By Meredith Hughes
As you “spring forward” on March 13, do not forget the delights of Mardi Gras, when the final bit of COVID carb was added to your frame, and then ponder why Skinny Wednesday is not a thing, and why March Madness is. If you like. Meanwhile, daffodils! And St Paddy’s day. Oh, and this month American women get their own actual month! Yes, an entire month for the gals, whereas… Check it out at https://womenshistorymonth.gov/
Do visit the websites of your favorite museums/galleries/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?
At the request of a reader, we asked Ken Duckert if a Corrales Art and Studio Tour were in the works for 2022.
Duckert replied: “COVID has certainly extracted a toll on everyone. The Corrales Society of Artists was affected, too. While we did have one of the most successful Studio Tours last September, our organizational structure had been weakened.
“We regrouped last November and seated an entirely new Board in January and had a "call to arms" to the members. The response was awesome. Senior CSA members stepped up and were joined by many new members. The new Board is meeting and moving forward with enthusiasm and optimism. Our committees are fully staffed, and yes, the tour is scheduled for August 27-28.
“The Old Church will host the Preview Gallery and the call for artists will go out on March 8. The primary CAST Leadership Team has a full lineup of project managers, a budget, and a calendar.
“Also, I just finalized plans to again involve students from both Corrales Elementary and Cottonwood Schools in our event. Lots of things are coming together very nicely. I am very optimistic and looking forward to serving again as CSA President this year.”
Call for artists, March 8.https://corralessocietyofartists.org/
“To ensure as many people as possible can enjoy seeds from the Corrales Community Seed Library, we are limiting check-outs to 1 packet per variety. At the end of the growing season, borrowers may save seeds from their harvest, label them and return a portion of the seeds to the library during our hours of operation.” And, for a recorded course in seed starting from Master Gardener Judy Jacobs, see https://tinyurl.com/tj9yjdbn
I am not very eloquent at writing and hope that Jeff Radford edits my spelling and grammar to reflect only positive feelings and good will to all our friends in Corrales.
My wife, Karen, will be surprised when she reads that I am composing a letter to the Comment. I have always had many concerns for the village and wish to contribute to make Corrales a better place for all. I live on upper Meadowlark.
Every other month the Comment has a headline: Upper Meadowlark trail to start soon! Pathways project to start soon! I sincerely hope these, and other projects happen in my lifetime. I love Corrales.
My wife and I have supported Starry Nights and MainStreet long before we moved to the village. We purchased kitchen equipment for the fire station with little fanfare I did the Leadership Sandoval County program years ago and our group landscaped the skate park. We support Seed to Need, Village In the Village and so many other worthy organizations.
Corrales has been good to us, and we have been proud to give back. Like I said I am not so eloquent at writing and tend to ramble. I simply want to say thank you! I am the former owner of Harris Jewelers in Rio Rancho. My wife and I have retired. Harris Jewelers continues to operate in Rio Rancho.
We wish to thank all our friends in Corrales, Rio Rancho and surrounding communities for your support over the years. I sincerely hope you continue to support Harris Jewelers.
I personally want to thank the people of Corrales for your support. We would not be in the position to retire and move on to our next chapter without our friends in the village. I can now hopefully become more involved in the community we love. Thank you all.
We salute and congratulate you on the 40th anniversary of the Corrales Comment. We have been privileged to share those 40 years of happenings in the Village of Corrales with you as readers of your written narratives.
Your expression of a first-hand view in the Comment has captured the good, the bad, the remarkable and the menial. Endless times we have watched you taking notes at council meetings and other village events. What cost you time was transformed for us as readers into a detailed “you better believe it” portrait of our village.
The Comment has offered a venue for the expression of individual Corraleño voices and dialogues. Thank you, Jeff.
Wayne and Jolene Maes
Pandemic worries subsiding, the mayor and Village Council will meet in person for the Tuesday, March 22 session. Over much of the past two years, the Village’s governing body has met in virtual session through the Zoom meeting platform on the internet. Members of the public have been able to participate in limited fashion by accessing the proceedings by clicking on an internet link or calling Zoom and entering an 11-digit meeting ID number and then a six-digit passcode.
The March 8 council meeting will still be in Zoom mode.
When the council and audience resume in-person sessions March 22, Village officials hope to introduce a much-improved public address system in the Council chambers. Chronic listening problems are expected to be resolve after installation of new equipment.
However, that March 22 meeting will still be accessible via Zoom.
“Council will definitely be in person on March 22,” Mayor Jo Anne Roake reported February 24. “Our new system will be fully operational, and allow citizens to participate via Zoom and even to speak from home. It should be the best of both worlds, and a much-needed improvement.
“Thanks go to Village Clerk Melanie Romero for putting the system together, and to Public Works and Parks and Recreation for installing it.”
The March 8 Village Council meeting is expected to include a vote to amend many sections of the Code of Ordinances involving land use regulations, such as those for group homes, casitas, senior living facilities and other residential density issues and cultivation of marijuana, among many others.
Two members of the Village Council have complained to the mayor that their requests were not honored when they asked for topics to be added to the agenda for the next council meeting. Those topics involved a discussion about animal control operations, including a possible Corrales animal shelter, and initiating a revision of the Corrales Comprehensive Plan. At issue is whether a mayor or Village Administrator is obligated to place a topic on the agenda for the requested council meeting.
