health, “medical marijuana sales in New Mexico in the third quarter exceeded the same period in 2019 by 62 percent. New Mexico’s Medical Cannabis Program of 34 licensed producers reported $55 million in cannabis sales in 2020, a jump of $21 million.” Earlier this month, the United Nations’ Commission for Narcotic Drugs voted to remove cannabis from its list of most dangerous drugs, and a floor vote was held in the U.S. House of Representatives December 4 on the MORE Act, (Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act). The bill officially passed by a vote of 228-164. Next stop, the U.S. Senate.
According to the official House description, “This bill decriminalizes marijuana. And specifically, it removes marijuana from the list of scheduled substances under the Controlled Substances Act and eliminates criminal penalties for an individual who manufactures, distributes, or possesses marijuana.”
“The bill also makes other changes, including the following:
• replaces statutory references to marijuana and marihuana with cannabis,
• requires the Bureau of Labor Statistics to regularly publish demographic data on cannabis business owners and employees,
• establishes a trust fund to support various programs and services for individuals and businesses in communities impacted by the war on drugs,
• imposes a 5 percent tax on cannabis products and requires revenues to be deposited into the trust fund,
• makes Small Business Administration loans and services available to entities that are cannabis-related legitimate businesses or service providers,
• prohibits the denial of federal public benefits to a person on the basis of certain cannabis-related conduct or convictions,
• prohibits the denial of benefits and protections under immigration laws on the basis of a cannabis-related event (e.g., conduct or a conviction),
• establishes a process to expunge convictions and conduct sentencing review hearings related to federal cannabis offenses, and
• directs the Government Accountability Office to study the societal impact of cannabis legalization.”
Despite some suspicions and misgivings, the Village Council approved purchase of a conservation easement on 12 acres of farmland at its December 8 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 council’s action December 8, the closing is expected by the end of this month. That would leave 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 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.”
In his remarks to the council, Hashimoto suggested “undivulged” reasons might have led to an early decision. The reasons stated, he said, “are not compelling reasons. Perhaps undivulged ones exist. I don’t know. Perhaps someone wants the Haslams to get a windfall before year’s end.” Those questions drew sharp responses from 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.” 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. Murray resumed questioning the push to move ahead, saying he is suspicious that the final appraisal on the Haslam property came out exactly the same as the original. “It’s a little suspicious to me that the appraisal came in at exactly what was asked for. If you look at properties around —I even did a little rough estimate myself using a…”
Again Mayor Roake interrupted. “Actually that tells me that there’s an excellent appraiser. But I have a point of order.” Murray said he disagreed, so Roake asked the Village’s negotiator, Michael Scisco of Unique Places LLC, to explain how the appraisal was arranged. Scisco said the reason the original appraisal was so accurate iwa that they had access to another appraisal on a property right across Corrales Road just two months earlier.
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.”)
More than 40 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.
A review and proposed revision of Corrales’ land use regulations will be carried out next year by the Mid-Region Council of Governments. Village officials expect to contract with the Albuquerque-based MRCOG by the end of the year to conduct such an assessment, according to Village Administrator Ron Curry.
The task will include a review of the Village’s Comprehensive Plan and related zoning and land use regulations covered in Chapter 18 of the Corrales Code of Ordinances. Topics for review are expected to include residential densities, commercial uses, outdoor lighting, signs, landscaping, cell towers, stormwater management and many others —as well as assessments as to whether villagers are complying with those regulations.
An outline provided by Curry indicates that MRCOG planners would “work with a possible steering committee to develop policy in regards to changes to the ordinances.” Recommendations would be submitted to the Corrales Planning and Zoning Commission as well as to the Village Council. Curry did not indicate how long such a review is expected to take.
In the outline provided to Corrales Comment December 11, Curry said the contract with MRCOG would include:
• review of the current Comprehensive Plan, which would include reviewing by zone category (Residential-Agricultural - One-Acre Minimum Lot Size; Residential Agricultural - Two-Acre Minimum; Commercial; Professional Office; Municipal; Historic; and Neighborhood Commercial - Office);
• conduct land use analysis to assess non-conforming lots;
• a matrix of current zoning ordinance requirements by zone to identify redundancies and gaps;
• create approval and permitting process flow chart to gauge language clarity and to identify if current practices align with the stated procedures.
“Our Village Attorney, Randy Autio, will be working with us step-by-step to ensure the legality of the work, plus add his experience as needed into the process,” Curry said, explaining that the tasks outlined above “represent data collection and research, outreach and input gathering, preparation of a document, and we will be able to update the Zone Map.
“These processes can be challenging, but we believe that with our knowledge base within the village, plus with the technical assistance of MRCOG, we will be successful.” Among the current hot topics sure to be addressed are the threat of increased residential density due to proliferation of “casitas” (secondary housing units in zones where only one dwelling per acre is permissible) and short-term rentals, as well as proposals for senior living complexes.
At the December 8 Village Council meeting, Councillor Stuart Murry requested a report from Curry on the Village’s regulations for casitas and short-term rentals. Corraleños’ concerns are growing over an apparent erosion of protections against increased housing density here. It came to a head earlier this year when a home builder erected a casita at the same time he built a new home on West Ella Drive. (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 this past summer riled neighbors, including the mother of former Mayor Scott Kominiak. The former mayor said the current administration has played favorites for what some villagers consider violations of the Village’s net one-acre subdivision rules.
