By Meredith Hughes
With cool air startlingly in abundance, the balloons are up, and safely down, we trust, through October 10 at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, which returns after two years with Corrales’ Matt Guthrie continuing as president of the board. A new entry?
Remote-controlled (RC) balloons. These are considerably smaller than the ones flooding the skies, around 12 to 18 feet high, as compared to 100 to 120 feet tall.
On October 9 catch a mass ascension, night glow and fireworks. October 10, naturally, is the “Farewell Mass Ascension.” Sounds sweetly Biblical…..
You also can follow the fiesta live via YouTube, and catch up after the Fiesta as well. http://www.youtube.com/c/BalloonFiestaABQ.
Do visit the websites of your favorite museums, galleries and organizations to check opening times/new regulations. Published the first issue of the month, What’s On? invites suggestions one week before the publication date. firstname.lastname@example.org
Did You Know?
With Day of the Dead on its way, Corrales’ Poet Laureate, Rudy J. Miera, is inviting submissions of poetry from all ages for what he calls a Corrales Community Altar. The poems might include themes such as amor/love, recuerdos/memories, honor/recognition, and so on, in English or Spanish. And in haiku, free verse, or any style.
Type your work on a page 8 1/2x11 and include your name.
Poems will be accepted on Wednesdays and Thursdays this month from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Casa Perea Art Space, 4829 Corrales Road. 503-7636.
Also, October 25, from 10 to 5 p.m., consider bringing photos, mementos, toys, and such for the Community Altar. Corrales Elementary students are working on artwork for this project.
The poems will be displayed on the altar at Casa Perea from October 28 to November 3. The grand opening is October 30, from 6 to 9 p.m. Miera reports that there will be an opening blessing by Mapitzmitl Xiukwetzpaltzin, aka Paz, founder of the Albuquerque-based Aztec dance group Ehecatl, ( named after the Aztec god of the wind,) which includes the ritual “four directions” blowing of the concha.
The altar will come down by November 4, so plan to retrieve your items before that.
Restoration of the old one-room schoolhouse where Corrales kids were taught from the 1870s until 1925 is to be complete before next summer. John Perea acquired the building after the 2008 death of his uncle, Bobby Perea, who lived there. For years the earthen structure at the corner of Corrales Road and Rincon Road was all but swallowed up by dense Tree of Heaven sprouts. Adobe walls were sagging and parts of the interior were rotting away. Perea hopes to complete installation of a new floor and roof sometime before spring. “We would be very fortunate to have the electrical done and have a certificate of occupancy by next spring.
“We might even be able to have a Las Posada event in there this Christmas, even if we don’t have electrical service done by then.
“The first thing was to stabilize the building so that it didn’t fall down,” Perea said last month as restoration work resumed after starting about three years ago. “We’ve done a lot of cosmetic stuff and taken down all the interior walls, and taken off all the plaster that was about to fall.
“We had a look at the roof and found the beautiful original rough-cut lumber roof.”
Perea said he believes the lumber came from a mill in the Jemez Valley; he has ordered more for the replacement floor. “The idea is to make the restoration as much like the original as possible.”
That goes for the windows as well, although the original single-pane glass is being replaced with insulated glass. The project is being coordinated with an architect and other specialists through New Mexico MainStreet, and adobe restoration contractor Rick Catanach. “Right now we’re working on the front entrance, stabilizing and re-building that and putting a roof over that part. Then we’ll move to the back part of the house.”
He intends to use rough-cut lumber and mud plaster as much as possible to keep the old school house’s appearance like that of a structure built in the 1870s. “We will hide the electrical service because we’ll need that for modern-day uses, and we will furnish it with period pieces. We want to bring in an old potbellied stove. The idea is for it to be like a living museum.”
Inside will be a large room —the old classroom— flanked by two small rooms on the south side. One will be a meeting space and the other an office.
Corrales oldtimers used to tell of bringing chunks of coal inside the school house to burn in the stove that warmed the classroom.
Once the restoration is finished, Perea anticipates that groups like the Corrales Veterans of Foreign Wars post will meet in what used to be the classroom, along with the Tractor Club, the Kiwanis Club and others.
A future site development plan may show a common patio area between the old school and the restaurant.
Perea said the shed, or barn, at the rear of the property will be converted into restrooms and perhaps a bodega and coffee shop. “Back in the 1870s that was where the outhouse used to be, so maybe we should put up an old-fashioned outhouse door to the restrooms.”
Corrales physician Karam Sonu Bhalla, specializing in internal medicine and anesthesiology, has opened a practice in Corrales. He has implemented a “concierge” model which offers a more intensive, personalized approach to health care. The first Corrales physician to offer such a practice here, Alyson Thal, opened Corrales Family Practice in 2012.
Raised in India, Bhalla earned his medical degree at the University of Tennessee in Memphis followed by residencies in internal medicine and anesthesiology at the University of New Mexico. Subsequently, he has worked with Presbyterian, Kaseman, Davita and Lovelace administrations. In opening his practice here, Bhalla said he tries to integrate western medical care approaches from healing traditions in his native India. He works with patients who may not want to take pills as their first course of treatment, and gives priority to preventive care.
The physician said his experience in conventional clinic settings trouble him because visits were scheduled too tightly to allow for real interaction between doctor and patient. His office, Indigo Health MD, is in the Territorial Plaza building on Corrales Road, just north of Coronado Road.
Engineer Michael Smerechniak died August 19, at 94.
He obtained a bachelor’s degree in engineering at New York University, and parlayed his education into a career building aircraft such as the still-in service A-10 Warthog, B-1 Lancer and the Space Shuttle.
He was the father of Elena Kayak.
He met his future wife, Marie Jo Miera, through her cousin, Eduardo E. Gallegos, and married at the UNM Thomas Aquinas Newman Center. They raised a family in Queens, New York.
He was an avid stock market investor and recommended Apple stock to anyone he met. His mantra was “The more I give, the more I receive.” His most recent donation was made with his wife, to contribute to feed the Corrales vaccination pod workers as they helped stop the spread of COVID.