It’s a long-running controversy that involves a separation of powers, political courtesy and control over local government. In previous years, councillors and mayors almost came to blows over the latter’s refusal to allow discussion or votes on certain topics.
In the most recent dispute, Mayor Jo Anne Roake has suggested that requested topics for the council’s attention are best deferred until after the March 1 municipal election which will seat a new mayor and possible half of the council.
After the February 22 council meeting, Councillor Stuart Murray rebuked the mayor and Village Administrator Ron Curry for not addressing his recommendation that proposed land use regulations not be passed into law before the community’s Comprehensive Plan is reviewed and revised.
As he explained in a February 24 email to Corrales Comment, Murray wrote “I do not have anything in writing from the mayor about getting anything on the agenda. However, if you look back through all the Zoom council meetings at the end, council makes suggestions for future agenda items, and we might get one or two depending on how the mayor feels about the topic.
“It seems a lot of topics get ignored or kicked down the road. Councillor Bill Woldman’s Animal Services discussion was one.”
Murray said that N.M. Municipal League Director Randy Van Vleck had explained that a mayor has the authority to determine what goes into the agenda. “But Village ordinance is clear the Village Clerk is the one to create the agenda,” he added. “It does not specify anyone specifically as in charge. But of course, I am sure the Village Clerk gets direction from the mayor and administrator. It just seem council suggestions are ignored unless they are determined by ordinance submission.
“I have submitted a proposed amendment to [Village Attorney] Randy Autio and the administration to modify the agenda language in Section 2-60(e). It is not a huge change other than allowing the administration or any member of the Governing Body to submit documents for the next agenda inclusion.
“I have asked since I joined council, we needed to revise the Comprehensive Plan first before we did Chapter 18 [revisions]. I was ignored. As I said at the February 22 meeting, we have the cart before the horse with the Chapter 18 rewrite. I am worried we are opening the Village to higher densities and other unintended consequences. The Chapter 18 hasn’t been as transparent or inclusive as suggested.”
Councillor Woldman complained at that meeting that he had specifically requested at the February 8 session that the animal services topic be placed on the February 22 agenda. When he insisted that councillors should be able to get things on meeting agendas, he was supported by Woldman.
Mayor Roake did not specifically reject those requests but explained that some topics might be addressed better under a new administration. In an email to Corrales Comment, she wrote “Every legislator or community group 9e.g. Village in the Village or Friends of Corrales Library) can request an item be included, and those items will appear on a future agenda. The date for inclusion may be affected by other factors, as for example, an already length agenda.
“With so little time left, the Village is also offering the option of waiting until the new adminstration is installed.”
Village Administrator Ron Curry said another reason for not putting the animal services topic on the February 22 agenda was that research is needed. “Everybody wants the best for Corrales’ animals,” he said. “but that requires research into what is happening now and what the alternatives are. There is still a lot of information needed.”
The glass recycling bin set up late last year in the Village Office complex parking lot has been a hit. More than 3.7 tons of glass have been diverted from the landfill, Fire Chief Anthony Martinez reported February 24. “The mayor had a lot of requests to start a glass recycling program, and it has been a big success,” he said. “There was a huge demand for it, but we didn’t have a place to accept that glass.”
Village government does not earn any revenue for recycling glass, so the program operates at a small loss. Road Runner Waste Service, which supplied the dumpster to receive the glass, charges the Village a small fee to haul it to the City of Albuquerque’s glass recycling facility which also charges a small dump fee.
The fire chief said the program is operating smoothly, and that people no longer dump non-glass trash in the recycle dumpster. Caps and lids on bottles and jars has not been a hindrance, he added. But contributors should note that no bags of any kind, paper or plastic, containing the glass should be placed in the dumpster —just glass.
Chief Martinez noted that the glass bin is where Corrales’ first recycling effort began about 30 years ago. “The first recycling bin was outside where the Fire Department was back then, so we’ve come back full circle.”
That earliest recycling program in Corrales was a pet project of then-Villager Clerk Carol Brown. It suffered from people from Corrales or elsewhere throwing trash and debris of all sorts into the recycle bin. Fast-forward a couple of decades and a volunteer-staffed recycle center was set up on vacant land behind the new fire station farther north on Corrales Road.
For years it was well-managed and produced a meager profit from selling materials for which there was a sustained demand. Even so, estimates indicated that only a small percentage of villagers participated. Eventually the mayor and Village Council opted to have the contracted garbage collector provide roadside recycling as well, which led to closing the recycling center behind the fire station in 2014.
At a cost of more than a half-million dollars, the stretch of West Meadowlark Lane will be repaved —without its speed bumps. The Village Council voted February 22 to approve plans presented by Public Works Director Mike Chavez to resurface the lower portion of West Meadowlark using funds from the state highway department Municipal Arterial Program (MAP) funds.
Chavez explained the existing asphalt will be torn away and pulverized into new black top which will be re-applied there at a cost of about $518,000. He was asked whether that would include re-building the existing speed bumps between Loma Larga and Corrales Road; Chavez said no, but if villagers wanted them that could be done at a later time.
