Nominate your own four-legged —or two-legged or eight-legged— critter for Corrales’ next Pet Mayor. Heck, a candidate doesn’t need to have any legs at all to qualify. The annual event is part of the Corrales Harvest Festival. The winner will be announced on the last day of this year’s festival, based on a tally of dollar-ballots cast for each. As of mid-July, just two candidates had been declared, both birds. Kristyn Mader nominated James, a peacock, and Pumpkin Cary entered her giant Canadian goose, Mimers.
More nominations are encouraged. Application forms can be found at http://www.corralesharvestfestival.com. Once filled out, the form can be emailed to email@example.com or regular mailed to Pat Mayor Election, 4 Acoma Trail, Corrales NM 87048. Online voting is already underway, and ballot boxes soon will be placed at various businesses around the village.
Vote as often as you’d like, with as many dollars as you can afford. The event is a fundraiser for several Corrales-based organizations. The peacock’s election slogan is “the man with a new brand of pea-litics and a very loud voice” which he will use to its fullest to get the message out. The goose’s slogan is “keep your eyes toward the skies, and level out with the clouds.” He has pledged to make Corrales the best place to live for every bird —or other animal including humans.
Corrales MainStreet, Inc.’s new executive director, Angela Gutierrez, anticipates using her background in marketing to boost Corrales’ potential for tourism and economic development. She has replaced Sandy Rasmussen, who retired June 30 after serving in that role since 2016. “This feels like a really exciting time to take over with Corrales MainStreet,” Gutierrez said July 16. “There’s lots of enthusiasm again coming out of the pandemic.”
With COVID-19 restrictions lifting and New Mexicans ready to release pent-up demand to venture out, she expects Corrales will experience an uptick in visitors and retail sales. Just ahead are preparations for resumption of the organization’s prime fundraiser, the Starry Night dinner party August 28. The event this summer on the Koontz family’s Trees of Corrales property at the north end of the valley features a murder mystery dinner party, “Murder on the Rio Grande.” Tickets are available online or from MainStreet committee members and board members.
Another big project is moving ahead with the long-awaited pathways along Corrales Road through the business area. Gutierrez said funding is secured to build the first phase of the walkway from about Ex Novo Brewery south to around Target Road. She said the first stretch of the project should be shovel-ready by the end of this year. The path will be four to five feet wide with a crusher fine surface. Gutierrez said no timeline has been set for a second phase continuing south. The new executive director said Corrales MainStreet’s new website had gone live in mid-July. She has served on the organization’s board of directors since March of last year. Among her other local involvement activities, she was Corrales Elementary School PTA treasurer 2017 to 2019, and is a trustee on the board of Dennis Friends Foundation which funds animal welfare work.
She was also a Corrales Soccer Club head coach during 2018 and 2019. Current board members for Corrales MainStreet, Inc. are Sue Evatt, president, Valerie Burkett, vice-president Linda Parker, treasurer; and Maureen Cook, Jim Kruger, John Perea, Joel Gregory, Kim Stewart, Cookie Emerson and Lynn Martinez. Over the past year of pandemic shut-down, Gutierrez said, “one of the things we could do was work on a strategic plan.” She was an honors graduate from the University of Arkansas, Little Rock, in 2000 with a major in communications and a minor in marketing and advertising. She worked in the medical field in Georgia and Florida before relocating to New Mexico. From 2011 through 2013, she promoted specialty sales for Chanel in Albuquerque.
A survey will be mailed out to residents near the Corrales Interior Drain to learn what changes, if any, should be considered to the long drainage ditch east of Corrales Road. A committee appointed by Mayor JoAnne Roake has been convened to develop plans for how the property owned by the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District might best be used. A cover letter accompanying the questionnaire explains its purpose. “The Corrales Interior Drain was constructed in the 1930s to lower the water table and reclaim flooded farmland. The Interior Drain runs from East Valverde Road south to the Corrales Clear Ditch and Bosque Preserve, culminating just south of East Meadowlark Lane. The 26 acre, 120-foot-wide drain is owned and maintained by the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy.
“Today, the Interior Drain serves many uses, providing access to homes, farms and the elementary school, recreation for biking, horseback riding, hiking, fishing and bird watching. It is a vital nature sanctuary with entry to the Bosque Preserve. In recent years, use of the ditch banks along the Corrales Interior Drain have given rise to concerns about increased traffic and associated dust and potential contamination of water in the drainage ditch. Concerns have been raised about children’s safety especially as they walk or ride bicycles along the ditch going to and from Corrales Elementary School. Villagers have long thought about how the ditch right-of-way might serve community uses while maintaining MRGCD property ownership and drainage mandate.