His hearty, appreciative laugh and sense of humor will be missed by everyone, including friends at the Meadowlark Senior Center who enjoyed his sharing the “Word-of-the-Day” calendar at lunchtime.
A Day of the Dead event is planned at Casa Perea Art Space, 4829 Corrales Road, October 30 through November 4. Corrales Poet Laureate Rudy Miera invites submission of poetry in any form for the event, along with photos, mementos, toys and other remembrances for a “Corrales community altar.” Miera will receive poetry in haiku, free verse or any style on Wednesdays and Thursdays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Casa Perea Art Space. Poems should be typed on an eight-and-a-half by 11 sheet of paper that includes the author’s name. Themes for submitted poetry are love/amor, recuerdos/memories and honor or recognition.
Anything to be included in the community altar should be submitted on Monday, October 25 between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. at Casa Perea.
The Día de los Muertos exhibit opening will be on Saturday, October 30, 6-9 .m.
More than 60 artists will have their work displayed in the Old Church through October10. The Old Church Fine Arts Show, now in its 33 year, is a collaboration between the Corrales Historical Society and the Corrales Society of Artists. The juried exhibit is free and open to the public with COVID-19 precautions maintained. No admission is charged and parking is free. The show will be online starting October 11, continuing until October 31 at http://www.corralesoldchurchshow.com.
All art is for sale; a portion of proceeds will support ongoing efforts to preserve the Old Church.
Corrales artists in the show include Elaine Bolz, Candace Bates-Cavellier, Dennis Chamberlain, Barbara Clark, Sandra Corless, Linda Dillenback, Ken Duckert, Susana Erling, Diana Fisch, Gail Harrison, Lucy Jelinek Hays, Ura Lemen, Lange Marshall, Kenneth Martinez, Victoria Mauldin, Sue Ellen Rael, Jude Rudder, Tina Stallard and Mary Sue Walsh.
Other exhibitors are from Albuquerque, Rio Rancho, Placitas, Pecos, Socorro, Santa Fe, Edgewood, Tijeras, Los Ranchos, Las Cruces and Cedar Crest.
By Stephani Dingreville
Lights, camera, action in Corrales!
Corraleños are learning that one side effect of living in a picturesque place is the presence of film crews. Three productions recently have been filmed in Corrales, filling our little village with trucks and trailers full of lights, cameras and actors. One of Village Clerk Aaron Gjullin’s jobs is to grant permits to production companies who want to film here. The permit process is fairly simple, but quick turn-arounds make it difficult to warn all Corrales inhabitants of traffic or noise trouble.
Permit applications must be submitted a minimum of five days before filming begins. The application is for a specific location; this information is public domain, and all residents and businesses within 300 feet of the filming are to be alerted. The Village application fee for a film permit is $100, and companies pay $250 per day of filming. That money goes directly to Village government, as well as any rental fees if the production companies use public land or parking lots.
Many of the productions that come to Corrales are based out of one of three nearby studios, I-25 Studios, Nob Hill Studios and Albuquerque Studios, which was bought by Netflix in 2018. Often, production companies rent studio space at one of these large studios and from that home base, they come to Corrales for location shoots. In fact, Albuquerque Studios has three different Corrales locations featured in the “Location Book” they provide to production companies, enticing them to come to the Albuquerque metro area to film.
Other times, production companies set up a “base camp” in Corrales, as the Twentieth television series Big Sky has recently done in the parking lot of the Cottonwood Montessori School. Big Sky is an American crime drama thriller series created by David E. Kelley and based on The Highway series of books by C. J. Box. The ABC series will present its second season at the end of September.
The hustle and bustle of the Wednesday Growers’ Market recently was less fruit and vegetable, more film crews whipping about, their huge rigs parked in the recreation center parking lot on Corrales Road. Growers’ Market chief Al Gonzales wondered how long they would be there and how much they were paying the Village to use the space, but he was equally concerned that the sweet corn sellers from Moriarty, Schwebach Farm, had not shown up with product. After filming the first season of Big Sky in British Colombia, the second season is being filmed in New Mexico. Gjullin asserts that as of September 17, all of the permits filed have been for the so-called Sears House location, at 4036 Corrales Road.
John Perea, owner of Perea’s Restaurant and Tijuana Bar, has mixed feelings about the film industry. Perea’s Bar is one of the locations featured in the location book offered by Albuquerque Studios. A quintessentially Corrales locale, Perea’s Bar is a favorite place for Corraleños to grab lunch on the patio or a drink at the bar. The dark, historical interior and thick adobe walls make it a desirable location for film crews. In the last month, the horror movie 312, which is still in production, filmed inside the bar. “It was a learning experience,” Perea says dryly. The bar had to be silent for the filming, so the air conditioner had to be turned off, and all the windows had to be blacked out. The crew also used a smoke machine to set the stage. “As a result of all the smoke and heat, one of the cast member’s wives, who was pregnant, passed out,” Perea recalled. The Corrales Fire Department had to be sent for, and the woman was revived. When asked if he thought his business benefited from the presence of film crews in Corrales, Perea says “maybe a little bit. Most of the film crews bring in their own catering, so I don’t seem to see much extra business when the crews are in town.”
Tijuana Bar once even hosted a wrap party after filming, however the production company brought in their own food. “The film industry is kind of bizarre,” John concludes. Corrales Elementary School teacher Ursula Kelly generally concurred, “I think the film industry is a double-edged sword. They come here for that rural feeling, but just being here they lessen what attracted them in the first place.”
Some villagers are happy to see the film industry’s presence in Corrales. Stevie Kuenzler lives on Priestly Road, off of Corrales Road just north of the Sears house, where Big Sky was being filmed. In his words, the filming “has all been positive in our eyes. Exciting too!”
