At its presentation to the Village Council earlier this month the Corrales Interior Drain Committee requested funding to hire a planning consultant to recommend future uses of the ditch between Corrales Road and the river. Preliminary suggestions for the 1.9-mile drainage ditch owned by the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District were offered in a power point presentation by the committee’s chairman, Doug Findley.
An estimated 26 acres of land in the middle of Corrales could potentially become dedicated green belt, park, wildlife habitat or other uses assuming the MRGCD agrees. The committee has identified three distinct kinds of terrain in and along the ditch at this time: dry, or xeric, water zones and areas where ponds can be developed.
In the presentation, the pond zone is described as “a calm and relaxing gathering space [that] might include bridges and viewpoints for the community,” while the water zone would be the wet part of the existing ditch that “could be used for community activities and support the central Corrales Road section of Corrales.”
The entire ditch is already a “green corridor” which “connects the Corrales Bosque Preserve into the heart of the community. Corraleños currently use the ditch banks as trails for running, biking, horse riding, fishing, walking to school and more. The ditch banks will support these activities and could provide seating areas, trains and connections to nature. The green corridor provides ecological benefits for many birds and animal species by providing habitat and food sources.”
The presentation to the council included a proposal to establish a public butterfly garden that would establish a connection to Native American heritage related to the Corrales area. The people of Santa Ana Pueblo referred to this area as “the place of butterflies.”
According to the committee, “We envision the butterfly plants along the length of the ditch, a thematic constant in the master plan design.” The committee estimates it would cost around $25,000 to produce a master plan for ditch and ditch banks.
By Meredith Hughes
Now that you are doubled-vacced, and masks are no longer strictly mandated outdoors and in many venues, maybe you are ready for your first day trek in New Mexico —that is, if you are not yet set to board a plane for Newark in order to visit family, or heading to Belize to scuba.
A gem about an hour and a half drive from Corrales is the 148 acres of ranch land and orchard on the east bank of the Rio Grande known as Los Luceros Historic Site, in Alcalde, a relatively newly dubbed New Mexico Historic Site, signed and sealed on March 28, 2019.
Just north of Española, the tranquil site is the final parcel of what was once a 50,000-acre Spanish land grant named for and controlled, more or less, by Sebastián Martín, born in the New Mexico territory in 1670. The name Los Luceros, supposedly named after one longtime family on the property, also can mean “morning stars.”
The land that the Tewa native people had occupied for centuries changed greatly once Juan de Oñate arrived there in 1598. Their descendants now call Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo home, Oñate intended to create the capital of New Mexico near the Rio Grande, made a stab at two different locations, failed, ultimately became known as overly cruel even by his peers, and was sent back to Spain. The visitor center dedicated to Oñate in Alcalde had a statue of him perched on a horse out front. In 1997, the statute had its foot removed to commemorate and protest the colonizer’s notorious severing of feet from those natives who opposed him. Then the center was renamed the Northern Rio Grande National Heritage Center, and finally the entire statue was removed in June 2020.
And yet… Oñate brought settlers, horses, pigs, wheat, mules, sheep and the grapes that established the New Mexico wine industry, as well as fig, peach and apricot trees, and more. Such as alfalfa, a Middle Eastern plant known as al-fiṣfiṣs, which the Arabs brought to Spain. The grain that became known as alfalfa was the preferred fodder for Spanish horses in the Americas. And the site manager for Los Luceros, Ethan Ortega, says that alfalfa, still a major crop in New Mexico, was first grown early on in the Southwest on that land.
Apples from 1,200 trees comprise the other major Los Luceros crop, and the revitalization of its historic orchards first planted by Martín is ongoing. The property passed through many hands after Martín, who incidentally gave back land to the Okhay Owingeh people in exchange for their help building the acequia madre. This mother ditch diverts water from the Rio Grande, about three miles upstream, and returns it to the river three miles south. Lateral ditches still water the Los Luceros fields today.
Relatives of the founding Spanish family worked the land from the late 1700s on, and in 1902 the Lucero family built a Victorian-style mail-order house on the property, which still stands. It’s Victorian in all ways if you overlook the adobe.
Eventually, a privileged, wealthy Anglo woman from Boston, Mary Cabot Wheelwright, purchased much of Los Luceros in 1923. She rescued and rehabbed the decaying casa grande, mostly now known as The Hacienda, and lived there on and off for about 35 years. Among her invited guests were Georgia O’Keeffe, Carl Jung, Willa Cather, Thornton Wilder and many others.
Wheelwright went on to work for years documenting and preserving Navajo traditions, which began when she was introduced to Hastiin Klah, a nadleehi person (a male with feminine characteristics), and a Diné weaver and medicine man. The now-named Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, was established in Santa Fe in 1937. Much of its Navajo collection was repatriated to the Navajo Nation in 1977.
Wheelwright’s cousin Frank Cabot, founder of the non-profit Garden Conservancy, turned her former horse stables and corral into a walled garden in 2004, working with Española orchardist, flower farm and vineyard owner Jan Hale Barbo. Plantings of crabapple, quince and mulberry, as well as butterfly bushes, climbing roses, yarrow and artemisia remain. Revival of this intimate garden is a top priority this spring.
Just now created is a demonstration heritage garden in the West Garden area.