“This is about administrations and building inspectors signing off on things that do not comply with our code, unless you jump through three or four loopholes, while they hold long-term residents hostage to strict interpretation of the code as they see it,” Kominiak explained in an email to Corrales Comment August 17.
The construction site on West Ella Drive was 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. “You can have a refrigerator, a microwave, a sink and anything else, but you just can’t have a stove and oven.” Wingfield said the project underway obtained all the permits and approvals through the Corrales Planning and Zoning Department. Since the earliest days of Corrales’ incorporation as a municipality in 1971, a bedrock policy has been adherence to low-density housing. Candidates for elective office here have always vowed to protect the one-acre minimum lot size rule. But even going back to the early 1970s, many Corrales properties already had casitas which were often rented for extra income. Commonly, property owners would seek permission for secondary dwellings so that a relative or other caregiver could assist an ailing or aged resident in the big house. But even such hardship cases were often denied.
Still, for many Corraleños, it has been a truism that sooner or later the one-acre minimum rule would fall. If and when that day comes, the quality of Corrales’ drinking water will become an unavoidable issue due to septic leachfields. Last summer, 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.”
At that time, Stout said the mayor and council may try to tighten up relevant regulations. That review will apparently get under way next year, Curry told Corrales Comment December 11. “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.,” Stout said. “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.”
Controversy over increased requests to operate short-term rentals in Corrales burst into public view in late 2019. when a real estate investor began using the former church building at 5220 Corrales Road for rentals. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXVIII No.17 November 23, 2019 “Law Would Restrict Disruptive AirBnB Rentals.”)
At its August 21, 2019 session, the Corrales Planning and Zoning Commission grilled the late Nick Mystrom about his plans to use the residence as a rental through Airbnb. He had come before P&Z seeking approval for a home occupation permit, while admitting he had been renting it out for more than a year, several times for wedding events.
Several residents in the neighborhood attended the commission meeting to complain that activities, especially parties, at 5220 Corrales Road were disruptive and unpleasant. Mystrom died September 25, and the property changed hands. The incidents described by neighbors were just the latest complaints arising from rentals in residential areas; often problems have arisen when rowdy guests rent Corrales homes for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.
At the November 2019 Village Council meeting, where councillors agreed to post and publish an ordinance to establish better control over short-term rentals, and collect lodgers’ tax and gross receipts tax on such rentals, Stout reported “It is estimated that we have about 100 short-term rentals operating in the village,” Stout said. “Right now, we have no way to regulate them. This new ordinance will give us the tools to do that.”
The new law was adopted and later amended to better control parking and to clarify how many people could stay in such facilities at any given time. But those changes have not resolved the issues. A former member of the Corrales Planning and Zoning Commission, Mike Sorce told Corrales Comment December 12 that he had been called by a man in Wisconsin recently who wanted to buy his home near the top of West Ella Drive to use it for short-term rentals as an investment property.
The caller told Sorce he represented a group of investors who wanted to buy homes in Corrales for that purpose. Sorce warns that the Village needs to take action now to better control short-term rentals including Airbnbs. “If we don’t, we’re going to get overrun with these mini-motels.” Other communities around New Mexico have taken steps to meet the problem. On December 10, the Santa Fe City Council approved major changes to its regulations on short-term rentals.
Among the changes: no more than 1,000 permits will be allowed for short-term rentals in Santa Fe, no person can have more than one permit and no unit can be rented out more frequently than once in a seven-day period. The Village of Los Ranchos and the City of Albuquerque also have taken action, or are preparing to do so.
Los Ranchos Planning and Zoning Director Tiffany Justice explained the primary concerns this way. “Impact to Long-Term Housing Options: Short-term rentals can remove houses from the market and create neighborhoods of vacant homes during off-seasons. “Impact on Neighbors (character, sense of community, nuisances): Short-term rentals can change the character of a residential neighborhood to commercial if there are many of them on the same street, as there would be fewer familiar faces in the neighborhood. The likelihood of nuisance (noise, on-street parking, traffic, events) also increases as those who rent short-term rentals are usually on vacation or sometimes renting for a special event.
“Competition with Lodging Industry: In communities with a lot of tourism, short-term rentals collectively are a competitor to the established lodging industry, and there is a desire to ‘level the playing field.’”
No Starlight Parade this year, and no St. Nick community party, but a Christmas lights display has been assembled as a drive-by event at the Corrales Recreation Center. Colorful lights decorating the Village’s dump trucks, road graders, old fire trucks and other vehicles are illuminated each evening at dusk for motorists and families to enjoy while briefly passing the parking area at the east end of the rec center.
Those decorated vehicles will be parked and displayed right adjacent to the front playing field so that most of the parking lot will still be available for the Corrales Growers’ Market which holds its last market Sunday, December 20. Parks and Recreation Director Lynn Siverts said the parking of privately owned vehicles will not be allowed; only Village government equipment will be in the display. The event is not meant to be a stationary substitute for the popular Starlight Parade.
Due to COVID-19 concerns, visitors to the display will not be allowed to come into the parking area. The lights are to be enjoyed drive-by only, Siverts emphasized. “You’re not supposed to park and go in to look at it,” he said. The display will remain up and lit through December 28.