Kyle Caraway is a life-time Corrales resident who has been working in the film industry for 14 years, giving him a unique perspective on this topic. He believes the film industry “provides opportunities to young New Mexicans who may have never had the chance to better their lives through a steady high-paying job with benefits and a retirement.” Caraway works as a “leadman” in set decorating, and so has lots of opportunities to shop locally for objects used to decorate the set. He says he always tries to shop within the host-community when possible. “We as a village should be welcoming more income for our small village businesses, not trying to push it away.”
According to Jennifer Esquivel, senior manager of marketing and communications for the New Mexico Film Office (NMFO), there are many different opportunities for villagers who would like to be directly involved in filming. They can list their property (homes, land, buildings and/or cars) in the NMFO’s location database which is found at http://www.nmfilm.com. Also found on this website is information about casting calls for anyone who would like to audition for a role. Esquivel advises checking out casting agency websites or their social media feeds. Lastly, she suggests Corrales business owners visit the website to become qualified film vendors and offer goods and services to the industry.
As the film industry grows in New Mexico, Corraleños may need to get used to seeing even more lights, more cameras and more action.
By Stephani Dingreville
Villagers have been wondering about the seeming halt to construction happening at the much anticipated Local Motive restaurant site on Corrales Road. According to Shannon Byrne, one of the founders of the proposed restaurant, the setbacks have been result of many factors. Shipment of certain materials and equipment needed to move forward with construction has suffered a nearly six-month delay, thanks to those pesky COVID supply chain issues that have brought so many projects to a halt. Byrne also says the “complicated nature of building a kitchen for a full-service restaurant in a building that has not been updated in over 30 years” is a factor in the delay of opening. Lastly is the need for site development plan approval from the Village.
This is where Laurie Stout comes in. She is the Planning and Zoning Administrator for the Village, and it is her job to help businesses put together the proposals they will bring in front of the Planning and Zoning Commission. Helping businesses work through the red tape and put together a full, appealing package to show the commission is the part of her job she likes best. Stout has helped countless businesses gain approval from the P&Z commission. She reports the plans for Local Motive were not quite finished to get them in front of the board during the September meeting, which filled up quickly. They were instead pushed to the October 20 meeting. According to Stout, the construction cannot move forward until these plans are approved.
In spite of having to move the target date for opening from fall 2021 to spring 2022, the founders’ enthusiasm for the project has not waned, nor has their vision changed. Byrne says their vision “is to create an iconic, memorable café experience in the Village of Corrales that is worthy of the unique and inclusive character of the community.” The menu will be “simple yet comprehensive, utilizing local goods where possible.”
Byrne says the restaurant plans to offer breakfast until 2 p.m. “including fresh juices,” and lunch/dinner items such as “salads, sandwiches, pasta and other entrees” until the doors close at 9 p.m. Byrne adds “we will also have ice cream and locally inspired desserts like apple pie.”
Also of interest is the Corrales-focused nature of the space. Byrne says, “Because we’re proud to be a part of the Corrales community, we’ll feature things that make our village unique —a special wall dedicated to the Pet Mayors of Corrales, as well as a community tile project to be featured on the exterior wall facing Corrales Road. We’ll also look for opportunities to collaborate with the school, church and other businesses to ensure we form an integral part of our community.”
Community will be the focus of the restaurant, and to that end, Byrne says they would “like to offer beer and wine to enhance that fabulous experience.” According to Stout, this might create further delays for the opening. She predicts a second public hearing will be necessary after the October 20 meeting “to discuss the alcohol issue.”
The restaurant’s proximity to Corrales Elementary School may mean the founders will need special permission from Albuquerque Public Schools to serve beer and wine. At the corner of Perea and Corrales Roads, the restaurant site sits just across the street from the school. APS Associate Superintendent Amanda DeBell says there is a State statute that requires at least 300 feet distance between a school and a business selling alcohol.
This statute, number 60-6B-10, is found in the 1978 Compilation of the New Mexico State Statutes Annotated. There it is stated: “A license may be granted for a proposed licensed premises if a person has obtained a waiver from a local option district governing body for the proposed licensed premises. For the purposes of this section, all measurements taken in order to determine the location of licensed premises in relation to churches or schools shall be the straight line distance from the property line of the licensed premises to the property line of the church or school.”
As clear as this document seems, it could actually be a cloudy issue that might just come down to the location of Local Motive’s front door. This was the case in 2012 for a Giant convenience store, located in Santa Fe.
The Albuquerque Journal reported that the store wanted to begin selling alcohol, but the City Council voted against giving them a license because of the store’s proximity to Sweeney Elementary School. The store appealed the decision, and the case went all the way up to the New Mexico Court of Appeals, where a judge decided the store could indeed proceed with selling alcohol because the front door of the establishment was more than 300 feet away from the front door of the school.
Obviously, a cafe selling beer and wine is very different from a convenience store selling liquor. In Byrne’swords, “Our goal is for Local Motive to be a place to gather, to socialize, to share food, a glass of wine, and stories. It’s most certainly not a bar.”
The village will be watching and waiting for this new venture to come rolling in.
By Stephani Dingreville
Imagine you discovered $4.7 million dollars in excess funds in one of your bank accounts. Before you spent a penny, wouldn’t you first want to find out how it got there?
That was the first step the Corrales Village Council took when $4.7 million was discovered in a Local Government Investment Pool (LGIP) at the end of 2019. McHard Accounting Consulting LLC, a forensic accounting firm located in Albuquerque, was engaged to this end. The McHard firm was to perform an assessment of the LGIP funds and make a determination their origin. Anne M. Layne, partner of the firm and Janet McHard, the firm’s founding partner came to deliver their report to the village council during the August 2020 council meeting.
Layne reported that for many years in a row, the Village revenues outpaced the Village expenditures. She explained that this is something that often goes unnoticed in organizations, where the focus tends to be on budgeting rather than on actual spending.
Councillor Zachary Burkett spoke up, saying “This is a real $4.8 million dollars in an account. It seems like at some point the debits and the credits on our budget would not have matched up and shown that we have millions of real dollars in surplus or hundreds of thousands each year. How do make sure that we catch that so that we do not have to retroactively go back and try and find out? Was there anything in particular you saw that we should address?”