The garden crew planted a Three Sisters Garden consisting of White Nambe Corn, New Mexico Bolitas (beans), and San Juan Pueblo Squash. The corn provides a stalk for the beans to grow on, the beans provide stability to the corn and help fix the nitrogen in the soil, and the squash provides ground cover and shade which helps with soil moisture and weed prevention.
As stated on its Facebook page, “We also planted Corrales azafran which the Spanish used as a saffron substitute when they arrived in New Mexico, Chimayo heirloom melon, and New Mexico amaranth which has been grown in the Southwest for hundreds of years. These seeds were all part of a grant from Native Seeds/SEARCH.” Watermelon, mint, sage, chives and radish are also planted in this so-called “waffle” garden, a method used by many indigenous communities in the dry Southwest.
The mulch used was created on site from pruned and removed trees from the bosque and orchard. Just a year after Los Luceros was made a N.M. Historic Site, COVID-19 invaded, and the hiring and restoration work was halted. As were visitors. Still, Ortega and his tiny crew have persisted, dusting closed up rooms, cutting out dead wood and improving the bosque trails, preparing online offerings, and gearing up for visitors.
Ortega reports that “we received a National Park Service grant for a $1.1 million preservation project to completely restore The Storehouse (the building with the two colorful carved doors) as well as restore the plaster and balcony of The Hacienda. But it likely will be about two years before The Storehouse is accessible to the public.”
Ortega is an award-winning archaeologist/anthropologist who trained at Eastern New Mexico University, and earned a master’s degree in museum studies from the University of New Mexico. Carlyn Stewart, an instructional coordinator and archaeologist, handles curriculum development, community outreach programs, volunteer coordination and interpretive planning. Interpretive Ranger Rebecca Ward is the site’s foodie and food historian, who handles visitors, exhibits and collections.
This young, energetic, tech-savvy team intends to involve local residents more in Los Luceros, possibly making space available for community gardens, and a growers’ market to aid those affected by food insecurity. The site’s mission in part is to “preserve the agricultural use of the property, specifically the apple orchard and pasture within the view shed of The Hacienda,” as well as to “provide for the protection of the environmental elements on the property, specifically the irrigated lands, the bosque, and the Rio Grande.”
Meanwhile, enjoy a visit to the quiet beauty of Los Luceros, open Thursday-Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., punctuated only by occasional expressions of content by its animal population. (Your leashed dog is welcome.) After a long period of pandemic shutdown, the upstairs of the main hacienda is open, as is the Victorian Cottage and the chapel. The ancient acequia is running, too, and educational programs are underway.
Take a virtual tour of the Acequia Madre by visiting http://nmhistoricsites.org/los-luceros Plan a visit to Los Luceros by viewing http://nmhistoricsites.org/los-lucer os/plan. You also can stay up to date via the Los Luceros Historic Site YouTube channel.
Like much of the country, Corrales entities and nearby businesses are flying “We Are Hiring” banners, among them Flying Star, The Range Cafe, and Tesuque Stucco. None thus far wave from the endlessly-awaited SWOP, or Southwest Organic Producers cannabis retail outlet at 4604 Corrales Road, which in February was reportedly close to opening, save for the nitty-gritty of its required tie-in needed to the Village wastewater system.
It appeared then that the retail medical cannabis operation would go up at the far eastern end of the former Kim Jew property but that space now has welcomed back florist and decorator Tammy Evans, whose 2018 business Amazing Finds, offered there not only consignment pieces, but also repurposed worn-once wedding gowns, and full service floral designs.
Her new gig called Amazing Finds’ Flowers is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. You can reach Evans at 907-5115. The SWOP entrance, right off Corrales Road, is clearly marked but as yet appears to contain little but empty shelves.
Another future business already clearly making itself known behind a temporary fence stretching along Perea Road, with a smaller section facing Corrales Road is Localmotive, its temporary black with orange sign facing north and south.
The future coffee-breakfast-lunch place at 4765 Corrales Road describes itself as “A restaurant designed to inspire greater community connection through an elevated but accessible experience,based on the unique history of Corrales, NM.”
The prime mover behind Localmotive is Shannon Byrne, a longtime global marketing executive with Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company. The project is expected to kick off this fall, according to localmotivenm.com
Most recently at the same address Grizz Carley engaged with archery and gun enthusiasts via his business Adventure Studios, which offered classes as well as artwork framing. It appears Carley has moved on to other pursuits in Arizona. The one-acre commercial site includes an old train station brought here from southern New Mexico, plus outbuildings and the main structure built in 1957.
It’s curious to note that back in the early 1980s the main building was home to a French restaurant created and run by future Corrales Mayor Laura Warren and her partner, Mary Briault, for a few years. Not exactly new, but constrained by the pandemic for nearly two years, is Designed Health Options LLC at 5065 Corrales Road. Its website describes its offerings this way: “Healthcare that Blends Traditional Medical with Holistic Options for Mind and Body Wellness.”
The team commonly addresses “difficult life events” such as abuse, addiction, death of a loved one, physical illness, career problems; “life transitions or decisions” such as marriage, divorce, relationship loss, becoming a parent and retirement.
