With that “extra” $4.7 million discovered last year still unspent, intact and sitting in reserve, the Village Council has approved a budget for the next fiscal year that anticipates revenues of $5.9 million in the general fund. As always, the biggest chunks of that would go to the Police Department ($1,216,796) and Fire Department ($753,026). Corrales’ preliminary budget has been submitted to the N.M. Department of Finance and Administration for review and corroboration before the FY21-22 starts July 1.
Parks and Recreation expects to spend $440,198; Corrales Library $260,218; Public Works $440,854; Planning and Zoning $336,938; and Municipal Court $172,429. According to the budget approved, another big slice goes to “General Services” for $902,337, while Finance/Administration is to get $916,028.
Where will that money come from? Mostly gross receipts tax (much of it apportioned from GRT collected around the state) and property taxes. Property tax coming to Corrales in the next fiscal year is expected to reach $1,736,621, and a mix of GRT collections destined for Corrales coffers would be $3,221,007.
Every little bit helps, of course. Sale of Corrales license plates is expected to bring in $1,500, and noise permits $200. Among those more miscellaneous sources of revenue are swimming pool fees at $55,000, rent of public facilities $29,000 and animal impound fees $2,500.
Village Administrator Ron Curry said May 30 he is optimistic that income for Village government will improve in the coming fiscal year. “We are projecting a five percent increase in revenue, and we believe that’s fairly conservative.”
He said Corrales businesses are starting to bounce back after pandemic closures and property taxes will stay strong. Some help is expected from the federal government’s pandemic economic recoverly spending, he said without speculating how much that might be.
Curry was asked specifically about what became of the “found” $4.7 million that had been found sitting in a reserve account. None of it has been spent, he assured. “We want to be as conservative about that as possible. But of course, with savings interest rates being what they are, that sum is not growing much at all.”
Curry offered possible clarification for what seemed to be a random conversation at the May 25 council meeting about prospects that the Village might consider buying property. He pointed out that at the council’s budget work-study session last month, former Councillor Fred Hashimoto had asked that consideration be given to purchase of the front three acres of the Gonzales tract, adjacent to Wells Fargo Bank.
He and others have made that request repeatedly over the past five years, but he got no assurances that is likely to happen during the next fiscal year.
A tax rate review and recalculation was conducted for all New Mexico employers by the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions (NMDWS) under the provisions of the Small Business Recovery Act of 2020. Revised notices were sent out informing employers if their rate increased, decreased, or was unchanged from the notices sent in November 2020.
NMDWS recalculated the tax rate for over 50,000 contributory employers to omit benefit charges, employer wages, and contributions for the period of March 1, 2020 through June 30, 2020. As a result of the recalculation, roughly 9,000 employers had their tax rate for 2021 decrease when compared to the rate initially issued in November 2020. Roughly 2,000 employers received a tax rate increase and the remaining employers’ rates remained unchanged.
Local nonprofit organization Albuquerque Involved brought together community-minded teens from across Albuquerque during the pandemic. The Albuquerque Involved Mentee (AIM) program was designed to help high school students discover and interact with local non-profits. Through AIM, teens learn how the non-profit grant application and funding process works. For the 2020-2021 school year, students met remotely to have the experience of designing an application and evaluation process for grants.
Through a gift from Nancy Croker and Joe Gorvetzian, the program awarded grants to three Albuquerque non-profits out of 45 applications received. The successful grant recipients, each receiving $3,333, were Paws and Stripes, New Mexico Alliance for School-Based Health Care and United Voices for Newcomer Rights.
The abandoned, trashed-looking mobile home left along the Corrales Main Canal last month attracted lots of humor.
Before it was dismantled and hauled away in late May, the not-so-mobile home generated guffaws and smirk when signs were affixed offering it for rent or designating it as a police substation.
Indeed, a Corrales police car was often parked nearby, some thought to nab the person or persons who had littered the roadway.
But Police Chief Vic Mangiacapra said May 29 that the owner had been identified, and that the mobile home was being removed from a nearby location as directed by the Village’s land use code enforcement officer.
”The owner was in the process of moving the trailer off of a nearby property as a result of a code enforcement case, but didn’t make it very far,” Mangiacapra said. “The officers were keeping an eye out just to make sure it didn’t turn into the neighborhood playground before getting hauled off.”
No clarification was offered at the May 25 Village Council meeting when Village Clerk Aaron Gjullin reported that “it is now gone and we will move forward with other items related to it.”
Neither he nor Village Administrator Ron Curry explained what those other items might be. Curry said it was dismantled and hauled away in a dumpster because that was easier that trying to right it on reliable wheels to be towed away.
Two sculptures by the late John Keyser have been donated to the Village of Corrales by the artist’s family. A dedication ceremony for the metal works installed at the Recreation Center will be held Sunday, June 13.
“It is now 10 years since John’s passing,” his wife, Sybil Keyser, said in announcing the donation. “One piece sits at the entrance to the gym at the rec center and the other is by Liam’s Pond, where Art Edelhoff is rebuilding the shade structure where the “Geese” are standing to incorporate John’s art.”
The dedication ceremony begins at 10:30 a.m. and will continue until noon.
Keyser worked from his metal art studio on West Meadowlark Lane about 100 yards west of Corrales Road. Perhaps most Corraleños have seen his art since it is welded to the top of wall outside the studio.
He was 59 when he died June 8, 2011.
An artist with interests ranging from philosophy to horse training and chicken-raising, Keyser moved to Corrales in the mid-1970s, part of that era’s influx of talented, creative people committed to a sustainable lifestyle.
The structure he built along Meadowlark Lane in 1976 was meant as an art studio, but it evolved into the family home. As his success in art progressed, he built another studio nearby from which he produced the metal artwork and functional art furniture featured by high-end retailers such as Harrods of London and Nieman Marcus.
Born in Wilmington, Delaware, he earned a degree at the Maryland Institute of Art in Baltimore. He and his wife, who lived in the same apartment building while she studied at Antioch, moved to New Mexico to pursue a master’s degree in fine art.
While a student at UNM, he won the State of New Mexico’s first “One Percent for the Arts” commission. The piece he produced, “Static Motion,” still stands on the UNM campus, and has been recognized for its importance by the Smithsonian Institution.
Many of Keyser’s commissioned artworks will continue to be seen around Corrales for decades to come, including gates, doorways and furniture. He also created the “Dance of the Whooping Cranes” sculpture at the entrance to the Rio Grande Zoo.
