Posts in Category: 2021 – Jan 23

2021 JANUARY 23 ISSUE: VILLAGE ATTORNEY CONTRACT APPROVED

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.

2021 JANUARY 23 ISSUE: JANET RUTH’S CHECKLIST FOR BIRDS IN CORRALES RELEASED

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.”

2021 JANUARY 23 ISSUE: ART UP! ONLINE SHOW; FOSTERING YOUTH VOICES THROUGH CREATIVITY

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.

2021 JANUARY 23 ISSUE: 28 NEW HOMES BUILT HERE IN 2020, 1 MORE THAN IN 2019

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.

2021 JANUARY 23 ISSUE: LOBBYING EFFORT FOR N.M. HEALTH CARE SOLUTION

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.

2021 JANUARY 23 ISSUE: N.M. REDISTRICTING COMMISSION PROPOSED

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.

2021 JANUARY 23 ISSUE: MARG ELLISTON, DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIR

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.

2021 JANUARY 23 ISSUE: SHORT-TERM RENTAL PLAN GETS P&Z OK

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?

Kline: Right.

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?

Kline: Yes.

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.

2021 JANUARY 23 ISSUE: TYSON PARKER CHOSEN TO FILL COUNCIL VACANCY

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.

2021 JANUARY 23 ISSUE: 10-ACRE BOSQUE WETLANDS PROJECT AIRED FOR JONES CHANNEL OUTLET


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.”

2021 JANUARY 23 ISSUE: CORRALES SEEKS $1.9 MILLION FOR FIRE DEPT. WATER LINES

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 bgmckenna@gmail.com. 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.

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