Along with “self-discovery,” they offer self-improvement and an opportunity to reflect on past experiences and explore feelings and values, as well as “mental health issues” including past trauma, anxiety and mood disorders, such as depression, bipolar disorder, eating disorder and others. Physician Joan Lewis is the organizer behind this project, along with seven other healthcare providers. See https://designedhealthoptions.com
Also in the works at this location and almost ready to go is a four bedroom furnished short-term rental —limit of 28 days— as well as planned wellness retreats. You can reach Designed Health at 404-8154.
Way at the end of Academy Drive, multiple red and white signs advise against trespassing, loitering and similar. K9 Rehab, a dog training and kennel business formerly in Rio Rancho, set up operations inside the old Academy Furniture store following Planning and Zoning approval back in spring 2019, but is there no longer. Owner Tracie Dulniak’s business included a boarding kennel, training areas and retail pet food and supplies.
Apparently K9 Rehab has “satellites across New Mexico,” now and people needing help with their dogs can continue to connect with Dulniak by calling (505) 480-1973.
On June 1, some Corrales residents, but not most, will vote their choice for a new member of Congress to represent them. Only Corrales’ Precinct 57 lies within New Mexico’s Congressional District 1 the seat which Democrat Deb Haaland held until she was confirmed as President Joe Biden’s U.S. Secretary of the Interior. The vacancy is to be filled at the special election June 1.
On the ballot are Democrat Melanie Stansbury who currently serves in the N.M. House of Representatives, Republican Mark Moores who currently serves in the N.M. Senate, Independent Aubrey Dunn, Jr. and Libertarian Chris Manning. Early and absentee balloting is already underway.
Haaland resigned from her position representing the First Congressional District on March 16, the day after she was confirmed as Biden’s Interior Secretary. The N.M. Republican Party’s central committee chose Moores to run in the special election while the N.M. Democratic Party chose Stansbury in a run-off with State Senator Antoinette Sedillo Lopez.
The Libertarian candidate, Manning, does not live in the district he hopes to represent in Congress, but that does not disqualify him. Moores was raised in suburban Washington DC. He moved to New Mexico to attend the University of New Mexico on a football scholarship. At UNM, he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and later a master’s from the Anderson School of Management. In 2006, he was hired as director of the N.M. Dental Association. Among his roles there was to manage free dental clinics throughout the state.
Stansbury was born in Farmington and raised in Albuquerque. She earned a bachelor’s degree from St. Mary’s College in California and a master’s in development sociology from Cornell University. She is now a doctorate candidate at Cornell in the same discipline with minors in natural resources and Native American studies.
Since 2017 she has been a senior advisor at the Utton Transboundary Resources Center at UNM. Dunn is the son of the late State Senator Aubrey Dunn, one of the state’s most powerful Democrats during the 1970s.
Aubrey Dunn, Jr., born in Alamogordo, won election as State Land Commissioner in 2012, running as a Republican. A rancher and former banker, he switched party affiliation to Libertarian in January 2018. He’s now running as an independent. Manning, who lives in the Farmington area, helps run a small family business. He left college to join the Army National Guard and served in Afghanistan in 2007-08. He later earned an associate’s degree from Arizona State University in secondary education with an emphasis in history.
The wife and children of Dave Cook, the Corrales businessman who went missing during a 2016 mountain climbing trip in Colorado, have launched a fundraiser for search and rescue operations. Maureen Cook and children Ryan, Sara and Kate unveiled their online Dave Gives Back fund earlier this month in conjunction with National Search and Rescue Week.
Proceeds form the sale of T-shirts, caps, coffee mugs and many other custom items will go to those organizations, especially Mountain Rescue Aspen. (See Corrales Comment Vol. XXXV No.16 October 8, 2016 “Search Halted for Missing Corrales Mountaineer.”)
The search continued the following spring and summer.
“It was very difficult to watch the many search and rescue volunteers put their lives on the line attempting ground and air searches, and exposing themselves to the potential of injury with their extreme terrain and weather in the Elk Mountain range,” Maureen Cook explained in starting the Dave Gives Back campaign. “We will forever be grateful for their efforts even though we have yet to find Dave.”
Her husband disappeared September 19, 2016 after parking his car at a trail head to begin climbing his 47th Colorado peak in excess of 14,000 feet. He had been expected to call back to his family September 20, but word never came that he was safe. Founder and chief executive officer of Right Sized Inventory, a software solution to inventory control, Cook was an experienced climber, guide and outdoorsman. The 49 year old former Marine had planned to summit Pyramid Peak and then Maroon and North Maroon Peaks.
The search effort was joined by several of his friends in Corrales and Albuquerque. Snow covered much of the search area, the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office reported. The last confirmed sighting of Cook was made by a U.S. Forest Service employee near Maroon Lake in the morning September 20.
The father of three is the son-in-law of Joanie and Dennis McSweeney. In a statement when the initial search was abandoned, family members noted, “As an experienced mountaineer with love for the outdoors and mountain climbing, he has completed 48 of Colorado’s 14,000-foot mountains. He went up on Maroon Bells on September 19 in Aspen, Colorado. He planned to spend that Monday and Tuesday hiking the Maroon Bells and Pyramid Peak.
“We would like to give special thanks to the Pitkin County Sheriff Office, the search and rescue team of Mountain Rescue Aspen, the other teams from surrounding areas that came in to help, the volunteers and all those who assisted in this search.
“For those who are unfamiliar with the Maroon Bells, please note that the hiking and climbing routes have areas of very dangerous terrain. We would like to raise awareness that the peaks are among the most difficult of the Colorado ‘Fourteeners.’”
