Join Sandoval Extension Master Gardener online webinars to learn how to grow a wide variety of plants, from flowers to food, in local soils. Pre-registration is required for each class. The webinars will be recorded and posted on the Sandoval County Master Gardeners website, http://sandovalmastergardeners.org
On March 17, 2 p.m. the topic is “Developing Your Own Vegetable Variety” with Sandoval Extension Master Gardener Dave Pojmann. Pojmann developed his own beautiful yellow tomato, Coronado Gold, that is low in acid, high in flavor and well adapted to Sandoval County. You don’t have to rely on a seed company to provide you with your ideal plant. Over a few seasons through selective seed saving and growing you can adapt open pollinator plants to suit your needs. Register in advance for this meeting at zoom.us/meeting/register/tJ0qc-qqp jooHdJAs3lC21YVZKYywJ9tCPNk. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.
March 31, 2 p.m. “Home Composting Basics” with Bernalillo County Master Composter John Zarola. Learn the basics of composting as a way to improve and enrich your garden soil. Zarola is a former Sandoval Extension Master Gardener who lives and grows in Rio Rancho. He is a long time teacher of gardening and composting. Register in advance for this meeting at zoom.us/meeting/register/tJ0pfuGrq DgoGdDlEnmfT7p6Tc8fLrx8u1bD. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.
The old, collapsing adobe home west of Corrales Road on the south side of Coronado Road was demolished on Saturday, February 27. Little of it was still standing on March 1. Back in the 1920s, it was thought to have been more than 100 years old. Among its many occupants over the decades was Johnnie Losack, husband of the late Evelyn Losack. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXVII No.8 June 23, 2018 “French Family’s Home Along Coronado Road Now Collapsing.”)
Before that, the L-shaped farmhouse was the home of Irishman Christopher Fitzgerald and his multi-generational family. Another early occupant was Audrey Lietzow, featured in the 2018 Comment article. She lived in the home from ages three through 17 with her Spanish stepmother, Irish stepfather and French grandmother.
Texans Eugene and Merrie Merriam bought the property in 1946. When Gloria and Lynn Ashcroft acquired the land and already-ruined farmhouse, they discovered it would cost more to restore the adobe than to build a new home on the same site, which they did.
An unusual blend of oboe, viola and piano comprises the colorful trio of New England and New York-based Ensemble Schumann, whose music includes that of their name-sake Robert Schumann. They also perform works by Brahms, Saint-Saëns, Loeffler, Poulenc, Shostakovich and others. Thomas Gallant on oboe, Steve Larson on viola, and Sally Pinkas on piano formed the ensemble in 2005.
From March 20 through March 28, the group will perform works of Bach, Bruch and von Herzogenberg in a virtual concert made available to Music in Corrales. The concert will be available anytime starting March 20. In addition to the concert, a live Zoom conversation with the trio March 20 at 7 p.m. kicks off the project. Tickets are $15 per person, from http://www.musicincorrales.org/concerts
Possible acquisition of another conservation easement to save farmland is expected to be presented to the Village Council soon but probably not at its March 9 meeting. In an interview February 26, Village Administrator Ron Curry said the Village will have to move quickly to complete purchase of the easement under the timeline set by voters’ March 2018 approval of general obligation bond issuance. “We have almost $1.3 million in bonds for the conservation easement program, and those will expire in March 2022,” Curry explained. “But the process needs to begin this March as far as issuing the bonds because these things always take longer than people anticipate, expecially when they have to go through the N.M. Finance Authority.
“We’ve had a couple of meetings with the Farmland Preservation folks about this and we have another on March 1. What we don’t want to do is put the Village in a position where we lose that bond opportunity next March.” But Curry said March 1 that it was not clear that any of the options could be pursued at that point.
He said at least two property owners have expressed interest in the program in recent months. “We’re trying to work with the options that we have. “Our concern is that we want to issue the bonds for almost $1.3 million, but that will expire in March 2022.” Corrales voters approved $2.5 million in GO bonds to preserve farmland during the last municipal election; a little more than half remains after an easement was purchased on the Haslam farm in December 2020.
Hopes had been raised earlier this year that another easement was pending but that faded. And now, other options have apparently arisen. Minutes from the Farmland Preservation and Agricultural Commission’s January meeting indicated “An interested landowner has reopened conversations with Michael [Scisco, of Unique Places LLC who negotiates for the Village] regarding adding property to Village Conservation Easements.”
Corrales was the first municipality in New Mexico to start its own farmland preservation program to acquire real estate easements on private property to keep it in agriculture or as open space. Since the program began here in 2004, the Village has acquired such easements on more than 45 acres, although the very first easement was a completely private transaction when Jonathan Porter, son of famed photographer Elliot Porter, created it on six acres at the south end of the village in 2001 and donated it to the Taos Land Trust.
Back in 2004, while Village Council support for a municipal bond to finance farmland preservation seemed solid, councillors twice pulled back from passing a resolution setting up a bond election for it.
Sale of the Village’s general obligation bonds were to finance the community’s local match to use $1.1 million in a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant the previous year to purchase conservation easements on Corrales farmland. At the April 13, 2004 council meeting, then-Councillor Melanie Scholer again insisted that the proposal should not move forward without other bond questions being placed before voters at the same time.