At the council meeting when the project was given the go-ahead, no one spoke in favor or against the idea that the speed bumps would disappear. In past decades that decision would have been a big deal. Typically residents who live near them want them to, to slow down traffic, while commuters and emergency responders don’t. In fact, the pros and cons became so divisive that a new lexicon was needed. If people didn’t want speed bumps, how about speed humps? No, then how about speed tables?
Over the years, villagers and their representatives generally found consensus with speed tables which are less rounded and more flat-topped so that passing vehicles would not jump up and then crash down precipitously. To understand the evolution of bump to hump to table, revisit the bump by driving along the access driveway off Alameda Boulevard past the Satellite Coffee parking lot on the way past Pep Boys to get to North Coors. The sudden lift and crash is uncomfortable even if you expect it.
In 2005, Corrales was introduced to the speed table. Those can be experienced along upper Meadowlark, between Loma Larga and Rio Rancho. Long before the current reconstruction of upper Meadowlark, Mayor Gary Kanin and the Village Council opted for 10 of those on upper Meadowlark.
Then-Village Administrator Marilyn Hill explained at the February 8, 2005 Village Council meeting that the existing speed humps along upper Meadowlark would be removed and 10 new, longer ones will be installed at 300-foot intervals.
Kanin predicted that villagers, including those who live along Meadowlark, would not like the new speed tables. But the decision to install them derived from at least two years of near-constant pressure from Meadowlark residents to do something to decrease traffic past their homes.
The pros and cons of adding more speed humps to Meadowlark between Loma Larga and the Rio Rancho boundary were debated at the October 26, 2004 council meeting.
Anderson had similarly advised the council not to proceed with its plans some 18 months earlier to install stop signs on upper Meadowlark at the Rio Rancho boundary. At that time, too, she cited federal transportation guidelines and traffic engineering principles which stated it would not be proper to install stop signs in such situations. Councillors went ahead anyway, but eventually pulled the stop signs down after the Village was sued for causing auto collisions there.
At the vote, councillors were unanimous in approving installation of speed humps every 300 feet so that drivers wouldn’t have much chance to speed up faster than 25 miles an hour.
Proponents insisted that if drivers maintain that 25 mph speed, they could go over those ten speed humps without banging their heads or dropping a drive shaft.
But councillors were told that the humps would definitely slow down emergency response vehicles, not only Corrales fire-rescue personnel, but those called in from Rio Rancho as well.
And then-Public Works Director Tony Tafoya reminded councillors that nearby homeowners may experience more roadway noise (cars and trucks accelerating and loose loads clanking around) and more auto exhaust pollution from start-stop driving.
“I agree that something has to be done, but I don’t think speed humps are the answer,” Tafoya advised.
Ralph Martinez warned that speed bumps near his home on Old Church Road had brought a reduction in quality of life. “All the people here are talking about quality of life [that has been hurt by increased traffic on Meadowlark]. I’ll tell you what happened to my quality of life when speed bumps were installed about 100 feet from my bedroom.
“Every time a big truck or trailer pulling horses, or a delivery truck goes by, I hear a bump, a lot of noise and then they speed up. The people who ignore the speed limit don’t care about the speed bump, and they’ll drive it at 30-35 miles an hour. So those people who want speed bumps near their homes better be prepared for a lot of noise pollution.”
Martinez, who had complained about speed bumps for years, also cautioned that it will delay emergency responders.
Fire Chief Anthony Martinez agreed with assessments that it will take longer for fire-rescue drivers to arrive at emergency scenes. But, he noted, “If the citizens on Meadowlark are willing to accept the fact that it could slow down police and fire and rescue responders, then I guess it’s okay.
“All I ask is that the humps, not just on Meadowlark, but throughout the village, be standard so our drivers know what to expect.”
Police Chief Ray Vigil offered similar advice. “It will cut some time off our response time.” The bumps will also increase wear-and-tear on police cars, he added.
But clearly a lot of people wanted the speed humps along upper Meadowlark. A petition with at least 24 signatures urged the council to install them, as they had earlier indicated they would do.
Subsequently, an anti-speed hump petition bearing the signatures of more than 60 villagers was submitted without much impact on the council’s decision.
Roger Finzel, a lower Meadowlark resident, insisted that the council had a duty to preserve “community values,” including restrictions on traffic to maintain rural lifestyles.
“People come here, and visit here, they shop here, not because there are bargains, but for the ambiance, the serenity. They come here for the beauty of our village,” Finzel said. “I have friends in Rio Rancho who don’t want to come here any more because this issue has not been addressed and they see conflict in our village.
“So businesses are being hurt because we won’t deal with implementing reasonable measures to implement our master plan. Our master plan talks about what we’re supposed to be doing: calming traffic, respecting residential neighborhood…”
That view has not been shared by many of Corrales’ business owners. Over the years that Village officials have talked about impediments to traffic on Meadowlark, business owners have pleaded for the council not to make it more difficult for Rio Rancho shoppers and quick-lunch Intel employees to reach their shops.
Speaking in opposition was soon-to-be Corrales Planning and Zoning Commissioner Michelle Anderson, who quoted from federal traffic management guidelines and recommendations from the Institute of Traffic Engineering. She said it would be a serious mistake to place speed humps on a collector road such as Meadowlark.