The Dave Gives Back website, davegivesback.org, includes a reproduction of the eight goals to live by that Cook posted on notecards above his desk: Have a Positive Attitude; Physical Training, Live Healthy; Motivate Yourself and Others; Earn Respect; Set Goals; Live with Integrity; Mentoring; and Have Fun.”
She expressed thanks for those in Corrales and elsewhere who have supported her family during their time of grief. “Our family is so grateful to live in such a supportive community, and we will always appreciate every ounce of kindness that was extended to us throughout the most difficult days of our lives. With time and support, we have found our footing, and while we miss Dave terribly, we now see a path toward giving back to our community and those in need while honoring Dave.”
Intel apparently has been persuaded to again test the air in Corrales neighborhoods for traces of its industrial chemical emissions. Discussions about capturing “grab samples” near the home of a Corrales member of Intel’s Community Environmental Working Group (CEWG), Dennis O’Mara, have been ongoing for more than a year; the proposed air sampling is unrelated to the microchip manufacturer’s announcement earlier this month that it will expand production in the factories above Corrales.
O’Mara, a retired specialist for the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), continues to report that he smells, and is affected by, chemicals he thinks originate at the Intel facilities more than a half-mile away. He began smelling those suspicious odors more than seven years ago, perhaps because Intel finally raised its emissions stacks to disperse waste chemicals more widely.
Before the stacks were raised to an appropriate height in 2011, residents’ complaints were almost entirely concentrated in down-slope homes immediately below Intel, especially the Windover and Pueblo los Cerros areas. Those complaints have dropped off sharply in recent years.
At the April 2021 CEWG meeting, held online, members discussed developing an air testing protocol, focusing on a proposal by CEWG member Mike Williams, an air pollution specialist with New Mexico Citizens for Clean Air and Water. Minutes from the September 2020 CEWG meeting said O’Mara, who lives along Tierra Encantada, reported “he had experienced several more odor incidents over the last month. The most recent was this past Sunday night. His swamp cooler was off, but the windows were cracked open.
“The odor hit about 1:30 a.m. and proceeded to worsen. Around 2:30 a.m. he experienced the burning sensation in his nose, throat and lungs. He said it smelled like someone had ‘scorched the bottom of their pound cake.’ a sweet smell that was hard to describe and was abnormal. He said he did not venture outside to further investigate.”
At the same meeting last summer, CEWG chairman John Bartlit, a founder of New Mexico Citizens for Clean Air and Water, told of published list of 650 industrial chemicals and associated odors compiled by the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR).
Last summer O’Mara said he would consider surveying other residents in his neighborhood to learn whether they, too, were bothered by night time fumes. At the April CEWG meeting, he suggested placing the air sample cannisters in three different locations at the same time to improve chances a reported odor would be captured.
Intel’s representative on the working group, Alex Lowry, tentatively agreed that his firm would pay the estimated $300 to place each cannister. That cost was thought to include analysis of the grabbed air sample. Minutes from that meeting noted that Lowry “suggested wherever the first cannister was open to collect the sample, that’s what they would send in for analysis, unless they wanted to organize opening all three at the same time.”
The minutes continued, “John Bartlit said he would start with three cannisters for Dennis O’Mara to distribute to neighbors. He said he would think about how to deal with three samples, and how to proceed after they were collected. “Dennis O’Mara said another option was to locate the cannisters in three different locations, or in one place, to grab three samples during an episode, one taken indoors and two samples taken outdoors.
“John Bartlit said that method would improve data quality but reduce the likelihood of getting data. It was a trade-off.” O’Mara cautioned there is no clear rationale for deciding when and where to test, even after the suspect odor is detected. “They did not have a way of predicting when it was appropriate to use the grab sampling. The middle of summer was when he and some of his neighbors had experienced the most toxic fumes,” according to the meeting minutes.
O’Mara began reporting breathing fumes he associated with Intel more than eight years ago. He lives far from the neighborhoods nearest the factories that experienced such intense exposures decades ago. Conditions for near-neighbors subsided markedly once Intel erected tall “smoke stacks” that dissipated emissions and sent them farther away. (See Corrales Comment series on Radian Corporation’s risk assessment beginning with Vol.XVI, No. 23, January 24, 1998 and especially Part 4, Vol.XVII, No.3, March 21, 1998 “Air Pollution Study Seems to Suggest Intel’s Emissions Stacks Are Too Low”)
Years ago, air quality monitoring and sampling was conducted in and around the Pueblo los Cerros condos by Corrales Residents for Clean Air and Water which purchased a sophisticated Fourier transform infrared device. The equipment was later transferred to an environmental group monitoring emissions from Intel facilities in Oregon.
At the August, 2020 CEWG meeting, Williams said a less sophisticated method was to grab air samples in cannisters which could be sent to a lab for analysis. That method, too, was deployed in Corrales decades ago by Southwest Organizing Project.
O’Mara asked whether a swamp cooler could concentrate emissions in the air that might be drawn into a home. Williams replied the cooler would not concentrate fumes, but might change their form. If material came in as a gas, he explained, moisture in the cooler could change it to particles, such as a fine mist that might be inhaled.