Scholer said repeatedly she did not want Corrales voters to be presented with the farmland preservation bond without considering other funding needs. A consensus was voiced that voters should be asked to approve municipal bonds to raise at least $1 million, and perhaps as much as $2.5 million, to use as matching funds for a $1.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But councillors wanted to know precisely how much bonding capacity the Village of Corrales really had available before they committed to seeking bonds for the farmland preservation effort.
The Village Administrator at the time, Harry Staven, reported that Corrales’ bonding capacity stood at $7,946,764, while its outstanding general obligation bond debt was $195,000 although that was slated to be paid off by the end of 2004. Corrales voters approved their first set of municipal bond sales in the 1990s to raise local-match funds to build Loma Larga and to purchase land on which a new fire station would be built.
Shortly thereafter, Village officials approved the sale of other municipal bonds to buy the western half of Annette Jones’ pasture for a recreation center. Those were not property tax-based general obligation bonds, but rather were revenue bonds, secured by pledged gross receipts tax income. That second set of bonds is also nearly paid off in full.
Sayre Gerhart, Bonnie Gonzales and Taudy Smith had tried over the previous five years to prevent the farmland preservation effort from being entangled in the chronic power struggles and political clashes that plagued Village government in those years. While residents overwhelmingly supported bonding for farmland and open space preservation in a public opinion poll in November 2003, that enthusiasm was considered vulnerable to questions about other projects that could take millions of dollars as well.
But as of April 13 2004, the only bond proposal that had been drawn up read as follows: “Shall the Village of Corrales issue general obligation bonds in an amount not to exceed $2,500,000 for the purpose of acquiring conservation easements or other property rights or interests for the preservation of farmland, open space, wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities in the Village of Corrales? Such bonds shall be payable from the general (ad valorem) taxes levied on real property within the Village of Corrales. Such indebtedness shall be, until repaid, a general obligation of the Village of Corrales.”
Voters overwhelmingly approved the bond issuance in 2004. Public sentiment was still strong when another GO bond proposal for $2.5 million was presented in March 2018. Controversy arose again over the Farmland Commission’s recommendation that an easement should be acquired for acreage that was not visible from Corrales Road, or any other oft-used byway. Still, despite some suspicions and misgivings, the Village Council approved purchase of a conservation easement on 12 acres of farmland at its December 8, 2020 session. The vote was three-to-two to pay $960,000 for an easement on the Haslam farm between the Corrales Main Canal and the Corrales Lateral irrigation ditch at the end of Kings Lane. Councillors Stuart Murray and Kevin Lucero voted no, citing prospects that a more desirable tract might become available during the next six months.
That was almost certainly a reference to the long-discussed, and negotiated possibility that the Trosello tract farther north along the east side of Corrales Road might be saved from development as home sites. Murray, Lucero and several villagers had argued that the Village had negotiated an option to purchase the Haslam tract this past summer and still had six months remaining to exercise it. They argued there was no hurry to close on the Haslam land.
Former Village Councillor Fred Hashimoto urged a delay on the Haslam property. “Some very attractive proposals might pop up between now and June 1, and the council should not cave now to prematurely spend potential funds which might be used for a possibly more valuable proposal in the next coming months.” That reluctance drew sharp responses from then-Councillor Dave Dornburg and Mayor Jo Anne Roake. “I think it’s kind of folly to assume that another deal is going to come out of the woodwork at this day and age when property values in the village are only going up,” Dornburg said. “I think there has been enough man-hours and due diligence put into this process that the time has come to put it to a vote.
“There may always be another option down the road, but in my humble opinion, while I’m sure there are other pieces of property that people would rather have, this is the option we have and it meets the intent of conservation easement that we’re trying to protect.”
Mayor Roake was persuasive in arguing that waiting another six months on the Haslam option was not really an alternative, given the amount of time it had taken to get the Haslam option ready to execute. “Between getting our financing and getting the bonds issued and getting it approved through the N.M. Finance Authority and all the other gates that we have to go through actually does put the time limitations on this process. I want to address the idea that we can actually wait for months, because all of the pieces that you have voted for have gotten us to the point now where we are issuing the bonds, and that has to be done in a certain time frame… all of this was done based on two different appraisals and two different reviews by N.M. Taxation and Revenue, so I think that’s a false analogy.
“All of this work has taken place since July. It has taken a long time. It’s a lengthy and complex process,” the mayor stressed, making the point that the administration did not actually have another six months to exercise the Haslam option.
Before the vote was called, Councillor Dornburg made another plea for approval. “I think it’s a good idea today, it was a good idea six months ago and it will be a good idea six months from now. If we don’t think it’s a good idea, that’s a different conversation. But we have the will of the people for a bond to buy conservation easements. We have a great conservation property in front of us. If you like the property and think it meets the will of the people, either today or in June, the answer should probably be the same.”
The motion to purchase the Haslam conservation easement was approved. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXIX No. 17 November 21, 2020 “Haslam Easement May Be Approved By Council Dec.8.”) Corrales’ interest in preserving farmland dates back at least to its incorporation as a municipality in 1971. The first master plan produced for the new Village government in 1973 recommended techniques be explored to accomplish that. Successive planning documents and ordinances over the years have endorsed that goal. (See Corrales Comment Vol. II, No. 8, August 20, 1983 “Can Corrales Stay Farmland Forever? Yes, Say Planners, & Here’s How.”)