“Speed humps on collector roads is totally taboo,” Anderson warned.
She summarized the nationally recognized policy that “speed humps are not to be used on major roads.” She also referred to guidelines that emergency vehicles will be slowed down three to five seconds per hump for a fire truck, and “up to ten seconds for an ambulance with a patient per hump.”
Anderson cited policies for the City of Albuquerque and Rio Rancho which preclude speed humps on collector roads. One of the reasons, she said, is that municipalities face liability from lawsuits based on lack of adequate emergency response.
“You’re looking at a liability issue for the Village of Corrales if someone anywhere in Corrales perceives there has been a delay in emergency services —ambulance, police and fire protection— due to the speed humps.”
A cheerful presence in Corrales since the 1980s, Gay Betzer has died after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease.
The Tulsa native was involved in several local good causes, but especially Casa San Ysidro Museum. She was among the first to train for the museum’s docent program. The Albuquerque Museum Foundation honored her for that service in 1999. She served on the board of directors for the museum.
She was also a strong supporter for the Corrales Historical Society.
Betzer graduated Phi Beta Kappa at the University of Oklahoma majoring in English in 1960, followed by course work at George Washington University in Washington DC.
She married Stan Betzer, now an attorney, when they were in college. She is survived by him and by sons John and Evan and their families, including four grandchildren and two sisters.
A celebration of her life will be held in the spring or early summer. Memorial donations may be sent to Albuquerque Museum Foundation’s Gay Betzer Children’s Fund.
A memorial celebration of Corrales artist Pauline Eaton’s life and work will be held on Sunday, March 20 at the Fusion Forum on First Street in Albuquerque. She died October 5 at 87. Her husband, Charles Eaton, reported they had spent last summer in Michigan, and then her debilitating medical condition took a turn for the worse when they returned to Corrales, where they had lived since 1993.
Almost single-handedly, she started the Corrales Art Studio Tour in 1999.
A retrospective of her artwork will be on display at the Fusion Forum warehouse during the celebration of her life 2:30 to 5 p.m.
Republicans from around the state met February 26 to choose candidates for their party’s primary in June. Sandoval County Commissioner Jay Block of Rio Rancho came in first with partisan voters as their top choice to challenge Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s re-election. On the Republican primary ballot for governor, two other candidates gained sufficient votes: Rebecca Dow and Greg Zanetti. Yet another will be on the ballot because he had collected enough signatures: former TV weatherman Mark Ronchetti
A paved bicycle, pedestrian path to connect to an existing trail along the escarpment in Rio Rancho has been completed, culminating a 30-year effort. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held at the start of the path at the west end of Sagebrush Drive. The asphalt path constructed and supervised by Corrales Public Works is a crucial component of the Village’s Trails Master Plan, since it allows a long-desired recreational trail loop connecting Loma Larga to the escarpment trail and south to West Meadowlark Lane.
The February 25 ribbon-cutting was attended by 25 people including the Mayor Jo Anne Roake and current mayoral candidates Jim Fahey and Gary Kanin, as well as candidates for seats on the Village Council.
The trail connection project has been advocated by the Village-appointed Bicycle, Pedestrian Advisory Commission. One of its members, Chris Allen, spoke at the ceremony to trace its long road to completion. “For me, it started more than 30 years ago,” she recalled, “when a fellow named Kent Brandli, who owned the building where Prized Possessions is now. He had an idea for a trail that would circumvent the perimeter of the village. It was a beautiful idea and it sort of stuck in my head.”
She said about 30 years ago she accompanied then Mayor Kanin to the area at the top of Sagebrush Drive to explore that possibility. “That was 30 years ago! So when people tell me, ‘Oh my God, I’ve been working on this project for two years and not getting anywhere,’ I feel like saying, ‘That’s nothing.’”
But finally, some progress came when the commission was established and a trails master plan was ordered. That stressed the importance of trail connectivity and specifically highlighted the proposed trail link to the trail along the escarpment in Rio Rancho.
That trail link will also connect to the long-delayed trails along upper Meadowlark Lane; motorists pass by that paved escarpment trail right at the Corrales-Rio Rancho boundary on the north side of the road. The path actually continues south of upper Meadowlark where it is known as the Intel path.
Mayor Roake acknowledged a $40,000 grant for the project obtained by Sandoval County Commissioner Jay Block. “That really kick-started this project,” she pointed out.
Trees and shrubs in the Corrales Bosque Preserve are being cut down and turned into wood chips by the Fire Department in a controversial project along the base of the levee. The project was approved by the Village Council over warnings from the Bosque Advisory Commission. As originally presented, the removal of vegetation was supposed to spare native species. But, as nearly always happens when chainsaws are switched on in the preserve, vegetation that should have been unharmed was taken down.
In theory, removal of trees and other vegetation growing along the “toe” (or base) of the levee along its east side was said to be necessary to protect it and allow better access for fire department equipment. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXX No.17 October 23, 2021 “Bosque Preserve Clearing Along Levee Gets OK.”)
Clearing and wood-chipping began Saturday, February 26, in the first stage between Dixon Road and Romero Road. The clearing is expected to continue for the entire length of the levee, from Alameda Bridge on the south to the Rio Rancho boundary on the north.