Layne responded: “What I noticed, is that there were a couple years where some of your revenues coming through the general fund had exceeded what you had budgeted. A lot of that seemed to be allocations from the state that you maybe did not expect.” McHard then advised: “You may want to look at what kind of reporting you are getting on a quarterly basis so that you can see what is actually happening. When things are going well with the budget, then it typically does not come before council.”
This determination of the origin of the funds revealed them to be indeed free and clear to be spent however the village wants.
The council was advised caution by the firm, saying they should first reconcile all their accounts before spending the sum. Layne advised: “It may be prudent to keep the whole balance until after the reconciliation.” At the same meeting, Village Administrator Ron Curry stated his goal to have the reconciliation finished by the end of the calendar year.
On September 8, 2020, Administrator Curry reported that Reyna Aragon, finance officer for the Village, had begun working with Josh Trujillo’s firm, SJT Group LLC on “the detailed reconciliations.” He also restated: “We expect [the reconciliation] to go on through the end of the year.”
The next mention came in October 2020 at a Governing Body regular meeting, when Councillor Bill Woldman asked Administrator Curry if it was “possible to have a work study sometime in the future regarding the LGIP funds. Just to see what we should spend the money on, how much we should set aside and having a discussion about that.” Administrator Curry responded that it was a “great idea,” saying, “right now we are finishing up the bank reconciliations which we expect to have done by December. So I think we could have a work study early next year.” After this, the draft minutes from the December 2020 meeting list a “LGIP Funds Work Study” as a “future agenda item.”
This is around the time that Corrales Comment’s Meredith Hughes presented the compelling argument around using some of these funds for the Corrales Pathway Project. She quoted a persuasive letter from former Corrales MainStreet board member Deborah Blank. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXIX No.14 October 10, 2020 “$4.7 Million to Pathways?”)
Fast forward to February of 2021, when the next Village Council mention about this sum comes again from Administrator Curry. This time he asserts: “We are going to be working internally with some of our folks on the financial team. We have to discuss what we are going to do with this money.” Curry goes on to say: "I look forward to bringing something to council in late March.”
The next mention of this fund in Village Council minutes comes in the way of Resolution No. 21-26, which was approved at the July 20 Village Council meeting. This resolution first clarifies the definition of the LGIP, saying “The New Mexico Local Government Investment Pool (LGIP) is a fund created by legislation to allow municipal, city, county, tribe, and quasi-governmental bodies to voluntarily remit money to the State Treasurer’s Office to receive professional money management on a pooled basis.”
The exact amount in the LGIP fund is then clarified to be $4,360,997.79. The discrepancy between the original $4.7 million and this new sum may be a result of the account reconciliation performed by the SJT Group. Resolution No. 21-26 states that according to the rules of the LGIP, the village may spend the money any way it considers appropriate.
After these clarifications, the following resolutions are included. First is the decision that the Village will only spend half of the pooled monies, keeping the other $2,180,498.90 in the fund. The resolution then stipulates that the funds will not be spent on “payroll, recurring expenses or any subscriptions.” Lastly, it is resolved that the “Governing Body will approve any monies extended from the pool. “
According to Mayor JoAnneRoarke, this resolution represents the most recent action the Village has taken on these funds. Presumably, the Village has over $2 million in ready money, waiting on the perfect project to come along and spend it.
Two members of the Corralitos 4-H Club, Abigail McSween and Aiden Ashbrook, took top honors at a Youth Small Animal Expo organized by Sandoval County extension agents. The event attracted more than 240 entries of rabbits and poultry from around the state. McSween won best of show in the rabbit special fur competition, while Ashbrook took best of breed in the poultry competition. They won $400 in prize money. Anna Jacobson, of the Jemez Mountain Stallion 4-H Club, won the Trio Best of Show title. The competition was organized after State Fair officials cancelled the usual small animal shows due to COVID vaccine requirements.
Corrales Elementary School had a successful 2021 Jog-A-Thon in spite of the pandemic, earning a record $27,000. According to Kristen Coffman, vice president of the Corrales Elementary PTA, success was due to the “spirit and attitudes of the runners,” as well as many sponsors. “The school would like to thank the entire community for all their contributions, especially our sponsors: Edgerly Properties, 8 Grady’s, Dr. John A. Salazar, Pawsh Pet Grooming, Property Partners, Inc. and Raylee Homes.” Prizes were awarded for the top earner in each classroom, as well as the top-earning class. A spirit award was also given out.
Aaron Gjullin has resigned as Village Clerk to continue his education to become a physician. He replaced the previous clerk, Shannon Fresquez, in May 2020. He had worked for the Village of Corrales since 2008 when he was hired as a lifeguard at the recreation center, and was promoted to head life guard in 2017. Parks and Recreation Director Lynn Siverts observed his work and dedication and hired him as an assistant in the Parks and Recreation Department, a position he held before appointment as Village Clerk.
Gjullin earned a degree at the University of Portland after studying biology and mathematics. In the Portland area, he was general manager of a large farm from 2014 to 2017. In 2018, he was an administrative assistant in the Village Office here. In recent years, he has also managed the Village’s website and other digital media tasks. Corrales Comment expects to publish an interview with Gjullin in a following issue to share what he has learned about how Village government functions and possible advice for his successor.
Balloon Fiesta week is here, when Corrales eyes turn upward to see jeweled skies, with bursts of colorful balloons festooned in the atmosphere like so many Christmas ornaments. Of course the scenery closer to the ground is not so pretty. Lines of crawling cars seem to be everywhere. This year, the traffic seems especially bad, due to a confluence of several events. The Balloon Fiesta is certainly a factor, attracting hundreds of thousands of people to Albuquerque on a normal year. Even during the pandemic, the fiesta is expected to attract tens of thousands of people, and that influx can be felt on the streets of our little village. Many more travelers than usual seem to be enjoying our scenic byway.