A collaboration among The Nature Conservancy, the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, the Village of Corrales, the City of Rio Rancho and the Southern Sandoval County Arroyo Flood Control Authority (SSCAFCA) is expected to produce a 10-acre wetlands at the mouth of the Harvey Jones Flood Control Channel.
“We hope to break ground in early summer when funding materializes,” Conservancy District Executive Director Mike Hamman told Corrales Comment February 27. “There is still a funding gap for earth-moving that still needs to be addressed.” Hamman said the final plan is expected to be finished next month after additional public outreach. SSCAFCA Executive Director Chuck Thomas was a little less optimistic about a start date. “The project will start construction in the fall,” he said March 1.
During a monsoon rain, stormwater drained from a wide area west of the escarpment above Corrales would be redirected to a vegetated area between the river and the Corrales Road bridge over the Jones Channel. And on a more regular basis, treated effluent from Rio Rancho’s sewage treatment plant near the Montoyas Arroyo also would flow into the proposed wetlands.
Public input for the proposal was gained during Zoom sessions February 2, 3 and 4. The Nature Conservancy’s description of the project notes that the Jones Channel carries more than 4.4 million gallons of stormwater annually to the river. And treated sewage from Rio Rancho also enters the river just south of the channel at quantities ranging from four to five million gallons daily.
“By utilizing the permanent flow of water, we can re-contour the bank elevation and create secondary channels to create an expanded wet area to increase wildlife, fish and bird habitat,” according to the proposal. The Nature Conservancy web page about the Harvey Jones Channel Improvement Project states these goals:
• to reconnect bosque vegetation to groundwater, lowering the bench elevation;
• to improve water quality as a finishing station to reduce stormwater pollution to the Rio Grande;
• to enhance bird, fish and other wildlife habitat;
• to reduce stagnant water and mosquito issues from stormwater impoundment;
• to illustrate the benefits of large-scale green stormwater infrastructure; and
• to demonstrate inter-agency coordination on a public-private partnership project.
The Corrales Bosque Advisory Commission has considered such a project, at least conceptually, for many years. Elsewhere in the preserve, projects have already been implemented to excavate away the river bank so that water flows, or at least seeps, into the riparian forest. The habitat plan was completed in 2010 after years of work. (See Corrales Comment’s nine-part series of articles starting Vol.XXVIII, No.7, May 23, 2009, “Bosque Preserve Habitat Plan Now Available”) In 2010, projects similar to what is being proposed now were implemented by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as elements of a “bosque restoration” effort.
A 1969 state statute that criminalized abortion in New Mexico was repealed on February 26, when Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed Senate Bill 10 into law. “A woman has the right to make decisions about her own body,” the governor said. “Anyone who seeks to violate bodily integrity, or to criminalize womanhood, is in the business of dehumanization. New Mexico is not in that business —not any more.
“Our state statutes now reflect this inviolable recognition of humanity and dignity. I am incredibly grateful to the tireless advocates and legislators who fought through relentless misinformation and fear-mongering to make this day a reality. Equality for all, equal justice and equal treatment —that’s the standard. And I’m proud to lead a state that today moved one step closer to that standard.”
“The time has finally come to get this outdated abortion law off the books and ensure that we keep abortion accessible, safe and legal in New Mexico,” said Senator Linda Lopez of Albuquerque, lead sponsor of Senate Bill 10. “Thank you to Governor Lujan Grisham for signing this legislation, thank you to every one of my fellow bill sponsors and community advocates, and thank you to all of the voters of New Mexico who made your voices heard in the last election. “Abortion is a personal health care decision. We can hold our own moral values on abortion and still trust individuals to make their own reproductive health care decisions.”
“New Mexico is a state where we respect women and protect their autonomy,” said Speaker of the House Brian Egolf. “I am glad that this fight for safe access to abortion in New Mexico has been won and look forward to further expanding access to all forms of healthcare.”
“Today feels very different than two years ago when the votes in the Senate didn’t reflect the opinions of over 76 percent of New Mexico voters,” said Representative Joanne Ferrary of Las Cruces. “Now we have signed legislation, repealing antiquated sections of law in order to ensure that women’s access to the full spectrum of health care options, including abortion, will continue if Roe v. Wade’s protections are undermined at the national level.”
“Women in New Mexico and around the nation fought for generations to secure the reproductive rights that we have today,” said Representative Deborah Armstrong of Albuquerque. “Today’s bill signing ensures that we never go backward.”
“When women do not have safe and legal access to health care, it puts families, healthcare providers, and entire communities at risk,” said Rep. Georgene Louis of Albuquerque. “My deep gratitude goes out to every New Mexican who has shared their voice and their stories to help repeal this outdated ban.”
An ordinance establishing a “landmark tree” program here has been amended to emphasize a village wide plan for trees. The amendment adopted February 23 changes the name of the volunteer committee from the Tree Preservation Advisory Committee to the Tree Committee, and calls for it to develop a “tree care plan.” The original ordinance was adopted in July 2009 after a stately cottonwood tree near the entrance to Corrales, just northeast of the Corrales Road-Cabezon Road intersection, was removed by a developer for a turning lane.
The amendment, Ordinance 21-02, was discussed at the February 9 council meeting and then adopted at the February 23 session. The substantive change to the existing ordinance is the new provision for a Tree Care Plan. It reads: “The Tree Committee shall prepare a Tree Care Plan for managing, maintaining, protecting, preserving and planting trees within the Village of Corrales. This plan details specific goals and objectives for tree inventories. tree risk management. tree protection and tree pruning standards. This document is intended to be a living document that is updated yearly to promote schedules for community education, tree planting programs, and updates to relevant information on tree selection and planting, best management practices and progress in stakeholder involvement in tree care.”