His work was featured in a five-page spread in a 1990 issue of Better Homes & Gardens. Some of his home decor pieces became so popular he had to hire workers to produce the copyrighted designs sold in furniture stores and crafts shops across the country. The Kokopelli figure he created was installed in the Lincoln Center Museum.
His active lifestyle included kayaking, cycling and roping. He first became sick in 1999, his wife said, and when he began to recover, he concentrated on more site-specific works of art. Beginning around 2005, she said, he mainly did custom tables, fireplaces, gates and other commissioned work.
Renewed discussion of possible regulations on construction of walls and fences along Corrales Road could come at the June 15 Village Council meeting.
The council’s summer schedule voided the regular meeting that would have fallen on June 8. At the last meeting in May, Councillor Zach Burkett asked that the next agenda include an update on possible amendments that would protect the scenic quality along Corrales Road.
This spring, he and other council members asked the Corrales Planning and Zoning Commission to make recommendations for an ordinance that would restrict tall and/or opaque barriers adjacent to the Corrales Road Scenic Byway. As of the May 25 council meeting, the commission had not forwarded a proposed ordinance.
In those earlier discussions. councillors said they favored the approach taken by the Village of Los Ranchos to protect scenery along Rio Grande Boulevard in the North Valley.
Those regulations were explained as follows by Corrales Planning and Zoning Administrator Laurie Stout. “Los Ranchos uses the idea of low and open walls/fences. They restrict height of all fences to six feet. Solid walls within the front setback can only be four feet with an option to add additional open fencing on top of that to a maximum of six feet total. No solid wall or fence shall be located within the clear sight triangle of a driveway and a public or private right-of-way.”
At the March 23, 2021 council meeting, all members of the governing body supported the goal of protecting scenic quality along Corrales Road, possibly with a new ordinance modeled after that used for Rio Grande Boulevard.
Councillor Kevin Lucero made the point that any decisions on this issue will have implications for the quality of life in Corrales for decades. “The decisions we make in the coming months will determine what Corrales looks like over the next ten, 20, 25 years. What we want Corrales to look like for future generations.”
But those decisions will need to balance landowners privacy rights with protecting scenic quality, he noted.
Burkett tried to head off the controversy that scuttled the 2011 draft law by saying he did not expect any regulation that would apply to roads except Corrales Road and possibly the historic zone near the Old Church and San Ysidro Museum. To try to include other neighborhoods would be opening a can of worms, he cautioned.
But the council steered clear of imposing a moratorium on construction of view-blocking walls ahead of any new ordinance.
Instead the mayor and councillors directed the Corrales Planning and Zoning Commission to submit recommendations for an ordinance that would limit the height and opaqueness of new walls or fences along Corrales Road. They suggested new regulations might mirror those for Rio Grande Boulevard.
Councillor Zach Burkett led discussion at the March 23 council meeting. No target date was indicated for the P&Z commission to make recommendations.
The current push to protect scenic views began shortly after erection of tall cinder block walls fronting Corrales Road at the south end of the valley. Councillor Burkett said he regretted that such walls had been permitted and asked that the council consider what might be done to prevent the same from happening all along the road.
A former chairman of the P&Z commission, architect Terry Brown, had tried to persuade the Village Council to pass such an ordinance 10 years ago, but councillors balked and the initiative died. The biggest stumbling block was that the 2011 draft ordinance seemed to apply to other roadways throughout Corrales and at intersections where walls would block visibility. The council sent the draft back to P&Z for more work, but a revision was never submitted.
(See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXX No.2, March 6, 2021 “Council Revives Interest in Corrales Road Scenic Quality.”)
Councillor Stu Murray asked whether Burkett thought scenic views from Loma Larga ought to be addressed as well. Burkett suggested that might complicate finding a solution.
“I don’t see that views along Loma Larga are that much of an issue,”Burkett responded. “But more importantly, that would open up a can of worms” since Corrales Road is a scenic byway, a specific area, which is also true for the designated historic district. Beyond those, he said, the Village would likely have a difficult time defending why some other roadways would be protected and not others. “That would make this conversation a lot harder.”
Councillor Tyson Parker concurred. If regulations for Loma Larga were imposed, what would be the rationale for deciding not to protect views on other roads. “What about one block from that area? What about two blocks from that area? It gets to be more of a can of worms.”
Councillor Mel Knight also advised against such regulations for Loma Larga, not because the drive lacks scenic quality but because the relative elevation of Loma Larga allows vistas to the east to see open spaces over any existing walls. “Even though there are some walls that have already been built, you can still kind of see over them, because the elevation of Loma Larga is higher than the east side of that road. So I agree that Corrales Road and the historic district are the prime areas that we need to look at as far as restricting walls.”
Planning and Zoning Administrator Stout was asked to evaluate the Los Ranchos ordinance to protect scenery along Rio Grande Boulevard and whether it achieves a balance for landowners’ privacy.
“What the Los Ranchos ordinance does is that it allows a modicum of privacy since you’ve got your walls to a certain extent but with an open pattern at the top. And they also have setbacks that we can look at for a front fence. That would be another option.
“It allows people to keep their animals in and keep other animals out, as the case may be. As you drive down Rio Grande Boulevard, it is a delightful experience. You can see the farmland, the large lots, the architecture. Corrales Road is a scenic byway, so looking at an ordinance would certainly be appropriate to balance the rights of the property owner with the overall feel that we want to keep here in Corrales.”
Mayor Jo Anne Roake summarized. “At this point I can see things coalescing around focusing on a couple of areas in town, such as the scenic byway and the historic area to start with and maybe creating an ordinance that has Los Ranchos as a model to keep kind of a balance” between scenic quality and landowners’ privacy.
Burkett said March 1 he was researching what might be done to revive the status of Corrales Road as a designated scenic byway and what might be done to bolster that status.
Former Corrales Planing and Zoning Commission Chairman Terry Brown has made that a high priority since at least 2010.
In a power point presentation to the Corrales Planning and Zoning Commission on April 12, 2011, Brown demonstrated what has been lost by view-blocking walls along Corrales Road and what has been preserved by see-through fences and low walls.
But for other Corraleños, the idea that Village officials might tell them what kind of fence is permissible reeks of governmental over-reach and offends libertarian values.