The Bosque Advisory Commission had won concessions from the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, which owns or manages the riparian property, to avoid removing native species such as New Mexico Olive trees, an important food for birds and other fauna.
Last year, the Audubon Society formally sought such protections.
The Village was asked to conduct a “scientifically informed assessment of the fire risk” in the Bosque Preserve before approving a project that would remove much of the vegetation along the east side of the levee.
The Audubon Society, which designated the Corrales Bosque Preserve as an “important bird area” in 2014, weighed in on the proposal to eliminate vegetation along the east side of the levee in a November 9, 2021 letter to the mayor and Village Council.
The Central N.M. Audubon Society asked the Village to reconsider its preliminary approval for the proposal by the Corrales Fire Department and the N.M. Forestry Division that would begin before spring.
The letter requested “reconsideration of the plans to clear trees along the Corrales Bosque levee detailed in the “Wildland/Urban Interface Hazardous Fuels Reduction” proposal. We find the proposal’s fire danger estimate of the vegetation along the levee to be unsupported scientifically and likely exaggerated.
“It is also our position that the habitat and ecological value of the trees targeted to be cleared, and the project area’s designation of this section of Corrales bosque as an Important Bird Area , has been underestimated.”
In the letter, the regional society raised many of the same issues presented by members of the Corrales Bosque Advisory Commission last month. The letter was signed by Perrianne Houghton, president of the Central New Mexico Audubon Society.
“From the proposal, it is unclear whether the primary intent of clearing trees extending from the toe of the levee, is to create a clear passage for emergency vehicles in case of a Bosque fire, or whether the primary motivation is to reduce potential fuel for a fire. If the former, then removing native trees —and particularly Coyote Willows— growing in and along the ditch banks, is clearly unnecessary and should be avoided, as they do not impede the passage of vehicles along the levee.
“It defies logic, that in the face of this epic drought, Corrales is allowing precious native New Mexico olive to be cut by the many hundreds along the base of the east side of the levee. It is fire-resistant, provides food, and many are 30 years old or more and could withstand the warming climate. Who will suffer? The animals, of course, especially birds, who are being faced with habitat loss at every point of their migration. We will be losers too as our world is less varied and interesting with fewer critters in it.”
“If the latter, then we ask, before going forward with clearing the levees, the Village of Corrales make a scientifically informed assessment of the fire risk posed by native riparian trees (including Rio Grande Cottonwoods, New Mexico Olives, and Coyote and Goodings Willows) that are vitally connected to a continuous water source (in this case, the irrigation ditch that flows parallel to the levee year round).”
After a presentation on the proposal given by Fire Chief Anthony Martinez, the council voted to let the project move ahead.
In the November 9 letter, the Central New Mexico Audubon Society (CNMAS) and Audubon Southwest (ASW) asked for more transparency in decisions about clearing vegetation in the preserve given the presentation to the council September 14, 2021.
“While CNMAS and ASW recognize the increased fire risk posed by a hotter, drier climate and understand that clearing vegetation and cutting trees can be an essential fire preventive, we urge you to take a scientific approach to management of this area, that accurately assesses the fire dangers posed by native riparian vegetation and trees connected to a continuously flowing water source.”
The two Audubon organizations said they support much of the assessment produced by the bosque advisory commission. “This report uses peer-reviewed, scientific studies to evaluate the role trees play in supporting native wildlife and the overall ecology of the Corrales Bosque, along the levee. We endorse the following CBAC recommendations:
“• We do not see the necessity of thinning the entire 20-foot strip. Thinning should be accomplished in areas where fire access is most necessary, rather than thinning within a uniform width along the entire levee.”
“• All small Elms, Tamarisk, and Tree of Heaven should be removed, when possible, without damaging stands of New Mexico Olive and willows.”
“• Healthy Russian Olive trees within the 15-foot strip should be left in all areas where they don’t interfere with access needed for fire personnel… dead Russian Olive may be removed within the 15-foot strip where access or levee maintenance is required.”
“Most significantly, we endorse what the CBAC refers to as their most important recommendation, which is for transparency in the activities of the MRGCD and Chief Martinez in what they ‘intend to do, and where’ as part of Wildland/Urban Interface Hazardous Fuels Reduction projects.
“In addition to supporting the above CBAC recommendations, CNMAS and ASW would like to point out that between 217 and 238 species of birds have been recorded at various birding hotspots along the length of the Corrales Bosque, demonstrating it to be an extremely important New Mexico bird habitat:
“• While stands of ‘willows’ are mentioned generally within the second bulleted item above, we want to specify this refers to Coyote Willows (Salix exigua) and emphasize this should be among the species (along with Cottonwoods and New Mexico Olives) that are the highest priority to preserve due to their high ecological and habitat value. Coyote Willow stands provide nesting sites for a variety of native songbirds, for example Common Yellowthroats, Yellow-Breasted Chats, Blue Grosbeaks, and Spotted Towhees, as well as a potential habitat for the endangered Southwestern Willow Flycatcher. This diversity of native plant and bird species reflects the designation of this section of Corrales bosque as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by New Mexico Audubon Society (currently Audubon Southwest) in May 2014.