Police records in Corrales show that August of 2021 was one of the highest months for traffic accidents in the last two years. This may be because of our “return to normal” including a return to in-person schooling. Add to this the trend of commuters returning to the office, and the numbers begin to explain themselves. Perhaps our newly paved road invites more carelessness in drivers. In any case, villagers and tourists alike should keep their eyes on the road during this beautiful but dangerous season.
Proposed construction of a casita —or alternatively, an office and workshop— at 66 Bad Coyote Place was approved by the Village Council after a September 16 hearing at which Ken and Kathleen DeHoff expressed disagreement with decisions by the Planning and Zoning Office. Initially they had sought a building permit for a 600 square-foot structure labeled as a casita, but that was rejected by Planning and Zoning Administrator Laurie Stout. The DeHoffs re-submitted plans with modifications including re-labelling areas as an office and workshop, and that was rejected as well. Another re-submittal came August 15. which the P&Z administrator approved. But in the DeHoffs’ appeal, they asked the Village Council to overturn Stout’s rejection of the original plan.
In their appeal to the Village Council, they argued, “The first submission of July 19 referred to the area as a casita with bedroom and kitchen with no appliances. The second submission of July 21 referred to the same physical area as a shop with a workbench and an office. It is clear in these two rejections that the Village takes a capricious and ambiguously broad interpretation of your new law, such that no reasonable person will be able to guess at what you may consider valid.”
The appeal further asserted that “Laurie’s stated ‘inferred conclusion’ in both rejections is that my space referred to as a casita or shop is independent and thus a dwelling unit. However, the space is not independent and not complete. There is no evidence that it by itself meets the ordinance definition for dwelling unit. The language of the ordinance is clear and unambiguous, and attempts to ‘interpret’ are capricious as best.”
After lengthy discussion on the appeal and Village Attorney Randy Autio’s defense of actions taken by the P&Z administrator, the council went into closed session to deliberate. At 7:15 p.m. they returned to an open session via Zoom and voted to uphold Stout’s rejections while finding the DeHoffs’ last submission acceptable. The backdrop for all of this has been P&Z’s approval of a casita at a new home construction site on West Ella Drive more than a year ago. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXIX No.13 September 19, 2020 “West Ella ‘Casita’ Draws Neighbors’ Ire.”) Stout referred to that earlier controversy with chagrin at the DeHoffs’ September 17 appeal hearing. “I wish I could take it back. In hindsight, I made a mistake.”
Corrales has done it again. Our community has distinguished itself as a paragon of democratic values and inclusivity by electing a peacock as Pet Mayor. Voters passed over five dogs, a cat and a goose to choose the village’s 2021-22 Pet Mayor when dollars were counted on what would have been the last day of the Corrales Harvest Festival. Most often, the winning candidate has been a dog or a horse. Without exhaustive research, Peacock James is considered the first of his kind in New Mexico to assume the title of Pet Mayor.
He and his companion, Kristyn Mader, picked up his victory ribbon and prize basket at the Village Mercantile Sunday, September 26. Other key Village pet appointments based on election results named Bliss, the service dog in training, as Village Administrator, and Standard Poodle Jewel as Chief of Police. The Canada goose, Mimers is now Corrales’ Pet Municipal Judge, and Nessie, the Newfoundland dog, is the Pet Fire Chief. Odin, the Great Pyrennes, was named Director of Barks and Recreation. The luxurious cat, Lugh, is Fire Commander, having declined appointment as Dog Catcher.
In the offing: a new, kinder and gentle Corrales Pet Police Department. Jewel, the poodle, ran on a platform that Corrales, and the world, “need more love, belly rubs and paws-itivity.” This year’s Pet Mayor election raised nearly $2,000 for animal causes, according to organizer Tracy Stabenow. “I want to thank you all for entering this year’s Pet Mayor election. All of you worked hard campaigning, and your efforts are greatly appreciated. Although the festival did not happen this year, the Pet Mayor election still raised almost $2,000 for animals in the village.”
Dollar-ballot voting was held at stores and at the Corrales Growers’ Market events on Wednesdays and Sundays.
The Halloween trick-or-treat party at the Corrales Recreation Center is back on! But it will be in daylight hours rather than spooky night time, according to Parks and Recreation Director Lynn Siverts. The time had not been set by press time for this issue. Referred to here as a “Trick or Trunk or Trailer” event, the basic idea is that kids, and older folks show up in Halloween costume and bravely enter creatively assembled haunted houses, make-shift graveyards and other scary settings in transformed vehicles to collect candy or other treats.
“We are going to do the event,” Siverts said October 4. “We are going to be changing the time to be a daytime activity, and we are going to get rid of the balloon portion due to it being daytime.
“We are going to need donations of candy and vehicles to participate. We will not have electrical power this year, as we don’t see a need because of the daylight. That can change if someone says they need power.
“We don’t have all the information yet, due to this just being planned, but we need to do something so the kids get their holiday that so many people love.”
At a work-study session October 5, Mayor Jo Anne Roake and members of the Village Council considered recommendations from Village Attorney Randy Autio on how to offer homeowners more protection from intensive marijuana-growing operations without running afoul of State law. Those recommendations were not made available to Corrales Comment by the deadline for this issue. But based on the attorney’s earlier advice, greater protections from cannabis odors, ventilation fan noise and grow-lights could be possible by requiring wider set-backs from residents’ property lines.
Complaints about disturbances from already-existing cannabis operations in Corrales have been lodged with Village officials. The following came from a resident near the greenhouses in the Corrales del Norte neighborhood operated by Spencer Komadina: “It is 12:45 a.m. September 25, 2021. The stench from Komadina’s pot facility woke me up.” On October 2, the same neighbor reported “It’s 9:30 p.m. and it smells like a frat pot party down here. We have to keep our windows closed.” Mayor Roake seeks remedies that could withstand legal challenge if commercial pot growers claim their right to farm cannabis established in state statute is infringed.