At the December 8, 2020 Village Council meeting, Councillor Burkett said he would like to see incentives by Village government to encourage other styles of walls or fences that do not inhibit views.
He said he wanted the council to address the issue after seeing such tall, solid walls erected by builder Steve Nakamura on two properties at the south end of Corrales over the past year.
Similar long walls have gone up adjacent to Corrales Road at the north end in recent years, creating what Brown has referred to as a “canyon” effect that destroy the scenic quality for which Corrales has been known for many years.
When Brown heard of Burkett’s interest, he said he looked forward to collaborating on a proposal to address the worsening situation. “When I was chair of the Corrales Planning and Zoning Commission, the last issue I tried to get a reluctant council to approve was a recommendation for a requirement for a partially open wall ordinance along Corrales Road.
“The new CMU walls being built by Mr. Nakamura at the south end of Corrales are the antithesis of what Corrales needs,” Brown added.
“Look at the fencing along Rio Grande. This is what I envision for our village, and what is desperately needed to protect the views along the Corrales ‘scenic byway.’”
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 was 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.”
Corrales psychologist and art innovator Michael Baron has recently completed a large, wooden wall hanging as a statement on America’s divisions.
Some of his earlier assemblages of wood dowels were shown in the July 19, 2014 issue of Corrales Comment. His earliest work became table tops and other furniture.
His latest piece “Bridging Divides,” has been mounted on a wall in his Corrales home.
“After the election was called November 7 last year, my five-year hiatus from wood mosaic artwork ended with a five-month project, “Bridging Divides,” completed April 7 and hung just three days ago,” Baron explained.
“Our country’s divides widened in recent years …or have just been made more painfully obvious. Through the efforts of so many willing to see we are all on this globe for but a minuscule period during this delectable tease called ‘Life,’ maybe we stand a better chance of bridging divides.”
His wood mosaic art can be seen at http://www.artofdowel.com.
The Corrales Equestrian Advisory Commission will be sponsoring an equine de-spooking clinic at the Corrales TopForm Arena Saturday June 19 from 9 a.m to 2 p.m. There is no charge for the clinic, which is designed to build confidence in horse and rider and to acclimate horses to the various difficulties and challenges they might encounter along the trail. “We will have all kinds of obstacles, from tarps to bridges and balloons set up with experts on hand to guide riders safely through the course,” said Bon Bagley of the CEAC. “This is an important safety training opportunity for riders.” Two sessions will be held: riders up to 16 may attend the morning session, from 9 to 11 a.m. Adults can come to the afternoon session from 11:30 to 2 p.m.
The Village is set to preserve in perpetuity another 10 acres of farmland at the north end of Corrales. It is the Phelps Farm on the east side of Corrales Road where Trees of Corrales has had a tree nursery for its wholesale business in recent years. It is a little south of the intersection with Romero Road, one of the main entrances to the Bosque Preserve.
At the May 25 Village Council meeting, an option to purchase a conservation easement on the land was approved unanimously. A final appraisal has yet to be made, but the Village is expected to pay approximately $780,000 to prevent the tract from being developed. The money has been generated from sale of general obligation (GO) bonds as directed by Corrales voters in the 2018 municipal election. Those bonds were issued to raise $2.5 million to be used for farmland preservation.
The 9.78-acre tract is owned by Courtenay and Anne Koontz, also owners of Trees of Corrales. The Village has until the end of October this year to exercise the option.
Last year, the Village acquired a similar easement on the Haslam family’s farm a little south of the Phelps land between the Main Canal and the Corrales Lateral irrigation ditch west of Corrales Road.
That earlier acquisition preserved 12 acres at a cost of approximately $960,000 from those GO bonds.
If the Village choses to exercise the option to purchase the Phelps easement, that will have essentially depleted revenue generated from that 2018 bond approval.
Through the farmland preservation program, the people of Corrales have removed at least 63 acres from residential development since it began in 2004. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXIII No.21 December 18, 2004 “Prospects Good for Another $360,000 USDA Grant to Save Farmland.”)
When voters here approved issuance of $2.5 million in GO bonds in 2004, Corrales became the first municipality in the state to establish a conservation easement program.
With those revenues secured as matching funds, the Village was successful in getting a $1.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). When all of the first round of GO bonds were spent, villagers were asked to approve a second issuance of $2.5 million in bonds to continue the program. Again, villagers enthusiastically said yes in 2018.
The proposed agreement for the new easement would reserve a half-acre parcel adjacent to the bosque for a future small residence and another half-acre site for a future farm-related building.
The agreement negotiated with the Koontz family describes the following benefits.
• “Public Recreation Value. The property will include a ‘public viewing area’ off of Corrales Road where the general public will be able to pull off and park and enjoy the unobstructed view of the farmland, bosque and Sandia Mountains. The area will offer four parking spaces and at least two viewing benches. The recreational value of this area is directly linked to bird watching and quiet enjoyment of the majestic views that the conserved property offers. The owner has agreed to contribute up to $10,000 for improvements made to this public viewing area. The owner would also ask the Village to help maintain the area (e.g. garbage collection, cleaning, and other maintenance) as well as include the area under the Village’s liability insurance policy for publicly accessible areas.
• “Farmland Preservation. The property consists of valuable irrigated farmland (prime and important soils) that has been in production for decades. The conservation easement will encumber the water rights to the property in perpetuity, meaning the water rights cannot be severed or separately sold from the Property and will only be used for agriculture or wildlife habitat purposes.
The owner believes they may have pre-1907 water rights, but that has yet to be determined.
• “Scenic Open Space. The property is located along, and directly adjacent to Corrales Road, the primary thoroughfare through the Village of Corrales. This portion of Corrales Road had an approximate 4,000-5,000 daily vehicle count in 2017. The property is visible by the general public from Corrales Road and from existing recreation trails within the Corrales Bosque Preserve.
• “Wildlife Habitat. Since the property is irrigated farmland, it serves as valuable habitat for migratory birds along international flyways and also provides habitat for a number of other native species.”
The agreement gives the following as “estimated property valuations,” important factors because the Village of Corrales will be prohibited from paying more than fair market value.
“A consulting appraisal was completed for the property by Hippauf, Dry & Connelly Real Estate Appraisers and Consultants in November of 2019. The consulting appraisal valued the property at $110,000 to $130,000/acre. Another appraisal was completed on the Haslam property in 2020 that placed the property value at approximately $127,000 per acre. The Haslam property is similar in size and location to the property, therefore, we can assume the “before” value of the Property will be approximately $130,000/acre or about $1,300,000 (rounded for planning purposes).