The health effects of chemical emissions from Intel have received considerable attention during the past three decades, including a detailed study funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The Corrales Air Toxics Study implemented by the N.M. Air Quality Bureau produced inconclusive results in 2004. (See Corrales Comment Vol. XXIII No.9 June 19, 2004 “Toxicologist Says Detected Fumes Pose Health Risk.”)
That $600,000 study was abruptly halted in spring 2004 when then-Bureau Chief Mary Uhl reported that a consultant’s air pollution plume modeling results showed Intel’s pollution was traced to nearby residents’ homes at the time they reported illnesses. Such a finding was unacceptable politically. She was later removed as bureau chief.
In the wake of Uhl’s damning disclosure, cabinet level officials within Governor Bill Richardson’s administration huddled to find a way through the dilemma. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXIII, No. 5, April 24, 2004 “Late Report Links Illnesses to Intel Emission Plume” and Vol.XXIII, No. 9, June 19, 2004 “Cabinet Secretaries Don‘t Believe Air Problem.”)
At that time, the cabinet secretary for the N.M. Environment Department was Ron Curry, who now is Corrales’ Village Administrator. Those findings led to creating the CEWG, which usually holds monthly meetings in the Corrales Senior Center. Now those are online. Starting about the same time was a study by the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) on exposure to toxic chemicals from Intel.
The agency’s “community health consultation” began in mid-2004 when Rio Rancho realtor Marcy Brandenburg filed a petition with ATSDR to investigate ongoing health problems reported by residents and business people near the microchip factories.
By the 1990s, suspicions had arisen that certain pollutants that Intel acknowledged releasing, such as large quantities of silica powder, might be causing respiratory and other diseases. (See Corrales Comment series beginning Vol.XXVIII, No.23, January 23, 2010 “Dallas-Region EPA Stages Surprise Inspection at Intel.”)
The EPA report on the inspection came out in October 2010. (See Corrales Comment series beginning Vol.XXIX, No.17, October 23, 2010 “EPA Inspection Slams Air Pollution Permit.”)
The two federal agencies gave considerable attention to the inadequacy of the air pollution permit issued by the N.M. Air Quality Bureau. Reinforcing the criticism voiced for years by CRCAW members and homeowners near Intel, the investigating team stated, “The N.M. Environment Department permit does not contain short-term (hourly, daily, monthly) emissions limits for volatile organic compounds and Hazardous Air Pollutants. Without short-term limits, Intel can have spikes in its emission profile that can lead to acute exposures of these chemicals.”
The simmering controversy of short-term rental housing in Corrales has begun to boil over. Perhaps because it can be viewed as increasingly pervasive commercial intrusion into residential neighborhoods, applications to the Village Planning and Zoning office for such businesses are gaining much more scrutiny than in the past.
At the May 19 P&Z commission meeting, it was neighbor-against-neighbor as a Corrales resident sought a Short-Term Rental permit for a house at 593 Reclining Acres, west of Loma Larga.
Just a few years ago, the Village didn’t even have an application form to fill out for such a permit. The application submitted by Jeannine Grayson to rent out parts of her home has been opposed by dozens of villagers, many of whom live along Reclining Acres. A petition with at least 42 signatures opposing the permit was submitted before the May 19 P&Z meeting. Among them was former Village Councillor Pat Clauser and former P&Z Commissioner Mike Sorce.
Signators were encouraged to state on the petition why they opposed the permit. Reasons included increased traffic, noise, greater density and concern over well water quality due to expected increase in septic discharges. Another request for a short-term rental permit was filed recently for a residence at 5220 Corrales Road to temporarily house up to six adults and three children. In that case, Brian Blum said he wanted the permit “so that if from time to time I would rent out a room to somebody in the house, I would have the permits in place to do so.
“It is not my primary business. It is not even a significant source of income. It is just to have that as an option. I like meeting new people, and having people come from out of state and out of the country to visit, so that is a big part of it.” The controversy has spread all across the United States, especially with the advent of Airbnb accommodations for visitors who want a place to stay in a residential area rather than a typical hotel or motel. But here as elsewhere, many nearby homeowners object.
Signs and banners have begun going up in several parts of Corrales as villagers try to head off more of those ventures. Related opposition has sprung up to counter an increase in new construction of “casitas,” or secondary dwellings, on one-acre parcels. Earlier this year, the Village Council imposed a moratorium on issuance of building permits for “casitas, or guesthouses or “granny quarters” typically rented out.
At its January 26, 2021 session, the council voted five-to-one to impose a 180-day moratorium on building permits for “casitas.” Since the earliest days of Corrales’ existence as a municipality, one of the bedrock elements of community consensus was prevention of commercial intrusion into neighborhoods. Exceptions were made for home-based businesses such as bookkeeping, rented stables and yoga classes, and “grandfathered” businesses of any type were largely ignored.
Still bed-and-breakfast businesses in residential neighborhoods have nearly always been approved here over many decades. But that does not seem to be what today’s applicants for short-term rental permits have in mind.
In the case before the P&Z commission May 19 with Grayson’s application, she named her business “Corrales Suite Lodging.” To aid the P&Z’s consideration of the Grayson application, P&Z Administrator Laurie Stout prepared a summary which included the following statement of the issues. “She is requesting to rent out two of the four bedrooms in the house.… She has a total of two properties adjacent to one another, and is also requesting a short-term permit (STR 21-05) at the other address, which will be the next application. The staff report noted that the current application is an amended submittal since “the applicant has lowered her occupancy request from eight to four short-term renters.”