Last month the mayor said “We know state legalization of cannabis is causing many communities, including Corrales, concern. Many people are not necessarily opposed to cannabis, but they don’t want it next to their residences. “This is hard to achieve in a community like ours which doesn’t have industrial zones, and is zoned almost entirely as ‘agricultural one acre’ (A-1) and ‘agricultural two acres’(A-2), but we’re working on it.” In coming weeks, the Village Council is expected to amend its ordinance regulating the growing of marijuana. The mayor and council will take public comment at their October 12 meeting before voting on amendments to Ordinance No. 21-06.
At the September 14 council meeting, the council heard from the Village Attorney but insisted they were inclined to face cannabis growers’ lawsuits if it comes to that. A big problem is that Corrales has no alternative land use zoning category, such as one for light industry, to which any proposal for intensive cannabis growing could be directed. Autio advised the mayor and council that, as Corrales’ law and land use plan exist now, any attempt to block or obstruct large-scale marijuana growing here would almost surely face a lawsuit. Mayor Roake, a lawyer, concurred. “We will be sued and we will lose.” But some councillors said the Village shouldn’t be deterred by such a threat, arguing that it is more important to protect residents here than to be intimidated by possible legal action.
Councillors indicated they are likely to address residents’ concerns about negative impacts from large-scale cannabis growing and processing by requiring that such operations have much greater set-backs from residences. Although some councillors wanted to impose a moratorium on marijuana-growing permit applications, Autio advised the Village legally cannot do that. On the other hand, the attorney pushed back on the notion that Corrales is particularly at risk for being overrun by cannabis businesses. “We have a couple of things in our favor,” he said.
Land in Corrales is expensive, and therefore not optimal for any agricultural venture. Furthermore, we don’t have a municipal water system and we don’t have many large commercial buildings. “We are not going to be the popular choice for growing marijuana,” Autio said. “Corrales is not a likely place for marijuana growers to target.” But they already have, some would argue, pointing to the greenhouse complex operated by Spencer Komadina.
At least four villagers have weighed in on the need for tighter restrictions on cannabis operations based on their experience with the Komadina operation. They took issue, as did residents in other parts of the Village, that marijuana growing should be treated no differently from any other crop. In his remarks to the council, former Village Councillor Fred Hashimoto said comparing marijuana-growing as just the same as any other crop is ridiculous. “To consider cannabis as a regular crop plant is ludicrous. It’s much different than other crop plants,” he said , because “a pound of it in New Mexico sells for up to $4,500. Second, it’s frequently grown intensively in enclosed structures, which have 24-7 operations requiring huge amounts of water and electricity and high security measures such as fences, wires, lights and window bars;
“Third, in New Mexico, the regulation of cannabis businesses covers pages and pages of rules, regulations, certifications and licensures, and fourth, New Mexico limits me to growing only six plants in my backyard; it doesn’t limit me to only six chile plants or six stalks of corn. Municipalities and counties in many states have setbacks up to 1,000 feet for cannabis grow structures from residential property lines. Corrales says, ‘25 feet.’” Hashimoto argued that establishing more restrictive setbacks for cannabis operations in residential neighborhoods can survive any legal challenge. “Such setback restrictions are not prohibiting use; they allow, but set limits.
“Attorneys might say, the Village can get sued if it steps out too far. Really, the Village can get sued if it does or it doesn’t. Other municipalities and counties are protective of their residential neighborhoods. Corrales isn’t.” The former council member contended that, unlike some other municipalities that might want to control cannabis operations, Corrales could withstand a lawsuit asserting it had acted capriciously in enacting tighter restrictions.
Prospects that the Village might buy the Corrales Road frontage adjacent to, and just north of, Wells Fargo Bank advanced in late summer. An appraisal is expected this month or next for the vacant three acres owned by descendants of Corrales’ founder, Juan Gonzales Bas, for possible use as a “village center” linking the Village Office complex east of Corrales Road, La Entrada Park and the library, and the 5.5-acre heritage farm extending west to the Corrales Acequia ditch bank.
A sustained effort by villagers to acquire the Gonzales property for a variety of public purposes began more than four years ago, although elected officials remained mostly lukewarm to the idea. Finally, back in May, an ad hoc Heritage Park Planning Committee mounted a new push that apparently persuaded the Village Council to seek an appraisal on the parcel that has been zoned for commercial use since the 1980s.
Discussions by the mayor and council have come mainly in executive (closed) sessions which is typical when the governing body is considering real estate transactions. But at the tail end of the Village Council’s September 28 meeting, Councillor Mel Knight suggested she would like an update on the Village’s exploration of that option, wondering whether an appraisal had come in.
Village Administrator Ron Curry replied guardedly that those discussions had taken place in a closed session, but added he expected to be able to report to councillors within 60 to 90 days from August 6. The ad hoc committee’s May 13, 2021 proposal to the mayor and council laid out its rationale why the Village should at least move ahead with obtaining an appraisal on what it called “The Gonzales Three-Acre Property: the real estate investment for the future.”
Below are excerpts of the proposal which had drawn support from numerous civic groups and Village-appointed committees. The document was written primarily by former Village Councillor Fred Hashimoto and John Thompson, chairman of the Corrales Landmark Tree Preservation Advisory Committee, which advocated “establishing an arboretum of trees which would feature: open space, recreation, education (trees appropriate to Corrales; school gardens, etc.), shade, possible heritage plantings (like grapevines…; hence, a “Heritage Park.”)
The May 2021 proposal continued: “Architects and land-use planners became involved and a new paradigm evolved: Corrales owning the Gonzales three acres property as a centrally-located, potentially multi-use- — all ages and abilities— open space. Mention has been made of a Heritage Park and a Village Center, but those are only some possibilities for a central Village open space.”
In an email to Corrales Comment October 2, Hashimoto said he had been in contact with Gonzales family members who remain especially interested in selling the three acres to the Villlage of Corrales, as they had been to selling the 5.5-acre tract farther west which has been saved as farmland in perpetuity as the “Juan Gonzales Bas Heritage Farm.”
Hashimoto said the descendants would welcome working with the Village on this. I believe that other interest in the property has been received by the family, but they still prefer that the Village ends up owning the land.