“Also, as part of the Haslam appraisal, it was noted that the diminution due to the conservation easement was approximately 60 percent with the reservation of one residential building envelope and one agricultural building envelope. This project will also have one residential building envelope and thus a diminution of approximately 60% is warranted for planning purposes.
“Therefore, the approximate value of the conservation easement is $780,000 +/-.”
In a section of the draft agreement headed “Suggested Conservation Strategy,” the following understandings are laid out.
“This strategy assumes the Koontz Family (“owners”) are paid the full value of the conservation easement by the Village of Corrales bond funds. If the Owners are interested in a partial donation to receive a state tax credit and federal income tax deductions, we can alter the strategy to reflect this approach.
“The option… shall expire on October 31, 2021.
“Purchase Price. In the event that the buyer exercises the option to purchase the easement over the conservation easement property, seller shall sell the easement to buyer by a direct conveyance to N.M. Land Conservancy of the easement over the conservation easement property for a minimum purchase (“floor price”) of $750,000.00. If valuation of the easement exceeds the floor price, buyer agrees to pay seller the floor price plus any amount that exceeds the floor price (“easement purchase price”). Buyer shall provide written “Floor Notice” to seller if buyer determines that the appraisal is less than the floor price. Seller may be excused from the obligation of selling the easement to buyer if seller is provided floor notice and seller provides buyer written notice of seller’s desire to be excused from this option to purchase the easement….”
Early in the Village’s program, the Farmland Preservation and Agricultural Commission developed a check-list for the easement program that has 14 “positive criteria,” including pre-1907 irrigation water rights, whether the parcel abuts an irrigation ditch, or is currently being farmed, as well as scenic quality, potential for wildlife habitat and whether there is strong neighborhood support.
Some confusion may still exist among villagers as to what, exactly, will be purchased. It is only the development right on those parcels that will be bought with municipal bond proceeds.
Ownership of the land continues to reside with the property owner who sells the easement. However, the property has a deed restriction saying it cannot be developed in any way other than as farmland or open space.
A USDA fact sheet described the concept as follows. “A conservation easement is an interest in land, as defined and delineated in a deed, whereby the landowner conveys specific rights, title and interests in a property to a State, Tribal or local government or non-governmental organization. The landowner retains those rights, title and interests in the property which are specifically reserved to the landowner in the easement deed, such as the right to farm.…
“A landowner submits an application to an entity… that has an existing farm or ranch land protection program. In exchange for payment, participating landowners agree not to convert their land to non-agricultural uses, and to develop and implement a conservation plan for any highly erodible land.”
The fact sheet on the USDA’s Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program further pointed out that “The value of a conservation easement usually is determined through a professional appraisal. A qualified appraiser assesses the difference between the fair market value of the property, often using comparable sales, and its restricted value under the easement.…
“The easements generally restrict non-farm development and subdivisions. Some farm-related housing may be allowed.… The easements become part of the land deed and are recorded in the local land records.”
On August 31, 2004 by a margin of nearly 5-to-1, Corrales voters approved issuance of municipal bonds to buy conservation easements on farmland here to keep it out of development. The 2004 bond election was the culmination of a 33-year commitment by villagers to keep their community rural.
At least 29 states in the United States have conservation easement programs to save farmland. Those have already secured at least 6.5 million acres for future agricultural use.
According to the American Farmland Trust, “Every day 2,000 acres of agricultural land are paved over, fragmented or converted to uses that jeopardize farming.”
Intel has requested financial assistance and tax breaks from the Sandoval County Commission, the City of Rio Rancho and the State of New Mexico to convert its factory between Corrales and Rio Rancho. Agreements with those governmental entities follow Intel’s announcement May 3 that it would invest $3.5 billion to upgrade and renovate Fab11X for mass production of its innovative laser-driven three-dimensional computer chips.
The Sandoval County Commission’s June 3 meeting included an ordinance “authorizing the use of County Local Economic Development Act [LEDA] funds between the County and Intel Corporation and sharing certain limited gross receipts taxes.”
Similar agreements have been composed involving the City of Rio Rancho and the State of New Mexico. The agreement with Sandoval County means that half of all gross receipts tax and compensating tax generated by Intel’s construction project will be reimbursed to Intel, and secondly, up to $500,000 in LEDA funds from the County’s program would be paid to Intel.
The “Project Participation Agreement” considered at the commission’s June 3 session has similar benefits for Intel except that the State LEDA funds would amount to $5 million.
Rio Rancho’s participation is described this way in the agreement. The City of Rio Rancho has agreed to support this expansion with local City LEDA assistance in the amount of up to $250,000 (City LEDA Funds”) This assistance is subject to appropriation approval by City’s Governing Body and the approval of an intergovernmental agreement between the City and the County.”
A fact sheet produced for the June 3 meeting stresses the point that “This is not an industrial revenue bond and does not negatively impact property taxes; no pilot payments.
“Over the next four years, [Sandoval County] pays t Intel $500,000 from existing LEDA funds. These funds already in account set aside in 2017 for economic development —no impact on County budget or general fund!
“Over next 10 years, [Sandoval County] pays Intel 50 percent of gross receipts tax or compensating taxes derived from their construction at the plant not required for any County debt service.”
All of these grants and tax reimbursements are predicated on Intel spending up to $3.5 billion on the plant expansion and equipment, as well as a hiring “target of 700 net new full-time employees at the facility by December 31, 2024” which would be expected to generate gobs of gross receipts tax.
But the participation agreement does contain a “clawback penalty” which Intel would have to pay if a minimum number of those jobs failed to materialize. It also includes a “facility closure clawback: “If the facility ceases operations in the county on or before Decembr 31, 2031, the company will repay to the County all LEDA funds that the company actually received from the County as of that date.…”
Curiously, the County Commission’s Ordinance No. 6-3-2021.8A cites a finding that would justify those benefits for Intel as follows. “The board hereby declared that it has considered all relevant information presented to it relating to the project and the agreement, and hereby finds and determines that the provision of economic development assistance for the project is necessary and advisable and in the interest of the public and will promote the public health, safety, morals, convenience, economy and welfare of the County and its residents.”
It was not clear from the agreement recitals how the plant expansion or the new computer chips will improve the citizenry’s morals. But there’s probably an imbedded algorithm for that.