The ordinance would make no change to the process by which a Corrales tree might be designated a landmark. A nomination may be submitted by anyone, but it should give the tree’s location and a photo of it, as well as a written description of it and statement why it would qualify as a landmark. The nomination also is supposed to include written approval of the owner of the property on which it grows. “Any written approval required by this section must be notarized, and must include approval of all owners of the property.”
After the nomination is received by the Tree Committee, a recommendation is to be submitted to the Corrales Planning and Zoning Commission for its concurrence. The program generally has been uncontroversial —except when an old cottonwood next to the Old Church was cut down after one of its large branches fell onto a vehicle parked under it in 2011.
A decision to remove the designated Landmark Tree near the Old Church was made at the January 10, 2012 Village Council meeting. Councillors delayed a decision on whether to cut it down as recommended by the Corrales Historical Society at their December 13 session, opting to hear directly from a master arborist who had examined the tree.
Corrales’ Tree Preservation Committee had recommended keeping the old tree alive, along with measures to protect it and people upon whom branches might fall. A petition urging Village officials not to cut down the tree was presented to the council December 13, 2011. According to regulations for the municipal tree preservation program, the final decision was to be made by Planning and Zoning Administrator (then Cyndie Tidwell) following a recommendation by the Landmark Tree Preservation Advisory Committee.
As committee co-chairman Sue Hallgarth noted, “This is the first time the Tree Committee has received a request for removal of a Landmark Tree.” In this case it was submitted by the Village government, owner of the Old Church property. “The Village administrator has filed a request for tree removal,” Hallgarth explained. “The Village’s request appears to be motivated by insurance and liability concerns, as well as reluctance to relinquish parking spaces” that would occur if a roped-off buffer area is established around the tree. But then-Councillor Sayre Gerhart brought the matter before the council rather than have the process play out before the P&Z administrator.
Hallgarth said the tree, one of two in the northwest corner of the Old Church property, “has lost two branches in the past growing season, one very large and one much smaller that dented a car parked beneath it. After the first branch fell, a certified master arborist was enlisted, and happened to arrive for his consultation minutes after the second limb dropped. “He described the tree as ‘exhibiting many characteristics of being a hazardous tree,’ but he also provided recommendations for preserving the tree if a decision is made to do so.
“His strategy is to cordon off a no-parking area to protect the roots and mitigate any potential hazards, to water deeply, mulch heavily, and trim dead wood and any structurally unsound living wood. He also recommended that the tree be reassessed by an arborist after the next growing season and after any major storm events.”
On November 30, 2011 Corrales arborist Rob Hays trimmed the westernmost of the two trees at no charge, and paid a helper from his own pocket. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXX, No.22, January 7, 2012 “Historic Old Church Cottonwood Doomed? Council May Have Sawdust on its Hands.”) Even so, on a tie-break vote by then-mayor Phil Gasteyer, the Village Council voted the troublesome old tree be cut down and hauled away. In protest, all members of the Landmark Tree Preservation Advisory Committee resigned.
The original landmark tree ordinance spelled out the process by which a Corrales tree can be protected as a landmark. Below is partial text of the ordinance which will likely be retained by the council’s vote this month. “Within ninety (90) days after receiving a nomination, the Tree Committee shall review the recommendation and supporting materials, and shall make a recommendation to the Village's Planning and Zoning Commission whether the tree should be designated as a Landmark Tree.
To qualify for designation as a Landmark Tree, a tree must as a minimum meet at least one of the following criteria:
(1) Exceptional size for the species as measured by caliper, height, and/or breadth;
(2) Old age for the species;
(3) Distinctive and/or exemplary form for the species;
(4) Historical significance by virtue of location or history, including but not limited to proximity to a historic building, site, or road, or association with an historic event or person in the Village's past; or
(5) Position as a defining feature in the Village landscape due to location, public view, history, or similar qualities.
(d) No tree of a species that has been determined to be invasive or noxious by the State of New Mexico shall be designated as a Landmark Tree, and no such tree shall be qualified to be nominated for Landmark Tree status. It is desirable that trees nominated as Landmark Trees shall be of species native to the Corrales area.
(e) For purposes of evaluating nominations, the Tree Committee shall develop a set of criteria for the evaluation of trees meeting at least one of the minimum qualifying criteria. The committee may include such criteria as the Tree Committee deems appropriate, and may include but need not be limited to trunk circumference, height, crown spread, symmetry, or distinctive form, location and history. The Committee may, but need not necessarily, employ a set of criteria developed for use by another governmental entity, either inside or outside New Mexico.
(f) If the Tree Committee determines that a tree nominated for landmark status meets at least one of the minimum qualifying criteria, then the Committee shall evaluate the nomination and forward it to the Planning and Zoning Commission with a recommendation either to designate the tree as a Landmark Tree, or not to so designate it, with a brief explanation of the reasons for the Committee's recommendation.