“In Ms Grayson’s narrative, she states there are four bedrooms which will accommodate up to six occupants. She lives in one bedroom, another is occupied by one long-term renter. The remaining two bedrooms are designated for the short-term rental business with two occupants each.”
Stout’s memo further explained that “at the first hearing for this application, a number of neighbors wrote or commented on the short-term rental, and were vehemently opposed. The same can be expected this time. A neighbor has stirred up the street.… While concerns about additional traffic, etc. are valid, there seems to be an extreme effort to shoot down any and all business activity now that Ms. Grayson is attempting to become compliant.”
The Village’s current ordinance allows short-term rentals under the following restrictions. The residence can have no more than six guest rooms, and no more than two occupants per bedroom. Children 12 and under are not included in that permissible total.
The rules also say that off-street parking is required, with at least one parking space per bedroom on the property. In supporting her application for the permit Grayson pointed out that her business is just one of five or six already existing along Reclining Acres. Among those, she said is a winery, a blacksmith farrier and an auto salvage yard.
Grayson’s request has drawn support from former short-term renters and neighbors. One of the former submitted a statement that “As of May 8, 2021, a coordinated public smear campaign against ‘Short-Term Rentals on Reclining Acres” has appeared, multiple properties are displaying a garish and tactless sign.… Planning and Zoning can only evaluate if Jeannine’s space meets the rules of Corrales for short-term rentals. It’s not up to Planning and Zoning to deny one street from having a short-term rental. What is the purpose to air grievances in this manner?”Another neighbor wrote “While Ms. Grayson is currently applying for permits to operate short-term rentals at both houses, it is my understanding she has had short-term renters residing at both houses without the required permits for several years now.”
Two years ago the P&Z office was struggling to address a growing demand for short-term rentals and casitas. A Planning and Zoning staff report dated April 10, 2019 stated that the administrator “is continuing to research ‘short-term rental’ ordinances in other communities to determine what might be appropriate for the Village.”
A short-term rental is defined as “any dwelling or property in which the owner may or may not reside, that is available for use or is used for accommodations or lodging of guests, paying a fee or other compensation for a period of less than 30 consecutive days.”
In recent years, controversies have arisen over neighborhood disturbances from short-term rentals during the Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta. Partying by balloonists, chase crews and others has sometimes gotten out of hand, at least from the standpoint of nearby residents.
In 2017 the Village Council unanimously approved Resolution 17-003 supporting N.M Legislature House Bill 266 and corresponding Senate Bill 254 at the Village Council meeting February 14. The two bills removed exemptions from lodgers’ taxes for people renting out fewer than three rooms. The Senate bill was sponsored by Corrales’ John Sapien.
But then-Governor Susana Martinez vetoed both bills. The rapid growth of web-driven Airbnb continues to out-pace tax regulations in place across the country, both on the local and the state level. So gross receipts taxes and lodging taxes are under the microscope now, as localities eye lost revenues from homeowners hosting through Airbnb.
Many states still have no state-wide legislation in place regarding short term rentals, though some major cities affected by a surge of Airbnb and Vrbo accommodations have zeroed in on tax collection.
Airbnb has pushed for voluntary collection agreements, or VCAs, with local governments, among them Santa Fe, which continues such an arrangement today. Back in 2019, Corrales P&Z Administrator at the time, Janet Cunningham- Stephens said she had “lots of concerns” regarding short-term rentals. “Are they changing the density and the feel of our neighborhoods, for example? And should commercial needs be favored over residential?”
Village Council meetings will return to in-person sessions for its first meeting in June, unless COVID-19 overcomes the vaccines and thwarts attempts to return to something resembling normal. The May 25 meeting was to have been the return to normal, but that possibility was scrapped because some items on the agenda had already been published as coming during a teleconference session.
“Sadly, our next council meeting cannot be in person,” Village Clerk Aaron Gjullin told Corrales Comment May 17. “We have a few business items —an appeal and a liquor license hearing— that have already been noticed [legal notice given] as a teleconference meeting. So hopefully our May 25 meeting will be our last Zoom, and we can meet in person in June!”
As during most of the past year, an invitation to join the meeting by Zoom can be found at the Village of Corrales website: http://www.corrales-nm.org. Click on “Government,” “meetings,” and then “05/25/2021 Regular Council meeting; agenda.”
Although the meeting agenda had not been set by press time, the mayor and council are expected to address the following at the May 25 meeting: approval of a preliminary budget for Village government’s fiscal year 2021-22; adoption of an ordinance for issuance of general obligation bonds to raise $2.1 million for streets and parks and recreation facilities; an application for a wholesale liquor license; and an amendment to the Village’s procurement policy.
Also likely to be addressed, if only by citizens during the Corraleños Forum, is the topic of a proliferation of short-term rentals. And earlier this year, several councillors had urged imposition of restrictions on construction of tall, view-blocking walls along the Corrales Road Scenic Byway. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXIX No.19 December 19, 2020 “Controls for Scenery-Blocking Walls?”)
No moratorium on constructing view-blocking walls and fences along Corrales Road was imposed back in March or April, but a beefed-up ordinance is likely to be enacted in the weeks ahead.