During an announcement May 3, Intel officials said Fab 11X and other parts of the complex will be re-built and reconfigured to mass produce the innovative 3-D, layered chips referred to as Foveros technology that allow customized mix-and-match assemblages, expected to be most useful for advanced artificial intelligence and 5G applications.
The $3.5 billion project apparently will not need yet another round of industrial revenue bonds (IRBs) since proceeds remain from earlier bonds. Intel New Mexico began in 1980 with an IRB offering of $2 billion; another $8 billion was provided in 1993, and then $16 billion in 2004. In June 2019, the Sandoval County Commission extended Intel’s time frame for using the last bonds.
The Village Council is expected to vote on an ordinance clarifying regulations, and imposing new restrictions on, construction or conversion of secondary dwellings, commonly referred to as “casitas,” at its June 15 meeting. The council unanimously approved the draft ordinance at its May 25 session.
In the past, many Corrales property owners have rented out casitas or guesthouses in what other villagers consider a contravention of the Village’s “one home per acre” rule that dates back to the community’s incorporation as a municipality in 1971.
It’s a guaranteed perennial controversy, ebbing and rising with the times. Even though the intent of Corrales’ ordinances and regulations would seem to be clear —maintain a low residential density to retain a semi-rural ambiance and prevent drinking water contamination due to septic overload— good and compassionate exceptions have always been proposed.
Most often the rationale for non-compliance with the one-acre minimum lot size for a dwelling (two acres in the former Bernalillo County portion of Corrales) has been that living quarters were needed so that a son or daughter could look after an elderly, frail parent. Usually such a request for a variance or exception has been disallowed, even if the caregiver were living in a mobile home or trailer that would (or at least, could) be removed after the family crisis had passed.
More often than not, that secondary dwelling remained indefinitely as a rental because no one in Village government checked and because neighbors were reluctant to report the offense.
But the controversy heated up in recent years, especially as new homes were built on vacant lots along with a sizable secondary dwelling. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXX No.5 April 24, 2021 “Give Your Opinions About Impact of Casitas on Density, Well Water Quality.”)
But why, if Corrales’ zoning ordinances disallow two homes on a one-acre home site, would a building permit be granted for a casita, especially if that permit was requested at the exact some time that the primary house was to be constructed?
The answer is found in loopholes in the Village’s laws and particularly in how a “dwelling” is defined. In recent years, a second residence has not beenprohibited unless it has a kitchen, or a full kitchen. What, exactly, constitutes a kitchen? A room that has a cooking range? Or a new construction that is plumbed for a gas or electric range, even if one is not to be installed right away? What about a microwave appliance?
The amendment to be voted on June 15 attempts to settle the controversy with the following provisions. “Kitchen: means any room used, intended or designed to be used for cooking or the preparation of food or containing a range or oven, or utility connections suitable for servicing a range or oven.”
At that time, a further amendment to the definition of kitchen is expected, based on discussion among councillors at their May 25 meeting. Councillor Stu Murray offered a new meaning used in the 2015 International Building Code. A kitchen is a “space in a home designed to be used for the preparation of food.”
P&Z Administrator Stout said she liked the new definition. “I think that’s a good idea,” she affirmed. “I think that amendment would work just fine, and our office would be able to uphold that.”
The only hesitancy came from Councillor Tyson Parker, an architect, who cautioned that the new wording could have unintended consequences from circular logic.
Another key amendment defines a dwelling unit as “One or more rooms and a single kitchen designed as a unit for human occupancy/ habitation by one family for living and sleeping purposes, but not including recreational vehicles, travel trailers or converted buses, whether on wheels or a permanent foundation. A dwelling unit may be a mobile home, modular home, manufactured home or site-built house. It may also be an independent unit of an apartment, townhouse or other such multiple-unit residential structure, where allowed.”
Published below is the verbatim text of the proposed amendment to the Village of Corrales’ land use policy regarding casitas, guesthouses or accessory structures.
Proposed Ordinance No. 21-04
An ordinance amending Section 18-29 and 18-203 of the Village Land Use Code to provide clarity to the definitions of accessory structures, accessory use, kitchen and dwelling unit.
Whereas, the Village of Corrales Comprehensive Land Use Plan (2009) includes policy 2.3.1 which directs the Village to require the residential dwelling unit density to be limited to a maximum of one per lot, with a minimum lot size of one or two acres, depending on the zone, and; Whereas, New Mexico State Statute directs that the zoning ordinances should be in accordance with the comprehensive plan:
“the regulations and restrictions of the county or municipal zoning authority are to be in accordance with a comprehensive plan and be designed to:
1. Lessen congestion in the streets and public ways;
2. Secure safety from fire, floodwaters, panic and other dangers;
3. Promote health and the general welfare;
4. Provide adequate light and air;
5. Prevent the overcrowding of the land;
6. Avoid undue concentration of population;
7. Facilitate adequate provision for transportation, water, sewerage, schools, parks and other public requirements; and
8. Control and abate the unsightly use of buildings or land”, and;
Whereas, as per Village Code Section 18-28 (a) “any use not classified as a permissive use or a use by review within a particular zone is hereby prohibited from that zone”, and;
Whereas, in accordance with the Comprehensive Land Use Plan, Village ordinances limit density to one dwelling unit per lot, with a minimum lot size of one acre in A-1 Agricultural and Rural Residential, Historical, and Neighborhood Commercial zones and two acres in A-2 Agricultural and Rural Residential zone. (Dwelling units are not a permissive use in Professional Office or Municipal zones); and
Whereas, a Dwelling Unit as defined in Village Code Sections 18-29 Definitions and Section 18-203 “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”, and;
Whereas, a Kitchen as defined in Village Code Sections 18-29 “means any room 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”, and;
Whereas, in addition to a dwelling unit, the zoning ordinance allows for an “accessory structure” to be built on residentially and commercially zoned lots. An Accessory Structure as defined in Village Code Section 18-29 states “Accessory uses and structures means uses and structures which are clearly incidental and subordinate to principal uses and structures located on the same property” and;
Whereas, despite the above-mentioned regulations limiting density to one dwelling unit per lot, secondary dwelling units, sometimes known as “casitas”, have periodically been constructed in Corrales.