“• From the proposal, it is unclear whether the primary intent of clearing trees extending from the toe of the levee, is to create a clear passage for emergency vehicles in case of a bosque fire, or whether the primary motivation is to reduce potential fuel for a fire. If the former, then removing native trees —and particularly Coyote Willows— growing in and along the ditch banks, is clearly unnecessary and should be avoided, as they do not impede the passage of vehicles along the levee.
“If the latter, then we ask, before going forward with clearing the levees, the Village of Corrales make a scientifically informed assessment of the fire risk posed by native riparian trees (including Rio Grande Cottonwoods, New Mexico Olives, and Coyote and Goodings Willows) that are vitally connected to a continuous water source (in this case, the irrigation ditch that flows parallel to the levee year round).
“Historically, bosque fires only increased in frequency and severity once trees were disconnected from the river, due to dredging and channelization that effectively stopped annual flooding. If the aforementioned native trees are associated with the irrigation ditch, it is likely the fire risk they pose is minimal.
“We would finally draw your attention to the vital role of shade trees and vegetation in combating the impacts of climate change by helping to maintain lower stream temperatures, and reduce evaporation:
“• Shade from trees and other vegetation along the irrigation ditch helps to maintain lower water temperatures, which results in less evaporation. Climate change and drought make maintaining lower ditch temperatures and minimizing evaporation increasingly crucial. As the study ‘Effects of Riparian Management Strategies on Stream Temperature Science Review Team Temperature Subgroup’ points out, ‘the most efficient method to maintain low stream temperatures is to reduce heat loading from solar radiation. Shade prevents stream warming by reducing inputs of heat energy from solar radiation’ (Leinenbach, McFadden, and Torgersen).
“ Greater evaporation from the irrigation ditch would decrease water for farmers and water available to return to the river channel downstream.
“• As climate change continues to reduce and periodically stop water flow within the river channel, many of the native riparian trees growing near the river will likely struggle to survive. This makes the preservation of habitat along irrigation ditches, including trees growing near the levee, increasingly crucial. Even as the Rio Grande has dried for many months each year in the Lower Rio Grande, irrigation ditches have continued to flow.
“If irrigation ditches become the only continuously flowing water through the Middle Rio Grande, then the future distribution and abundance of native riparian plants and trees —as well as the survival of the native animal species that depend on them— will be increasingly dependent upon our ability to preserve and even encourage their growth along irrigation ditches and levees.”
The Village Council gave a go-ahead to Fire Chief Anthony Martinez and the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District at its October 10, 2021 meeting where Martinez and MRGCD Planner Yasmeen Najmi convinced the mayor and all councillors to let the clearing project proceed. No timetable was given when work would begin, although it would have to cease, or pause, by April 15 to comply with the federal Migratory Bird Act.
If the plan goes ahead as described in October, all along the entire length of the levee, non-native trees and other vegetation would be cut and removed at the edge of levee on its east, or river, side. According to Najmi, that is necessary to maintain the levee, although it was not stated what kind of maintenance would be needed that could not be done from the top of the levee.
However, she referred to retaining federal certification of the levee’s integrity, a concern raised 12 years ago the last time the Corps of Engineers and MRGCD proposed clearing trees from the toe of the levee.
Back then, the Corps’ Fritz Blake, since retired, explained that the proposed clearing probably would not be required after all because the federal requirement was an over-reaction to concerns about levees around the nation in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXIX No.3 March 20, 2010 “Corrales Monitors Corps’ Research on Levee.”)
The 2010 project was to have removed essentially all vegetation within 15 feet of the levee.
“Initially,when the project was presented in September, the native trees, including New Mexico olive, were to be left alone,” the Bosque Commissioner Joan Hashimoto pointed out. “When the CBAC asked for more time to try to complete an analysis of the tree loss that the project would cause and had to generate a report by October 1, the project scope changed. When these new guidelines came out before the October 12 council meeting, they were worse than the initial project because they included natives clearing. I’m unsure what prompted that.
“The unanswered question is why does the MRGCD want to do this now? The levee has been maintained as it has been for at least 20 years,” Hashimoto said.
“We’ve heard answers that it can't be maintained only from the top anymore, and that there are increased risks of flood events. Now they are being backed up by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on this. This is a change in position as in a stakeholders meeting at the MRGCD in March 2018, the Corps did not recommend the clearing.
In capital outlay appropriations, the N.M. Legislature approved spending $852,500 for projects in Corrales as its session ended last month.
Those monies must still be approved by the governor.
Legislators earmarked the following for Corrales:
The appropriation to extend the Fire Department’s infrastructure for water-delivery pipes, hydrants and possibly tanks to fight fires is essentially a continuation of the department’s multi-year plan to improve fire suppression capability.
Similarly, the Police Department renewed its request for new patrol cars and other equipment.
But relatively new is the project to create a new park-like environment along the nearly two-mile drainage ditch and ditch bank roads east of Corrales Road owned and managed by the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District.
Going back decades, the Conservancy District has expressed willingness to close in the ditch, which no longer functions as intended, and transfer ownership to the Village of Corrales. A committee was established by Mayor Jo Anne Roake to explore that possibility and make recommendations.