(g) Notice of any meeting of the Planning and Zoning Commission where a proposal to designate a tree as a Landmark Tree will be considered must include individual notice, by certified mail, of the meeting date, time and location, including notice of the proposed Landmark Tree designation, to each owner of private property any portion of which is within fifty (50) feet of the dripline of the tree. In addition, a notice containing the same information shall be conspicuously placed in the most publicly visible location adjacent to the proposed Landmark Tree at least fifteen (15) days prior to the scheduled meeting.
(h) In determining whether to designate a particular tree for landmark status, the Planning and Zoning Commission shall not be bound by the recommendation of the Tree Committee.
(i) If a tree properly nominated for landmark status and meeting at least one of the minimum qualifying criteria is not designated by the Planning and Zoning Commission as a Landmark Tree, then it shall nonetheless be designated as a Nominated Tree and placed on a register of Nominated Trees for possible future consideration as a Landmark Tree. A Nominated Tree is eligible for reconsideration by the Planning and Zoning Commission for landmark status, on the recommendation of any person or entity, at any time after one (1) year following the date of the Planning and Zoning Commission's decision. A request for reconsideration must be accompanied by a demonstration, to the Tree Committee, that all owners of property or easement within fifty (50) feet of the dripline of the tree consent to the proposed designation and that all other necessary conditions for nomination still apply. Notice of the meeting at which a Nominated Tree will be reconsidered for Landmark Tree status shall be the same as required upon an original nomination.
(j) If a tree located on public property is designated as a Landmark Tree, the Village shall place a suitable marker on the designated tree bearing substantially the following statement: "LANDMARK
TREE - do not trim or remove without Village of Corrales approval."
(k) If a tree located entirely or partly on private property is designated as a Landmark Tree, the Village shall promptly notify the property owner or owners of the tree's status as a Landmark Tree, and shall include notice of the restrictions on damage or removal of Landmark Trees, the requirement of notification to future landowners, and the penalties for improperly damaging or removing a Landmark Tree, as provided in this article.
(l) Any person dissatisfied with a decision of the Planning and Zoning Commission regarding designation or non-designation of a tree as a Landmark Tree may appeal that decision within 20 days, in writing, to the Governing Body. The Governing Body, on appeal, may affirm or reverse the decision of the Planning and Zoning Commission. The decision of the Governing Body shall be final.
Section 14-130. - Protection of landmark trees.
(a) No person shall remove or damage any Landmark Tree, whether on public or private property, except as otherwise provided in this article. Normal pruning or trimming of trees on private property is expressly permitted. Except in case of emergencies as provided in this article, normal pruning or trimming is limited to pruning or trimming for the health and maintenance of the tree, in accordance with the current ANSI A300 standards of the Tree Care Industry Association. Excessive pruning or damage to the root system that threatens the life or health of any Landmark Tree is prohibited, except as otherwise specifically provided in this section.
(b) Any property owner desiring to remove a Landmark Tree shall submit an application for Landmark Tree removal to the Tree Committee, stating the reasons for the removal request. Within thirty (30) days following receipt of the application, the Tree Committee shall forward the application for Landmark Tree removal to the
Village's Planning and Zoning Administrator, with the Committee's recommendation whether to approve the application. The Planning and Zoning Administrator shall promptly either grant or deny the application. The Planning and Zoning Administrator shall take into account the recommendation of the Committee, but shall not be bound by that recommendation.”
When the Climate Solutions Act (HB 9) was introduced it was touted as a science-based approach that focused on protecting historically disadvantaged communities. Several community leaders praised it, calling on state legislators to protect public health and New Mexico’s air and water resources from climate change. “The Climate Solutions Act… is NM’s first step towards modeling environmentally conscious and resilient economic development, resulting in a more fair economy where all New Mexicans prosper while tackling the ever-growing threat of climate change to our everyday lives,” according to James Povijua, policy director for the Center for Civic Policy.
“HB9 begins the bold, long-term work NM needs to do to make sure historically marginalized communities across the state, especially rural communities and communities of color, can diversify their local economy and it guarantees New Mexicans are first in line to prepare for the high quality jobs and economic opportunities that will arise from clean energy industry,” he added.
That assessment was shared by Joseph Hernandez, Diné energy organizer. “The Climate Solutions Act will build upon the 2019 New Mexico Energy Transition Act, by taking a statewide approach of a just transition for every New Mexican.” Jon Goldstein of the Environmental Defense Fund and a former N.M. cabinet secretary, issued this statement. “This comprehensive bill will build on the leading climate commitments Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has made over the last few years. By enshrining science-based, emissions targets in statute and directing the New Mexico Environment Department to ensure regulations are in place to meet those reductions, it will protect local communities from the worst impacts of climate change, including worsening heat, drought and water scarcity. This bill takes an important step toward a just transition in New Mexico, by prioritizing historically disadvantaged communities for high-quality, clean energy jobs.
“As New Mexico tackles the existential threat of climate change head on, it will need to ensure that frontline communities across the state are at the table and able to play a central role in shaping policy action,” Goldstein said.
April 9 is the deadline to sign up to run for a seat on the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District (MRGCD) board of directors. One of the three seats coming open is that representing Sandoval County. The position is now held by Michael Sandoval, who ran for the position in 2015. Candidates need not be farmers or irrigators to serve on the board. Meetings are on the second Monday each month. Other board members whose terms are expiring are Karen Dunning, Bernalillo County, who is now chair; Joaquin Baca, Bernalillo County, vice-chair; and Valerie Moore, Socorro County.
Election day is June 8.