This occurs when an accessory structure is legally constructed on a lot already containing a dwelling unit, and the accessory structure is subsequently converted to another dwelling unit via the addition of an oven or range, and;
Whereas, the “oven/range or utility connections suitable for servicing one” is the only distinguishing feature separating an accessory structure from a dwelling unit, and;
Whereas, the Village of Corrales has no municipal water or sewer with the majority of lots nearly entirely on-site water (well) and septic, low density development is not only an aesthetic issue but a health and safety concern, and;
Now, therefore be it ordained that, the following amendments to the zoning ordinance shall be adopted to provide clarity and better implement the intended regulations of the Village of Corrales Comprehensive Plan and the zoning ordinance.
Section 18-29 Accessory uses and structures definition will be deleted in its entirety and replaced by:
Accessory Building or Structure means a building detached from and incidental and subordinate to the dwelling unit and located on the same lot, such as a detached garage, workshop, or studio. It may have a half bathroom but no shower or tub and may not contain bedrooms or a kitchen. It shall not be used as a dwelling (for human occupancy/ habitation.)
Accessory Use: A use of land or of a building or portion thereof that is incidental and subordinate to the main use of the land and building and located on the same lot with the main use.
Section 18-29 and Section 18-203 Dwelling Unit definition shall be deleted in its entirety and replaced by:
Dwelling Unit: One or more rooms and a single kitchen designed as a unit for human occupancy/ habitation by one family for living and sleeping purposes, but not including recreational vehicles, travel trailers or converted buses, whether on wheels or a permanent foundation. A dwelling unit may be a mobile home, modular home, manufactured home or site-built house. It may also be an independent unit of an apartment, townhouse or other such multiple-unit residential structure, where allowed.
Section 18-29 Kitchen definition shall be revised as follows:
Kitchen: Means any room used, intended or designed to be used for cooking or the preparation of food or containing a range or oven, or utility connections suitable for servicing a range or oven.
Last year and earlier this year, villagers protested construction of a large dwelling along side a new home on West Ella Drive which looked like a clear violation of the one-home-per-lot rule.
After receiving a letter from several villagers in August 2020 expressing concerns about the construction of casitas, the Planning and Zoning Commission began a review of existing ordinances. (See Corrales Comment’s Vol.XXXIX No.12 September 5, 2020 “West Ella ‘Casita’ Scrutinized,” )
Two P&Z subcommittees and the commission as a whole gathered information and research on the secondary dwelling units that exist here.
P&Z Administrator Laurie Stout, who has steered the project, has defined a casita as “a structure used for human habitation that is separate from the primary dwelling unit on a lot,” at least for the purposes of this exploration.
At a January 26, 2021 session, the Village Council voted five-to-one to impose a 180-day moratorium on permits to build secondary dwellings on lots and on applications to operate short-term rental. The council noted that “the size of accessory structures is virtually unregulated, sometimes resulting in what appears to be two homes on one lot,” and that such residences “are being utilized for the commercial purpose of providing short-term rental accommodations.”
It was noted that “the proliferation of loosely-regulated accessory structures being used as short- and long-term rentals has the potential for far-reaching deleterious effects on the village, including negatively impacting neighborhoods with greater numbers of vehicles and persons not previously present and increasing the effective density above that permitted or intended in the A-1 an A-2 zoning districts.”
Stout clarified March 12, 2021 that "the applications for short-term rentals that we are unable to process are those in accessory structures only. Short-term rental permit applications that are all or part of the dwelling unit on a lot may still be accepted and forwarded to the Planning and Zoning Commission for consideration.”
A comprehensive report was produced that includes the following executive summary.
“For this review the commission identified the following essential question:
What requirements, if any, should the Village of Corrales place on the construction and use of casitas?
Two committees of P&Z commissioners were formed in September 2020, one to review the existing ordinances related to casitas as well as relevant ordinances from surrounding communities and the other to gather information regarding the environmental impacts of increased population density, primarily regarding water and wastewater. What follows is an attempt to frame the issue and share the findings of the commission to date.
Our Rural Atmosphere. There has been a long-standing desire of Corraleños to maintain a rural agricultural atmosphere in the village. The most recent Comprehensive Land Use Plan for the Village of Corrales (2009) states that “The Village requirement that single residential units be located on one- or two-acre lots was established just after incorporation in 1971 with the purpose of maintaining Corrales’ rural atmosphere (p. 24).”
The ordinance language governing permissive uses in Zone A-1 Rural Agricultural and A-2 supports this goal:
• Section 18-28 (a) states “Any use not classified as a permissive use or a use by review within a particular zone is hereby prohibited from that zone.”
• Section 18-33(1) Purposes and intents. The purpose of this zone is to maintain a rural and open space character of lands within the Village with low density residential and agricultural development.
• Section 18-33(2) Permissive uses. (a/b/c) One single-family dwelling unit/manufactured house/mobile home unit per lot.
• Section 18-33(2) Permissive uses. (f) Accessory uses and structures. (According to the definition of accessory uses and structures (18-29), this “means uses and structures which are clearly incidental and subordinate to principal uses and structures located on the same property.”)
• Section 18-33(3) Density. The maximum density shall be limited to one dwelling unit per net acre.
(Note that these regulations are for Zone A-1 but they are similar in most regards to the regulations for Zone A-2.)
However, casitas existed in Corrales prior to incorporation of the Village in 1971. Since incorporation, some accessory structures, e.g. studios or stables, have been converted to casitas and casitas have at times been built without the knowledge or permission of the P&Z Department. There may have been uneven enforcement of the ordinances. On top of that, some ordinance language seems to muddy the waters, creating a challenge for our Planning & Zoning Department.
A Lack of Clarity. There is no mention of casitas in our ordinances. In Section 18-29 a dwelling unit is defined as “… 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 conjunction, and, is a concern; an accessory structure with connecting rooms and no kitchen is technically and legally not a dwelling unit. The definition of a kitchen states “The presence of a range or oven, or utility connections suitable for servicing a range or oven, shall be considered as establishing a kitchen.” Thus an accessory structure with no plumbing or wiring for a range or oven is, technically and legally, not a dwelling unit and so is allowed as an accessory structure. Thus it appears there is a lack of clarity in the language of the permissive uses.
Is There A Problem with Casitas? There are several reasons why property owners might want to build a casita. They might want a place for elderly parents or other family members to live. They might want a place for a personal assistant or other employee to live; this could be important for elderly or disabled residents. They might want a place for guests to stay. They might want to generate short-term rental income.