Discussion March 23 about possible restrictions to protect views along Corrales’ designated “scenic and historic byway” quickly veered away from the idea that a moratorium was necessary since the community did not find itself in an emergency that would require that measure.
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 the North Valley’s Rio Grande Boulevard imposed by the Village of Los Ranchos.
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.
But the Village Council did impose a moratorium on building permits for “casitas,” or secondary dwellings on one-acre home sites and short-term rentals.
Responding to villagers’ concerns that Corrales’ long-standing one-home-per-acre policy is consistently being circumvented, the Village Council imposed a six-month moratorium on permits to build secondary dwellings on lots and on applications to operate short-term rentals.
After substantial public comment at its January 26 session, the council voted five-to-one to impose the 180-day moratorium noting that “the size of accessory structures is virtually unregulated, sometimes resulting in what appears to be two homes on one lot,” and that such residences “are being utilized for the commercial purpose of providing short-term rental accommodations.”
The approved resolution noted that “the proliferation of loosely-regulated accessory structures being used as short- and long-term rentals has the potential for far-reaching deleterious effects on the village, including negatively impacting neighborhoods with greater numbers of vehicles and persons not previously present and increasing the effective density above that permitted or intended in the A-1 an A-2 zoning districts.”
Much of the discussion during the Zoom meeting, to which at least six listened in as audience, focused on the perceived need for a moratorium while the same issues are being addressed by planners with the Mid-Region Council of Governments (MRCOG) through a contract with the Village approved last month. The lone hold-out member of the council who objected to the moratorium, Councillor Zach Burkett, said he thought the resolution was “duplicitous” because its stated purpose is to allow time for the Planning and Zoning Commission to analyze the problem and come up with recommended fixes, “but this is exactly what MRCOG is supposed to be doing” by the end of the year.
The problem has been recognized for years, even decades, but it has become more acute with the advent of Airbnb and other short-term rental opportunities. Going back to the 1980s, pressures to bust the prohibition against higher residential density were expected to intensify when the Village installed a sewer line, thereby obviating groundwater pollution from septic leach fields. But nowadays, the pressures actually come from neighborhoods not served by the wastewater system, especially where new homes are built on vacant lots.
The current controversy apparently erupted over a new home being built on West Ella Drive last year. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXIX No.13 September 19, 2020 “West Ella ‘Casita’ Draws Neighbors’ Ire.”)
Construction of a large “casita” next to a new home underway at 489 West Ella Drive last summer riled neighbors, including the mother of former Mayor Scott Kominiak. The new home construction site on West Ella Drive is at least the third project in recent years where a house and “casita” have been built simultaneously in seeming contravention of the one-dwelling-per-acre regulations.
Corrales’ laws allow “casitas,” or guesthouses, on a one-acre lot, as long as the secondary residence does not have a full kitchen. And the builder at 489 West Ella, Wade Wingfield, assured Corrales Comment that the “casita” there complies with that rule. “You can have a separate living quarters as long as it doesn’t have a fully-functioning kitchen,” Wingfield said August 11, 2020. “You can have a refrigerator, a microwave, a sink and anything else, but you just can’t have a stove and oven.”
Wingfield said he had obtained all the permits and approvals needed through the Corrales Planning and Zoning Department.
Before the council imposed the moratorium, they heard or read statements from villagers giving both sides of the controversy. One of those was from builder Norm Schreifels of Sun Mountain Construction who wrote, “It has come to my attention that there are those in the village as well as council members that are trying to impose a moratorium on the construction of casitas. I have several upcoming construction projects that are casitas for family members of my clients and was told that I will not be allowed to obtain a permit for the casitas.”
Schreifels forwarded to Village Clerk Aaron Gjullin and Councillor Zach Burkett what he said is in State statute that specifically allows such casitas “which cannot be overridden by local municipalities. The law not only allows for casitas for family members but it also allows for a second kitchen.
“I am aware of why this has become a concern, and hope that one occurrence by a certain builder does not reflect on all builders. I have built many casitas and outbuildings here in Corrales and the neighbors didn’t have any concerns or objections. The casitas were considerably smaller than the main house, and the total area never exceeded the allowable percentage of construction that is allowed by the Village of Corrales.
“A way that we have done this in other areas is to have the homeowner sign a letter stating that the casita is to be used by family members and not as a rental. Presenting the other side was a letter from Bob Pinkerton, who resides along Dancing Horse Lane. “My concern is with the apparent speed that accessory dwelling permits and short-term rental permits are under consideration without a real, focused study of impacts to our village and maintaining our rural heritage per the Corrales Comprehensive Land Use Plan.
“[I] strongly urge adoption of Resolution 21-03 moratorium on all accessory building permits and short-term rental permits until conditions and procedures are thoroughly studied with due care and diligence, precluding adverse effects upon our village. Foisting partially thought-out permit procedures in a rush to approve is absolutely out of character, and detrimental to the citizens, homeowners and residents of the Village of Corrales.”
At the council meeting that adopted the moratorium, no mention was made of the casita project on 489 West Ella. The former mayor’s mother, Patricia Kominiak, was one of six villagers who wrote to Mayor Jo Anne Roake on August 13 last year protesting the project on West Ella. Others were Charlotte Anderson, Dan and Estelle Metz, and Joe and Meryl Hancock.