“Several years ago, when some of us met with Hector Gonzales, he clearly stated that. Although the family (many of Hector’s remaining siblings are elderly and live in another state) would like to sell the land, they have n ot placed it on the open market, hoping that something can be worked out with the Village.
“For the last three to four years, this has been a consideration.”
(See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXVI No.9 July 8, 2017 “C-Zoned for Decades, New Ideas for Gonzales Frontage.”)
The May 13 proposal made the point that the three-acre frontage next to the bank “can serve as a natural leading gateway to the Gonzales Bas 5.5-acre farmland, which, to this time, has been obscure to many Corraleños.
“The Village will own both sides of Corrales Road and have a municipal presence there visible and identifiable to people in the many thousands of cars which pass by daily.
“This private three-acre space has been used (courtesy of the Gonzales family) by Village residents during parades, festivals and rallies. Having this as a public space will ensure unencumbered Village use. The space-enhanced area could be conceived as a Village Center, which has been historically and geographically core to many municipalities, local and worldwide.”
The document quotes Corrales architect Pat McClernon explaining “With the Village owning both sides of Corrales road, this would leverage the past investments and build upon community success for all proposed activities benefiting village residents as well as our guests from outside the village.”
Another Corrales architect-planner, Ed Boles who has specialized in hist oric preservation, put it this way back in 2018: “Forward-looking acquisition of pivotal land in the center of the Village may yield both tangible and intangible benefits. In economic revitalization circles it is well known that strategic public investment, including recreational and cultural projects, can help stimulate private sector development.”
The committee’s proposal argues “This Gonzales-owned three acres is the most historic farmland in the village. It has been single-family owned since 1712. Back in those times, Juan Gonzales Bas raised sheep in corrals. Many believe that that’s how the village became named ‘Corrales.’
“If the Village desires, some of the land can be leased out to commercial business(es). Owning the property gives the Village more control over how it’s used. More than a dozen years ago, a developer proposed building a large office complex there which would have blocked the viewshed to the west. This blocking did not please P&Z chairperson Terry Brown, but given their ordinance guidelines, P&Z could not stop it. The developer developed a health problem and the complex did not materialize. However, if the Village owns the land and decides to have commercial there, it has more control over site and development plans than P&Z could have….”
“Over the last several years, the three acres, in one form or another, have been discussed at dozens of our meetings. Participants have included those from the Corrales Landmark Tree Preservation Advisory Committee, architects and members of volunteer groups such as Corrales Arts Partners, Sandoval Master Gardeners, Native Plant Society of New Mexico, Corrales Tree Stewards, Parks and Recreation.
“Once the Village owns the three acres, these organizations, in addition to Corrales Main Street and the 4-H Club, could help with planning, implementation and maintenance for the open space.
“Volunteerism in the Village is a positive movement. People working together to make the village better is powerful, and benefits Corrales in more ways than just the material projects produced. The many who have worked for the three-acre concept are such volunteers.
“They have zero personal vested interests in the Village purchasing and developing the three acres except that it brightens the village’s future.
“To purchase and own the 3A is something the Village should do. It’s just some empty land now, but it can be much more. (Unfortunately, it could be much worse, and that’s just another reason why the Village should own it.)
“Currently, the Corrales Historical Society is celebrating ‘300 Years of Corrales Heritage and 50 Years of Village Incorporation.” The three acres goes back those 300+ years. Wouldn’t it be fitting for the Village to purchase this very unique piece of Corrales heritage in the 50th year of its incorporation to solidify its standing and for the betterment of its future?”
When he proposed the purchase agreement for what is now the heritage farm at the May 13, 2008 Village Council meeting, then-Mayor Phil Gasteyer called it “the historic centerpiece for the Village of Corrales.”
But the purchase did not include the front three acres of the tract, just north of Wells Fargo Bank. That frontage was sold to developer Jack Westman who hoped to build an office complex there.
However, he was key to arranging the deal by which the Village acquired the family’s 5.5 acres to the west, adjacent to the acequia, which otherwise would have become a housing development.
“I have to give Jack Westman a lot of credit,” said Hector Gonzales. “He had a lot to do with working this agreement out. He’s the one who took the lead on it.
“He talked to the people in the Village [Office] who have the answers to what we wanted to do,” Gonzales explained. “You know, I have tried for years to get the Village to buy it, but it always seemed like they wanted to go in the opposite direction.”
He said he thought the Village should have purchased the entire tract, including the frontage slated for offices, “but I understand the Village doesn’t have a lot of money to do something like that.”
The resolution approved by the Village Council May 13, 2008 authorized the mayor to enter into a purchase agreement for the westerly 5.5 acres of the front parcel (not including the three acres zoned commercial).
The resolution also called for purchase of water rights sufficient to keep the land in cultivation. Selling price for the property was $1,256,445, and water rights cost $231,000 for a total of $1,487,445.
Funds to pay for the acquisition came from the Village’s general obligation municipal bonds approved by voters for farmland preservation in August 2004 and from grants such as those provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm and Ranch Land Preservation Program.
Hector Gonzales said his ancestors once owned all of what is now Corrales and Rio Rancho, holding lands as far south as the Calabacillas Arroyo and as far east as what is now Edith Boulevard, since that’s where the Rio Grande then ran. To the west, the Gonzales property went all the way to the Rio Puerco.
“My family would like to see that heritage recognized” in what happens on its remaining farmland in Corrales, he said.
Hector Gonzales died in March 2019.
With nearly a quarter-million dollars in hand, work could begin quickly on the long-delayed trails, or paths, along upper Meadowlark Lane from Loma Larga to Rio Rancho. A state grant for $243,500 was formally accepted by the Village Council at its September 28 meeting to “plan, design and construct the West Meadowlark Lane Trail.” Planning has, in fact, been under way for more than a decade. The proposal to construct bicycle lanes or paths that would link bike lanes along Loma Larga to those in Rio Rancho has been endlessly scrutinized since 2009, and was to have been implemented at roughly the same time the roadway was realigned two years ago. But it’s complicated. Corrales got a grant for almost as much, $214,000, in 2011 but turned the grant back to the Mid-Region Council of Governments due to strong opposition among homeowners along upper Meadowlark who insisted the initial plan would cause multiple problems including damage from stormwater drainage and collisions with cyclists.