But there are downsides that arise when residents build and occupy accessory dwellings. These are primarily related to increased population density. First, there is the matter of the rural agricultural environment that Corraleños desire. More buildings mean less open land, plain and simple. There is also the matter of traffic —greater density means more people driving on roads, many of which are unpaved, contributing to wear and tear, increased maintenance and increased dust and noise. And then there is the matter of our water.
“Drinking your neighbors’ sewage.” While Corrales is blessed with a robust aquifer, it does not have a municipal water system or wastewater treatment facility. We all have domestic wells and nearly all of us have septic systems. In places the water table is very shallow, necessitating the use of mounded septic systems and advanced treatment systems. This is a matter of serious concern. As noted by Dennis McQuillan, Liquid Waste Program Manager of the New Mexico Environmental Department (NMED) in the report, Groundwater Contamination by Septic Tank Effluents (2006), people living in areas with domestic wells and a high density of septic systems risk “Drinking your neighbors’ sewage.”
This is not really news for Corrales. In 2005 McQuillan prepared a report, Groundwater Quality in Corrales. He noted —and this was 15 years ago— that “Corrales was selected for a hydrogeologic investigation because of the large number of small lots (less than 3/4 acre) developed with on-site wells and septic systems.” The first line of the abstract reads, “Septic tank effluents have adversely impacted ground-water quality in the Village of Corrales.”
He notes that “… there have been many historic reports by well users in the area of water quality problems such as high iron and the presence of hydrogen sulfide gas.” While some of these pollutants occur naturally in the inner Rio Grande Valley, much of it can be attributed to bacteria that are feeding on organic waste and using oxygen from naturally-occurring iron and sulfur oxides due to low free oxygen levels in the soil. This results in rusty toilet bowls and a rotten egg smell, not to mention possible negative effects on our health. Nitrate levels are also high, particularly in the areas west of the main canal. As our population grows and the population density increases, the pollutant load in our groundwater can only increase.
Corrales is currently the only local municipality that relies primarily on septic systems for liquid waste disposal.
All of the others (Albuquerque, Los Ranchos, Rio Rancho, Bernalillo) have wastewater treatment systems. The Village has taken some measures to address the wastewater issue by installing a liquids-only wastewater effluent pipeline that accepts effluent from individual septic tanks located along Corrales Road and conveys it to a treatment plant in Albuquerque. There are plans to expand this pipeline to other areas, but this is a limited solution.
What Are the Options? Any potential regulations regarding casitas must hinge on the protection of groundwater quality. Given the importance of limiting groundwater contamination, the P&Z has identified three options for Corraleños to consider regarding casitas.
• We could ban future construction of casitas.
• We could allow the future construction of casitas subject to limitations imposed by state or local environmental law. By state statute §126.96.36.1991(E) NMAC a one-acre lot, for example, is allowed a septic system design flow rate of not more than 500 gallons per day. This correlates with a design flow rate for a five-bedroom dwelling or a two-bedroom primary dwelling with a one-bedroom casita (§188.8.131.52(P)(1) NMAC). Larger lots are allowed more bedrooms in accordance with the statutes.
• We could allow the future construction of casitas only if they are connected to an off-site wastewater treatment system.
It is important to note that only the third option addresses the ongoing contamination of our groundwater. The other two have the potential to reduce but not eliminate future increases in groundwater pollution.
The commission sought input from Corraleños via a survey and public meetingswhich was to be used to develop recommendations to the Village Council for possible changes to the ordinances to best reflect community’s needs and desires.
We encourage members of the community to review the supporting documents compiled by the commission. These can be found on the Village website, corrales-nm.org, then ‘I’m Looking For,’ then Key Documents Directory, then Casitas Executive Summary and Supporting Documents. It also is available on the website home page, Latest News tab, same link title.
We look forward to your input and a robust discussion.”
Among the questions in a P&Z commission survey earlier this year were those seeking attitudes about casitas are around the following topics:
• Should the Village limit the size of new casitas to a certain percentage of the size of the primary residence?
• Should the Village limit te total number of bedrooms in all dwellings on a lot, including casitas?
• Should the Village allow new casitas only on lots that are one acre or larger?
Respondents were asked to indicate the degree to which they agree or disagree. In another section of the survey, respondents were asked how concerned they are about topics such as groundwater quality, population density and noise that might be associated with casitas.
In Mayor Jo Anne Roake’s weekly message May 28, she stated the intention of revisions to Chapter 18 of the Village’s Code of Ordinances is “to make our land use regulations more uniform, easier to follow and to enforce.
“The completed product is due at the end of 2021. This regulatory clean-up is not intended to change policy. Review and possible changes to Village land use policy is best achieved with a new Comprehensive Plan, after extensive public participation and study.
“With council approval, work on a new Comprehensive Plan could start in 2022,” the mayor wrote.
For a section at a time, traffic along Corrales Road will be constricted to just one lane as the roadway is being re-paved this month and probably next.
Initially the project was estimated to take two months from the start date at the south end, at Alameda Boulevard, to completion at the north end, at Highway 528 in Rio Rancho.
Village Administrator Ron Curry reported at the May 25 council meeting that the paving project would start Wednesday, June 2 and might take only 25 working days. Work would begin around 9 a.m. and conclude each day at 3 p.m., he indicated.
And the paving technique apparently has changed since the project was announced last month when it was described as accomplished in one pass, with the old asphalt being ripped up and mixed inside the same machine with fresh material laid down at the back end.
The revised plan, Curry said, is that the existing asphalt would be torn up and hauled away. That would be followed by re-paving with new asphalt. The Village Administrator was asked where the old asphalt would be dumped; relevant for some villagers because they have opposed the use of recycled asphalt on roadways here, especially along side irrigation ditches.
Curry said the old asphalt would be hauled to an area near the Balloon Fiesta Park in Albuquerque.
The highway department and the paving company have been cautioned to minimize disruptions to Corrales businesses. Corrales MainStreet’s Jim Kruger said it is “working very hard with local businesses to promote the village, and to make sure everyone knows that we will be open for business during the repaving project.”
Kruger advised villagers to watch for special promotions through BlueMail for Android.
The re-paving project has implications for the ongoing proposal to repaint crosswalks on Corrales Road. Now that will not be attempted until the new asphalt is in place. Earlier this year, the N.M. Transportation Department urged Village officials to reduce the number of sites along Corrales Road where crosswalks would be painted.