You need not register to vote since that comes automatically if you own property within the MRGCD “benefitted area” which in Corrales would be any land east of the Corrales Main Canal. A declaration of candidacy must be filed with the MRGCD election officer at the offices at 1931 Second Street SW no later than 4:30 p.m. April 9.
Absentee voting starts April 29.
The concept of cluster housing may be revived after discussion at the March 9 Village Council meeting. The topic was requested for that session by Councillor Mel Knight at the February 23 meeting but that agenda had not been set at press time. Knight said she would like the review being conducted by planners with the Mid-Region Council of Governments on Corrales land use regulations to include two new topics, not just revisions to provisions already in the Code of Ordinances on land use and zoning: abandoned properties and cluster housing.
Over the past three decades, when the topic of cluster housing has come up, it has nearly always involved grouping housing on one part of a tract so that the remainder could be preserved as farmland or open space. But that may not be what Knight has in mind. When she requested that cluster housing be discussed at the March 9 meeting, she referred to Corrales’ commercial area. “I would like the committee to address, in the commercial zone, cluster housing.” The committee she referred to is that which has been formed to interface with the Council of Governments planners.
Her specifying cluster housing in the business district would likely affect the proposal for a senior living complex on the Sunbelt Nursery site at the corner of Corrales Road and Dixon Road. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXIX No. 22 February 6, 2020 “Senior Living Rentals for Commercial District?”) Although contemplated in successive comprehensive plans for Corrales since the earliest days of the community’s incorporation as a municipality, proposals for cluster housing have nearly always been rejected by the Planning and Zoning Commission and by the Village Council.
That is primarily because the citizenry has remained adamant about retaining the community’s low-density residential tradition… even when that means loss of farmland. Since the early 1970s, Corrales’ land use laws have called for no more than one dwelling per acre, or per two acres in the territory previously within Bernalillo County. That has been bed rock consensus since the Village’s first comprehensive plan in 1973; it was strenuously reaffirmed with the successive election of Gary Kanin as mayor in the 1980s. (See Corrales Comment’s five-part series of articles on cluster housing starting with Vol.XXIII No.19 November 20, 2004 “Is Cluster Housing Acceptable In Corrales To Save Open Space?”)
One of the more recent cases came November 2004 when the Planning and Zoning Commission voted down a preliminary plat for an 18-lot “Villa de Paz” subdivision off Loma Larga on Corrales’ west side between Camino Sin Pasada and Angel Road. Plenty of reasons existed why commissioners axed the plan, but after doing so, several of them urged the developer, Ed Paschich, to try again. He says he would not… at least not until Village officials enacted ordinance provisions specifically for cluster housing. That has been a perennial topic with which the P&Z commission has wrestled over several decades as it attempted to revise Corrales’ zoning and subdivision ordinances.
In simplest terms, cluster housing is the concept of building all the allowable residences for a tract of land on one end and leaving the rest as open space. In Corrales, where a landowner is allowed just one home per acre and he or she has a 20-acre tract, 20 houses are allowed. But instead of dividing all 20 acres into one-acre lots, clustering might put all 20 allowable homes on ten acres and leave the other ten as dedicated open space.
Actually that example is too simple. Typically the owner of a 20-acre tract won’t get 20 one-acre lots, because the roadway serving the subdivision cannot be counted in calculating lot size. Subtracting out the roadway, a 20-acre tract might yield just 17-19 lots, depending on configuration. The plan proposed by Paschich back in 2004 would have put 18 smallish houses on 17.8 acres, but the homes were to have been grouped into five separate clusters with eight acres open space between. At the November 3, 2004 P&Z meeting, commissioners praised Paschich for his creativity, but rejected the plan. They —and the neighbors— found several violations of current Village ordinances, but settled on one particular reason for rejecting the plat.
Paschich had included the road serving the proposed subdivision as privately-owned and therefore to be counted as part of the one-acre lot calculation. Commissioners voted down the plat on the grounds that the Village’s subdivision ordinance requires publicly-dedicated roadways, not private roads, for any subdivision of ten acres or more.
Paschich was, of course, aware of that requirement, and had sought a variance, one of several that would have been needed to proceed. When commissioners rejected that variance request, the rest of the proposal was irrelevant. But before Paschich left the meeting, then-P&Z Chairman Stuart Murray, now 16 years later a member of the Village Council, urged, “Mr. Paschich, please pursue this” with a revised submission for cluster housing.
The following week, members of the Village Council briefly discussed the Paschich plan, and called for a public meeting to air the whole notion of cluster housing. At the time, probably most of the residents along Camino Sin Pasada and Angel Road who spoke against the Paschich subdivision said they were not actually opposed to cluster housing. It was the specifics of Paschich’s plan that were unacceptable, they maintained.
It seemed clear that most of the P&Z commissioners agreed; all but one, Mick Harper —16 years later again serving on the commission— voted against the road variance that killed the Paschich plan that night. For decades, a significant portion of Corrales residents have supported the idea of cluster housing for two reasons. First, it would be a chance to establish more affordable housing in Corrales, which has become a place where only the very wealthy can afford to live. Second, such proposals are a way to retain open space, a quickly vanishing community asset.