An opposition petition was presented to the Village Council at its April 12, 2011 meeting. The project was stopped even though it had been planned for at least three years. (See Corrales Comment series on trails, starting with Vol. XXVIII, No.18, November 7, 2009 “First Steps to Implement Village-wide Trails Plan”) Opposition apparently arose after then-Mayor Phil Gasteyer called a neighborhood meeting in 2011 to discuss the project, as he said he did with other roadway projects. He said several residents were upset that they hadn’t known of the project earlier. At an August, 2009 council meeting, a resolution was approved to design and build bike lanes and a five-foot wide compacted earth trail along upper West Meadowlark. At the time, the mayor was confident he would get the bike paths built during 2011.
Fast forward, and forward and forward to 2018 when reconstruction of Meadowlark from Loma Larga to Rio Rancho was set to begin. On-the-ground work relocating utility lines inside the public right-of-way was completed by the end of February 2018, which included substantial earthmoving. Awarding of a contract to actually rebuild the road was to have been accomplished by then. But another hang-up arose: getting the N.M. Department of Transportation’s concurrence with design changes to the westerly end of the proposed bike trail. NMDOT had withheld approval for the earlier design that depended on a waiver from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The original engineering plan was rejected because the slope was too severe (both east-west and north-south) for persons in a wheelchair. A proposed work-around also failed to materialize.
The steep slope at the top of Corrales’ part on Meadowlark Lane was recognized as a potential problem from the earliest days of planning for the trails project. That was one reason why, in the early days of community input, the equestrian path was proposed for the north side of the road (since hooves could manage the slope without difficulty.) But as the years wore on, alignment for the horse path was switched from the north side to the south, primarily based on public input. That put the multi-use trail along the north side of the road, which led to the ADA issue.
Village officials decided to move ahead with reconstructing the roadway while leaving the trails component for a later phase. As the road was being finished, Village Administrator Ron Curry said the trails needed a start-from-scratch re-thinking, and promised a thorough public involvement effort. But in July 2021, at the first public meeting to launch a re-start, only three members of the public attended since almost no notice was given. At that session, Village Engineer Steve Grollman explained his preliminary design for a bike path and horse trail. That was followed by another public meeting via Zoom on September 22. Again the meeting was not announced in time to be published in Corrales Comment before it was held. Meetings are also usually announced at the Village of Corrales website, http://www.corrales-nm.org.
This time, Mayor Jo Anne Roake mentioned the Zoom meeting in her September “Mayor’s Message,” noting that “Door hanger notifications will also be hung on the doors of homes off Meadowlark, especially in the cul-de-sacs. Please spread the word.” People who live along upper Meadowlark are not the only villagers interested in potential trails for bikes, horses and those on human feet. Corraleños living throughout the village have decades-long involvement in what’s at stake in pending decisions.
(See Corrales Comment Vol.XXX, No.10, July 9, 2011 “Corrales Gives Back $160,000 for Upper Meadowlark Trail” and Vol.XXX No.16 October 8, 2011 “Upper Meadowlark Task Force Meets Mondays.” and Vol.XXXX No.1 February 20, 2021 “Corrales Returns $167,417 Meant for Meadowlark Trails.”)
People who live along upper Meadowlark are not the only villagers interested in potential trails for bikes, horses and those on human feet. Corraleños living throughout the village have decades-long involvement in what’s at stake in pending decisions. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXX, No.10, July 9, 2011 “Corrales Gives Back $160,000 for Upper Meadowlark Trail” and Vol.XXX No.16 October 8, 2011 “Upper Meadowlark Task Force Meets Mondays.” and Vol.XXXX No.1 February 20, 2021 “Corrales Returns $167,417 Meant for Meadowlark Trails.”)
During his July 24 briefing, Village Engineer Steve Grollman proposed constructing a ten-foot wide asphalt path between the subdivisions’ walls on the south side of the road and the existing eastbound driving lane. That path, for pedestrians and cyclists, would be designated for bikes headed uphill, or westward, only. Cyclists headed eastward, downhill, would be expected to use the regular driving lane along with cars and trucks. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXX No. 11 July 24, 2021 “Upper Meadowlark Trails Plan Has Uphill Bike Path.”)
A six-inch high curb would divide the bike path from the adjacent driving lane. At each of the five roads leading into subdivisions along the south side of upper Meadowlark, Grollman said crosswalks would be painted on the trail pavement, according to Grollman. Listening to the discussion, which included no objections from members of the Bicycle, Pedestrial Advisory Commission, Curry was optimistic. “I would like to think it could be done by the end of the year,” he ventured. At that time, Grollman said he was about two-thirds finished with the design.
In July 2013, villagers convened for a planning charrette to develop realistic proposals for better using the exceptionally wide right-of-way. The sessions led by Architectural Research Consultants under contract to the Village attempted to resolve ongoing conflicts over the future of upper Meadowlark Neighbor-against-neighbor conflict had erupted over anticipated disruptions from the earlier funded project to construct bike trails along one or both sides of upper Meadowlark.
The council chambers had been packed for the contentious April 12, 2011 council meeting at which the Meadowlark trail (as a stand-alone project not accompanying re-construction of the driving lanes as well) was voted down. Several of those residents spoke at the council meeting, citing safety issues, especially given the sight distances when pulling out from their driveways onto Meadowlark, and drainage concerns.
Recently reflecting on the saga of struggles to install trails along Meadowlark west of Loma Larga, a nearby resident, Linda Hoeltke, wondered. “I am not sure why the plans for upper Meadowlark are so difficult. It should line up with Rio Rancho’s construction, with landscaping similar to, or better than, Rio Rancho’s. Just sayin.’”