The Village has asked its Bicycle, Pedestrian Advisory Commission and its Equestrian Advisory Commission where crosswalks should go. The highway department apparently has resisted creating more of them, and asked that they be “consolidated.”
While discussing future crosswalks at the May 25 meeting councillors urged that the Village insist on having NMDOT install flashing lights at certain future crosswalks, such as those at Corrales Elementary and Cottonwood Montessori Schools.
As of May 31, the department had not committed to any additional infrastructure as part of the re-paving project —particularly no pathways or bike lanes in the road shoulder. As currently designed, the project would simply rip out and haul away the old asphalt and lay new material in the same location.
Early on, the estimate for re-paving, as opposed to re-construction, was $1.8 million.That hefty price tag was one reason the mayor and council have been reluctant to take ownership of State Road 448, as NMDOT has persistently urged for decades.
Last month, on short notice to Village officials, the state highway department said the re-paving would begin more or less right away. “This was quite a surprise to us, since there had been no talk about that at all,” Curry said.” We’re kind of baffled.”
The immediacy of the repaving project only came to light when the out-of-state paving company, Cutler Re-Paving, Inc., contacted Corrales Planning and Zoning Administrator Laurie Stout asking where it could park its equipment at night.
On May 13, N.M. Department of Transportation engineer Jill Mosher responded to Mayor Jo Anne Roake’s perplexed inquiry by explaining that the decision to start the project was tied to ongoing discussions about the Village perhaps taking ownership of Corrales Road.
The abrupt start-up was also based on the impending end of the fiscal year; the highway department had unspent funds that needed to be encumbered (or would be lost) by the end of June.
According to Mosher’s email to Mayor Roake, “I knew we were getting the funds encumbered, I did not know they were starting so quickly. I thought the conversations were basing around July, so I thought we had an opportunity to discuss this at the upcoming bimonthly meeting next week.
“We ended up being able to get some funds out of this fiscal year’s budget to help, and those have to be spent by the end of June,” Mosher explained.
“Yes, we are proceeding with paving the road as we had discussed previously. We have been trying to keep up with addressing potholes, but since we were planning on postponing/delaying other projects to help with the investment for a potential exchange, we decided to keep that plan regardless if the road is transferred [to Corrales] or not.
“In discussions with others involved in past projects in the area, the last time this project received this kind of maintenance treatment was over 20 years ago, which shows the life cycle of the roadway and overall condition that if the Village decides to proceed with transfer they would be receiving a maintained asset. As we discussed previously, there are many other benefits to a transfer, not just getting new pavement. I hope we can discuss more in the future since I was able to hear some of the concerns from the council.”
That email from Mosher to Roake apparently was triggered by an email from Corrales PZA Stout to Village Administrator Ron Curry at 1:02 p.m. Thursday, May, 13, headed “ Subject: Paving of Corrales Road
“I was just approached by a paving company hired by NMDOT to pave the entirety of Corrales Road. (They are wanting to park the equipment overnights and need to find a suitable place.)
“They will begin work at Alameda and move north, they said, and have Corrales Road down to one lane. Work begins May 24th and will last two months.
“In case you weren’t aware…”
The start date was revised to June 2.
Ongoing discussion about the possibility that the Village would take over Corrales Road and transform it into a municipal street intensified earlier this year. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXX No.4 April 10, 2021 “Take-Over of Corrales Road Presented at April 20 Council” and No.5 April 24 “Possible Take-Over of Corrales Road Unresolved.”)
For decades, Corrales Road was an unpaved dirt or gravel road that connected Corrales to Albuquerque, a typical farm-to-market route.
It finally became what is now State Highway 448 largely by prescriptive easement and was paved in 1946. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXVI No.3 April 8, 2017 “After 71 Years, Time to Re-Build Corrales Road.”)
Over more than a decade, NMDOT has urged the Village to take responsibility for Corrales Road on the grounds that it doesn’t really fit within the state highway system any longer. Each time the matter has come up, Village officials have resisted for a variety of reasons.
One of those is the high cost of maintaining the road. So in preliminary talks, Village officials insisted that NMDOT would have to transfer ownership only after the road was throughly updated and improved.
(See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXIX No.17 November 21, 2020 “Finally Time Now To Take Over Corrales Road?”)
For years, the prospect was clouded by NMDOT’s uncertainty over what it actually owned along Corrales Road. For decades, highway officials had said the department generally did not claim any right-of-way in Corrales beyond the edge of the pavement. That might have been true for much of the distance, since it was basically a common-use route which at some point the highway department agreed to pave and maintain —without formally acquiring right-of-way.
Finally about ten years ago, NMDOT contracted for a definitive property line survey along the entire length of Corrales Road and concluded that it did, indeed, own varying widths of road shoulder along most of it.
The Corrales Harvest Festival is back on!
After the festival was curtailed and effectively cancelled during the pandemic, the fall event will return the weekend of September 25-26.
As it has been in recent years, the widely enjoyed festival is being organized by the Kiwanis Club of Corrales which promises a “full-blown” event to include the pet parade, election of a new pet mayor, live entertainment, hayrides, local produce, crafts fair and the hootenanny dance that Saturday night featuring singer-songwriter Kyle Martin and his “Westrock” sound.
Exhibits and activities for children will again be mounted at the Old Church and Casa San Ysidro Museum.
Hayrides will be courtesy of the Corrales Tractor Club. Festival T-shirt and other memorabilia will go on sale soon.
Tickets are $10 per person with those under 12 in free. Parking is also free.
Nominations and voting for pet mayor will begin shortly. Dollar-votes are most often cast at the Sunday growers’ market and at local businesses that sponsor candidates.
The Corrales Harvest Festival began as an apple festival more than 30 years ago. It took off as a major event in the metro area and has, in recent years, attracted tens of thousands of visitors. Proceeds to the Kiwanis Club have resulted in grants totalling $20,000 in recent years.
But not last year. Fall 2020 was not the first time that the Corrales Harvest Festival was cancelled. In 2004, it was cancelled after the previous year’s overall coordinator, Laurie Rivera, said she could not repeat due to commitments as a Village Council member and lack of coordinators for crucial events such as the pet parade.
Even so, that fall of 2004 brought a scaled-back version. The substitute event, an expanded Growers’ Market and other activities was held on Sunday only.
Chairing the 2021 harvest festival is Kiwanis’ Lane McIntyre.