The need for affordable housing in Corrales has been recognized for some time. One of the down-sides of skyrocketing home prices (and extreme scarcity of rentals) hit home when Corrales’ fire fighters pointed out they could not afford to live here. (See Corrales Comment Vol. XXII No. 21, December 13, 2003 “Fire-Rescue Crews Can’t Live Here) The same has been true for most police officers and other Village employees. A third reason for finding a way to approve cluster housing which has been voiced in recent years is that some aging, true-blue Corraleños don’t want to continue maintaining an acre of land, but would like to stay in Corrales if possible.
Assuming property owners near the top of Sagebrush Drive can be assured a proposed paved trail there won’t bring in stormwater and eroded silt, that long-awaited project will get under way by the end of April. Village Engineer Steve Grollman and Corrales Public Works Director Mike Chavez met in an online conference with Sagebrush residents and members of the Village’s Bicycle-Pedestrian Advisory Commission February 26 to learn what concerns might still need to be addressed.
The trail, proposed more than two decades ago and now fully funded, would connect the west end of Sagebrush Drive to the existing north-south path along the escarpment in Rio Rancho. The commission has long advocated for it as a crucial link so that cyclists, horse riders and hikers can access a loop trail that offers spectacular views toward the bosque and Sandia Mountains.
The existing trail along the escarpment has been known as the Thompson Fence Line Trail since it follows the alignment of the historic Thompson Ranch fence —which also serves as the boundary between Corrales and Rio Rancho. The best-known section of the trail, visible to the south as motorists drive upper Meadowlark to and from Rio Rancho, is the paved path below Intel, also known as the Skyview Trail.
Most villagers probably are unaware that the developed path continues on northward from the north side of Meadowlark for more than two miles along the edge of the escarpment. That long trail has been recognized as a valuable asset, and is a crucial segment in the Corrales Trails Master Plan, especially for its potential to create a recreational loop route. But a substantial gap has existed between the cul de sac at the end of Sagebrush and the escarpment path, and much of it is steep, uneven terrain. Finally a collaboration among the Village, the Southern Sandoval County Arroyo Flood Control Authority, Sandoval County and the City of Rio Rancho has moved the proposal to the stage at which on-the-ground work will start next month.
A breakthrough came several years ago when SSCAFCA transferred ownership of a parcel of land to the Village which it no longer needed for flood control projects. So the trail connection can now be accomplished on land owned by the Village of Corrales. At the virtual meeting convened by Village Administrator Ron Curry, he assured the project is ready to go. “I signed the purchase order today” for a contract with Albuquerque Asphalt, which will pave the path after several weeks of earth-moving work.
Total cost will be $89,000. “We’re good to go for the whole thing,” Curry assured. Grollman provided details and specifications about the project he designed, including an “inverted crown” in the center of the pavement so that rain falling on the surface would be channeled to a pond rather than spill off uncontrolled. The path would be eight feet wide, with two-foot shoulders on either side covered with recycled (crushed) asphalt.
The homeowner nearest the trail, Carol Levy, was not convinced that the proposed stormwater control features will be adequate to prevent drainage onto her land. “We hope the Village is not creating a problem for us,” she cautioned. “If there is a problem, it’s going to be our problem.” She and other neighbors expressed concerns about future trail users parking in and around the cul-de-sac in a manner that caused obstructions. Should such problems arise, they might be addressed by the Village erecting “No Parking” signs and other deterrents, commission member Chris Allen suggested.
Are greater controls needed for walls and opaque fences along Corrales Road to preserve the community’s scenic quality? A discussion on that topic has been requested for the March 9 Village Council meeting.When Mayor Jo Anne Roake invited councillors to suggest items for next council meeting, Tyson Parker spoke up to ask that the agenda include a discussion about walls and fences. Parker, an architect, gave no further indication what that discussion might entail, but his suggestion followed recent remarks by Councillor Zach Burkett that he is concerned about the loss of scenic quality caused by erection of high walls fronting Corrales Road.
Burkett said March 1 he is researching what might be done to revive the status of Corrales Road as a designated scenic byway. The same point was made earlier this year by former Corrales Planing and Zoning Commission Chairman Terry Brown. Getting Village government to address the problem has been a high priority for him since at least 2010.
In a power point presentation to the Corrales Planning and Zoning Commission on April 12, 2011, Brown demonstrated what has been lost by view-blocking walls along Corrales Road and what has been preserved by see-through fences and low walls. Burkett raised the issue at a council meeting earlier this year shortly after tall, concrete block walls were erected along Corrales Road at the south end of the village. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXIX No.19 December 19, 2020 “Controls for Scenery-Blocking Walls?”) But for other Corraleños, the idea that Village officials might tell them what kind of fence is permissible reeks of governmental over-reach and offends libertarian values.
At the December 8, 2020 Village Council meeting, Councillor Burkett said he would like to see incentives by Village government to encourage other styles of walls or fences that do not inhibit views. He said he wanted the council to address the issue after seeing such tall, solid walls erected by builder Steve Nakamura on two properties at the south end of Corrales over the past year.
Similar long walls have gone up adjacent to Corrales Road at the north end in recent years, creating what Brown has referred to as a “canyon” effect that destroy the scenic quality for which Corrales has been known for many years. When Brown heard of Burkett’s interest, he said he looked forward to collaborating on a proposal to address the worsening situation. “When I was chair of the Corrales Planning and Zoning Commission, the last issue I tried to get a reluctant council to approve was a recommendation for a requirement for a partially open wall ordinance along Corrales Road.