The Corrales Interior Drain Committee requested $150,000 for the Village to hire a landscape architect to produce a plan for the project.
The other project that would be funded if the governor signs the capital outlays without vetoes is to design and build a gravity sewer main that would discharge sewage from some parts of Corrales to Albuquerque’s sewer system. That possibility has been discussed over the past three years, chiefly by the Village’s Public Works director.
The municipal sewer line that serves the business district here was designed and built as a narrow diameter, liquids-only wastewater system that operates by a pump at each home or business’ septic tank. Significant problems have arisen, to the extend that a more conventional, gravity-fed sewer system is under consideration.
A vote by the Village Council March 8 could change Corrales laws about construction of casitas, permitting of group homes and senior living projects, fences and walls along Corrales Road and several other chronic controversies. Mayor Jo Anne Roake pushed for a council decision at that meeting despite Councillor Stuart Murray’s warning that the proposed changes to Chapter 18 of the Village’s Code of Ordinances are “not ready for prime time.” He said the regulations set out in recommendations to amend the Village’s land use laws could “change the whole dynamics of this village.”
Murray expressed concerns about changes that might inadvertently allow far greater residential densities, which could jeopardize groundwater quality. “With these changes, our controls over density can go out the window pretty quick,” the councillor cautioned.
Councillors are likely to attempt amendments to the proposed ordinance at the March 8 meeting, and a motion to table could be successful. An ordinance to adopt revisions to Chapter 18 of the Code of Ordinances would typically be presented to the Village Council for a vote whether to post and publish it. No such vote was taken at the February 8 or February 22 meeting, although Village Administrator Ron Curry assured Corrales Comment February 25 that legal notice for such an proposed adoption would be posted and published as required by law.
Another concern voiced at the February 22 council meeting involved proposed elimination of Special Use Permits. Councillor Tyson Parker said doing so could be “a really big mistake.”
The changes proposed to Chapter 18 land use regulations were developed by a committee appointed by the mayor working with planners from the Mid-Region Council of Governments (MRCOG) and the Planning and Zoning Commission. In her presentation to the council February 22, MRCOG’s Bianca Borg said Section 18-45 would be better without a Special Use permit process, saying that the ordinance already has a “Use by Review” provision, which she contended is very similar to that for a Special Use. She said requirements for site development plan approval also would cover much the same concerns.
Murray and Parker disagreed, suggesting Borg didn’t really understand how the Special Use permitting system has functioned in Corrales.
Concerned citizens are expected to give most scrutiny to land use policies regarding cultivation of cannabis here. But the planners’ recommendations basically deferred to the Village Council’s recently adopted ordinance restricting marijuana growing for commerce to land not zoned for residential use.
In her presentation, Borg explained why she had recommended deletion of a special definition for senior living facilities, a topic of substantial interest in Corrales over the past three years. “The current language for senior living facilities only applies to one area in the Village and the regulations are highly restrictive and not feasible to meet. These regulations for a senior living facility have been removed, and MRCOG recommends looking into adding a special use zoning district in the future to adequately allow for these facilities.
“It should be noted that an update to the Village’s Comprehensive Plan may be necessary to allow for higher density residential development.
“With the proposed edits, senior living facilities would be permissible if they meet the one dwelling unit per acre standard or operate as a group home.”
Among what are likely to be less disputed provisions, she clarified that the standard for driveway access to private property would specify that “No driveway connection to residential or agricultural property in the A-1, A-2 or H zone shall be more than twenty-four (24) feet in width or less than 12 feet in width.”
More controversial, and in fact the subject of a lawsuit against the Village, is a recommendation clarifying home construction on steep terrain. It specifies that “Natural slopes greater than eight (8) percent but less than 15 percent may be regraded to create building pads, slab on grade, stem wall and split level, so long as the following conditions are satisfied….”
Borg said the phrase “but less than 15 percent” was added as recommended by Village staff.
If approved by the council March 8, or at a subsequent meeting, the rules for installing walls or fences along Corrales Road would change “to incorporate a standard for over four feet. Sixty-five percent of the fence above four feet must be open,” apparently meaning see-through, to retain scenic quality along the Corrales Road Scenic Byway.
The recommended changes to Chapter 18’s provisions will allow short-term rentals; group homes are to be considered a permissive use, but “cluster housing” would not. “Current language does not achieve clustered housing and can be revisited with update of the Comprehensive Plan.”
That was along several other issues the planners felt would be better left to community consensus as a new Comprehensive Plan is adopted, presumably sometime in 2023.
In Section 18-37, regarding commercial land uses, the recommendation for a C-zone parcel in the neighborhood commercial district along Corrales Road would eliminate the long list of specific permissive uses so that it covers similar types of businesses.
On the other hand it clarified which kinds of business uses would require a site development plan and which would not.
Under provisions to govern group homes, the planners noted that “State statute says licensed homes can have up to 10 residents in zones where single family housing is allowed.”
In explaining to the mayor and council why the new land use ordinance should eliminate awarding Special Use Permits, Borg said “MRCOG (in cooperation with the working group assigned to this project by the Village Council) determined that the Special Use Permit process was nearly identical to that of the Site Development Plan process. After following up with the Planning and Zoning Administrator, MRCOG determined that the Special Use Permit had no formal application or fee, was never used to her knowledge, and was thereby removed from the code.