“Secondary dwellings, guest houses or ‘casitas’ are simply not allowed in our land use codes, and it is therefore a mystery to us how the Village would issue a permit for such development, yet you appear to be doing so,” they wrote. “Multiple inquiries to the building inspector about this question have been effectively ignored. No information has been made available about the project in question, and it was not until construction was well underway that the problem became apparent to us and our fears were confirmed.”
At the time, Corrales Planning and Zoning Administrator Laurie Stout explained how the casita on West Ella gained approval, and suggested the Village Council may re-visit the rules in the months ahead. “In Section 18-29, the definition of dwelling unit in Village Code states: dwelling unit means any building or part of a building intended for human occupancy and containing one or more connected rooms and a single kitchen, designed for one family for living and sleeping purposes.”
The definition of kitchen, she added, “means any room principally used, intended or designed to be used for cooking or the preparation of food. The presence of a range or oven, or utility connections suitable for servicing a range or oven, shall be considered as establishing a kitchen. “This means a second structure on a lot, as long as there is no range or oven (or utility connections for such) meets the letter of the law in Village of Corrales Code. Contractors can and will exploit this loophole if their clients request.”
Stout said the mayor and council may try to tighten up relevant regulations “Potential options in Corrales could be looking into limiting the size of the accessory unit, requiring that it merely be an addition to the home, etc. The intent of the N.M. Statute is to allow family members, such as elderly parents, to live on-property with their relatives.
“The reality is that often at some point the separate structure ends up having a kitchen added retroactively, and that structure eventually becomes a long-term rental with a tenant —thus becoming a zoning violation.” The council’s moratorium adopted January 26 reads as follows, in part.
“Be it resolved by the Governing Body of the Village of Corrales, that:
1. Beginning on the effective date of this Resolution there shall be in force a 180 day moratorium on the acceptance, review, or consideration of any new applications, including but not limited to land use applications, building permit applications, and business registration applications related in any way to the development, erection, or establishment of an accessory structure built or modified to accommodate human habitation.
2. Beginning on the effective date of this Resolution there shall be in force a 180 day moratorium on the acceptance, review, or consideration of any new applications, including but not limited to land use applications, building permit applications, and business registration applications related in any way to the development, erection or establishment of Short-Term Rentals in an existing or planned accessory structure.
3. The moratorium imposed by this Resolution shall not be deemed to affect the status of any facilities existing and operational in the Village, nor permits having been properly issued on the date of adoption of this Resolution.
4. During the time that the moratorium described in the foregoing sections of this Resolution is in place, the Village of Corrales will exercise due diligence and work in good faith with the citizens and interested parties to develop and implement balanced and workable public policies relating to these issues.
5. During the time that the moratorium described in the foregoing sections of this Resolution is in place, the provisions of this Resolution shall prevail and have precedence over any contrary or inconsistent provisions of any prior ordinance or resolution of the Village; provided, however, that the provisions of prior ordinances and resolutions are not deemed to have been repealed by this Resolution, and shall remain in full force and effect to the extent not inconsistent with the provisions hereof.
6. The moratorium enacted by this Resolution shall terminate and be deemed repealed in its entirety on the date that is 180 days after the effective date of this Resolution, unless otherwise specifically provided by resolution or ordinance duly adopted by the Governing Body subsequent to the effective date of this Resolution.”
On short notice to Village officials, the state highway department’s contractor will repave Corrales Road from south to north later this month or next. Traffic on Corrales Road (State Highway 448) could be constricted to one lane for up to two months, Village Administrator Ron Curry was told. “This was quite a surprise to us, since there had been no talk about that at all. 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.
“No one contacted us, and it looks like no one had any plan to contact us ahead of time,” Curry said.
The Kansas-based company perfected a single-pass re-paving system that uses a long machine to rip up asphalt on a road, grind it up, mix it with a binder chemical and then lay it back down as fresh pavement. The technique was introduced in 1965, and Cutler Re-Paving became one of the nation’s leading practitioners.
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…” 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.”)
Village Administrator Ron Curry reported at the council’s March 23, 2021 meeting that the perennial topic of Corrales taking over Corrales Road came up at a regular meeting with NMDOT in mid-March. “So now we have asked the State of New Mexico to make a presentation to the council on April 20. “We recognize that this is a high-profile discussion item and that people have a lot of opinions about it —some are old and some are new— and we expect all of those to come out.
“NMDOT has kind of reached a point where they have reached a window in which they need to plan for it to take place,” Curry continued.
He emphasized the importance of giving Corrales officials, and especially Corrales businesses, ample advance notice about any changes that might require closing Corrales Road. As part of discussions about the future status of Highway 448 in recent years, it has been understood that NMDOT would have to re-pave, if not substantially rebuild, Corrales Road before the Village would agree to take over responsibility for it.
Such a project would have to be incorporated into a future NMDOT budget, which seems to have been Curry’s basis for saying at that time that the department had a current window for making a decision. “If this process begins to move forward, in December of this year, or December of next year, we want to know the exact time line for the disruption, because we want to be as conscious of our businesses along Corrales Road which are already struggling due to COVID.”
The Village Administrator said another topic NMDOT “has alluded to is that they need to encumber the money. If they’re got x-dollars to do this —and they’ll have to color that in for us at the meeting— we want to know what those dollars are and the timelines associated with using it.” 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 have insisted that NMDOT would have to transfer ownership only after the road has been 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.