“The new CMU walls being built by Mr. Nakamura at the south end of Corrales are the antithesis of what Corrales needs,” Brown added. “Look at the fencing along Rio Grande. This is what I envision for our village, and what is desperately needed to protect the views along the Corrales ‘scenic byway.’”
Bucolic views along Corrales Road of pastures, horses, farms, orchards, vineyards and old tractors are central to this community’s character and perhaps even its economic vitality. A degree of national recognition for those attributes was gained in 1995 when Corrales Road was designated a “scenic and historic byway.” But a Village-appointed byways corridor management committee disbanded amid controversy more than a decade ago and was never fully reconstituted.
Brown, an architect, is concerned that the community’s treasured scenic quality is being incrementally lost due to an unfortunate landscaping feature: view-blocking solid walls or fences at the edge of the road. “I was on the Planning and Zoning Commission for eight years, and I was the chair for two years. As an architect, I felt strongly that we needed to protect this view, this viewshed from Corrales Road,” Brown explained.
“People come here to see Corrales… they don’t come here to look at walls and fences. They come here to see horses and donkeys and llamas and cows, and the views that stretch from the fields to the riparian habitat and all the way to the Sandias. “They don’t want to see walls; they don’t want to see that ‘canyon effect.’” Back in 2010-11, Brown and others pushed hard for the Village Council to adopt an ordinance or regulation that would prohibit owners of property abutting Corrales Road from erecting a solid fence or wall taller than three feet at the road frontage property line.
Draft Ordinance 11-007, amending the Village’s land use regulations regarding fences, was tabled at a February 2011 council meeting and never revived for vote. No other proposals have been pursued, and tall cinder block walls and wooden fences continue to go up, blocking views. Corrales is left vulnerable, Brown cautioned. “In some places we have a tall wall along one side of Corrales Road, but it’s left open on the other side. I guess that’s probably acceptable,” he volunteered. “But what if a developer or homeowner says ‘Hey, I need to have more opacity on my side of the road, too.’ And then, the next guy says the same thing, and pretty soon, a hundred years from now, Corrales Road will be just one long canyon.”
On the other side of the river, regulations for Rio Grande Boulevard have apparently closed off that undesired future. “I believe along Rio Grande Boulevard you can only have a limited expanse of opaque wall and the rest of it has to be open. The walls are low; for the most part, you can see over them or through them. “Since Corrales Road is a scenic byway, I think it is worthy of getting the same treatment.”
Without any regulation requiring scenic views be maintained, Brown warned, “you get whatever a developer is going to give you.” In laying out the 2011 rationale for recommended action by the Village Council, then-P&Z commission Chairman Brown put it this way: “One of Corrales’ greatest assets that maintain the rural character of this village is the vistas of vineyards, agricultural fields, large animals, towering cottonwoods and the Sandia Mountains beyond. With this in mind, the P&Z commission recommends the modification noted above for fences along Corrales Road. Our concern is that without this proposed modification to our ordinance, Corrales Road could become a walled-in road where nothing could be seen beyond the six-foot high walls along both sides of Corrales Road. We already have portions of Corrales Road with this unappealing aspect.” (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXVIII No.3 March 23, 2019 “Can Scenery Along ‘Scenic Byway’ Be Preserved?”)
During early discussion about regulating the size and opacity of walls along property lines, the proposed rules would have applied to roadsides throughout Corrales. But P&Z commissioners and council members backed away from that, anticipating villagers’ resistance for reasons of privacy.
That continues to be a primary concern, although the thwarted 2011 ordinance exempted existing walls and fences; the rules would have applied only to new walls or fences. Even so, the draft ordinance that went to the Village Council back then would have applied only to property along Corrales Road, not residential neighborhoods east or west of it.
While privacy issues seem to have been dominant during the P&Z and council discussions about protecting scenic quality nine years ago, it’s clear that visitors to Corrales have no interest in knowing who’s rolling in the hay with whom. A secondary concern was road noise from increased traffic along Corrales Road. Proximity to the road is the critical factor in how disturbing tire-on-asphalt noise would be to residents. But if the residence is that close to Corrales Road, or any neighborhood road, the structure itself would likely obstruct a view of fields, farm animals or the mountains.
Brown said he is not aware of any road noise mitigation measures that might be used that still allow scenic views. He said a tall wall, fence or dense vegetation may be the only way to effectively block road noise if the residence is very close. In Brown’s February 25, 2011, letter of transmittal from the P&Z commission to the council, he pointed out “This revised proposed ordinance recommends modifications to the previous proposed ordinance by requiring all new fences along Corrales Road (Scenic Byway) to have no solid fence exceeding three feet in height erected on the front lot line or within the front setback area of any lot or within the vision clearance area abutting a driveway.
“If someone wants a fence taller than three feet, then that portion of the fence would have to be an open fence.” The wall or fence could actually be taller than three feet, but the upper portion would have to be open or see-through to some degree, he added.
Serving as Planning and Zoning Commission vice-chair at that time was Corrales’ current mayor, Jo Anne Roake. “The Village Council did not like the idea at that time,” Brown recalled. “They didn’t like the idea of dictating to a homeowner what type of fence they could have. However, we already have ordinances that cover what type of fence you can have and what it looks like; what is acceptable and what is not.”
“It’s like anything else in the village; it should be the villagers who decide what’s in the best interest of the village. We want to encourage tourism, but if, when they come, we have a canyon of walls on both sides of Corrales Road, that’s not going to be very attractive.”