“At the Village Council meeting on November 9, 2021, MRCOG presented updates to the Village Council.
During this meeting, concern was expressed by a number of councillors about the removal of the Special Use Permit from Chapter 18. The example that was given was that a member of the council believed that the special use permit was used to allow Wagner’s Farm to host their annual Halloween event. Upon further research MRCOG determined that Wagner’s Farm is in an A-1 Zoning district and would not be eligible for a Special Use Permit as it only applies to property with commercial or municipal zoning.
“The primary concern is that because an allowance for zoning interpretation has been added, the Special Use Permit is now de facto re-zoning and could be considered a use variance which is prohibited under Chapter 18-48 (c)(4)d.
“MRCOG believes that the Special Use Permit should be removed and that the Site Development approval process provides an equal measure of review and allows the Village enough oversight of proposed projects in the non-residential zoning districts.”
Retired surgeon Jim Fahey was elected Corrales’ next mayor in Village elections March 1. He defeated Gary Kanin’s come-back try 1,566 to 1,063. As an indication of voter intensity, 1,682 villagers took advantage of early voting, well above that of 2018. Fahey, now chairman of the board for the Southern Sandoval County Arroyo Flood Control Authority (SSCAFCA), had served three terms on the Village Council ending two years ago.
After an unusually contentious, and well-funded, battle to become the next mayor of Corrales, Fahey takes over with a few priorities already indicated: getting the pathway along Corrales’ business district accomplished and updating the Corrales Comprehensive Plan with attention to senior living possibilities and wastewater collection in areas of residential density.
Kanin had been previously elected mayor three times. He declined to seek re-election in 2006 and ran for Village Council instead: he lost to Fahey that time, too. In the less frenzied races for three Village Council seats, the winner in District 1 is Rick Miera, in District 3 Mel Knight and in District 4 John Alsobrook. At 88, Kanin’s age probably deflated his chances. But the mayoral election was affected by two main forces: partisan politics seeping in from intense national and state activism; and opposition to commercial cultivation of marijuana here.
In 2006, running at-large for a seat on the Village Council, Fahey was elected. But not long after, Corrales switched to council districting; district boundaries drawn then resulted in Fahey and another councillor living in the same district, so he couldn’t seek re-election until the new district seat became open. When it did, he ran and won in 2012 and again in 2016 in what is now District 5. He served on the council until March 2020.
Among his major accomplishments during those terms on the council he listed removal of nearly all stop signs along Loma Larga so that road could serve as a traffic reliever for Corrales Road as intended; establishing districted representation on the council; and construction of a sewer line in the business district that connects to Albuquerque’s sewer. While on the council, Fahey began attending meetings of the board of directors of SSCAFCA which attempted to address chronic flooding problems here and in Rio Rancho. He was elected to that board in 2010, and has been re-elected ever since. He is currently the board’s chairman. His SSCAFCA term ends next year.
Neither he nor Kanin liked the project which eventually installed a small-diameter wastewater line down Corrales Road to serve the commercial area, but they helped implement it to end a decades-long impasse. “Ultimately, we got only a STEP system,” which is a pressurized septic tank effluent line that accepts only liquid waste, and serves only the business district. He wants to reconsider options now.
Based on statements during the candidate forums February 7 and 10, Fahey thinks the next Village Council may be ready to consider switching to a more conventional gravity-fed sewer system.
“The system we have now is not the best. It appears, after the discussion we had the other night, that all the five people who participated are for a sewer line. So if they’re all in favor of a sewer line, we should start thinking about planning for a sewer line.”
Although the Kanin camp tried to paint Fahey as a supporter of commercial cannabis operations in Corrales, Fahey said repeatedly that he considers that matter closed based on the Village Council decision earlier this year. “The ordinance banning commercial cannabis in residential areas has been passed, it is the law of the land, and it will be enforced and defended,” he emphasized.
On another long-running, endlessly delayed proposal, a pathway along Corrales Road, Fahey said he would “absolutely” like to see the pathway implemented as soon as possible.
He does not favor Village government taking over Corrales Road [State Highway 448] because it would be too expensive to manage and maintain. Among the reasons are that the road cannot meet the Village’s roadway standards and the numerous irrigation pipes and culverts under the road will eventually deteriorate, requiring enormous repair costs.
If the highway department fixes those things and brings it up to meet the Village’s standards, a transfer of ownership might be possible, he said.”We can certainly discuss it with them, but they need to tell us how much they spend on the road, they need to get the culverts clear and functional and they need to stabilize the road shoulders.”
The candidate said he favors moving ahead with a new full-size gym at the rec center and would like to see a performing arts center built.
He wants to see tighter controls on construction of casitas or the reversion of existing ones to rental units, although “I’ll not interfere with ones already in existence, but if this keeps going, we’re going to have issues with our groundwater.”
To allow an ongoing proliferation of casitas “would be a quantum change for the Village of Corrales,” Fahey added. He sees permission for higher density senior living facilities in much the same way, although he noted that is already being evaluated by the Planning and Zoning Commission and would likely be addressed by an update of the Corrales Comprehensive Plan.