“In 2020, Mayor Jo Anne Roake appointed The Corrales Interior Drain Committee tasked to make recommendations on the drain’s uses, preservation and potential.
“Preliminary ideas have included:
• Installing water lines along the ditch for fire suppression and landscape enhancements.
• A pathway or trail along the ditch as a safe route for children between the east end of Corrales Elementary to the Recreation Center.
• Biologists have been asked what habitat should be preserved or enhanced.
“While the committee began collecting and recording public input for the project last year, an effort is under way now to personally contact residents living near the drain.
“We are seeking your opinions and recommendations to help guide the planning effort. The questionnaire is included here. You can email your response or call any of the committee “ To return by email, send survey responses to Csmiller@UNM.edu. Appointed to the committee were Doug Findley, Sayre Gerhart, Jeff Radford, Rick Thaler, John Perea and Ed Boles. Claudia “Taudy” Smith Miller and Shai Haber-Thaler are facilitating.
The committee’s mission statement is as follows. “Our mission is to identify and help to implement ways in which the Interior Drain and its right-of-way may be improved for safe, enjoyable and essential public use while maintaining tranquility for adjacent residents” A draft of the questionnaire, or survey, reads this way.
1. Do you live along the Corrales Interior Drain? Please provide the location address.
2. Do you use the drain to get to your home?
3. Do you drive along the drain to get to your home?
4. Do you drive along the drain for other reasons besides going to and from your home? If yes, for what reasons?
5. What is the impact of motorized traffic along the drain on you? Please describe.
6. How do you feel about the drain being used as an alternative route for Corrales Road?
• Very good
• Very bad
7. If you have concerns with motorized traffic on the drain, do you have a suggestion which mitigates your concern?
8. How often do you use the drain for outdoor recreation such as walking, biking, horseback riding or bird watching?
9. Do you agree with the statement - bird and animal life along the drain have significant value?
• Very much
• Not much
• Not at all
10. How would you feel about having a pocket park (a small park) somewhere along the drain?
• Good idea
• Not good
• Bad idea
• Not enough information
11. Do you use the drain for other activities? Please provide examples.
12. What are some activities you would like to see along the drain?
13. What are some activities you would like to see discouraged along the drain?
14. Would you like to see any other changes in the drain?
15. Do you have any other thoughts, comments, or ideas about the drain that you would like to share?
16. Would you like to be invited to any meetings or discussions the committee will be having concerning the drain?
17. Would you share your email address and phone? (only for the purpose of the study)
18. Do you have any friends or neighbors, that would be interested in this discussion? Will you share their phone number or email address?”
Since the Village of Corrales has no ownership in the land involved, the committee acknowledges that its eventual recommendations would need concurrence from the MRGCD to be implemented. The district’s chief concern is expected to be retaining full use of the ditch and ditchbanks to perform routine maintenance. One of the first things the committee did was to document what is physically in the ditch and on the ditchbanks, how the land is now used and what adjacent features should be taken into consideration, such as homes, trails and Corrales Elementary School and the playground there. Suggested opportunities for future use of the land indicated in the presentation to the council included: a Fire Department fire suppression water line to fight fires east of the drain; horse riding; hiking; children’s access to school grounds; a pond; a green corridor for appreciation of nature and wildlife habitat; a butterfly garden; and improvements in air quality for neighbors asa result of reductions in dust.
In the presentation to the council, the committee outlined the following as “what problems are we trying to solve?” traffic, dust, safety, liability, loss of habitat and devaluation of property. Discussions with neighboring property owners and ditchbank users began last month to be followed by the survey. As a preliminary concept, the committee is considering possible uses for three conditions along the ditch: ponds, water areas and xeric locations. A photo essay of the varying parts of the long ditch can be found in the centerfold pages of Corrales Comment’s May 22, 2021 issue.
In 2019, the last year the Rio Grande Valley produced a significant apple harvest, a severe case of apple maggot damage was found in two Corrales apple orchards. So what are apple maggots, and how are they different from codling moths? Codling moths lay eggs on the fruit and leaves of the tree. When the larvae hatches, they burrow into the core of the apple, leaving an entry point that is visible to the naked eye. Since most of the codling moth damage occurs at the apple core, minor codling moth damage may be removed so the rest of the fruit is edible.
Apple maggot flies are a tiny quarter-inch fly that lays its eggs by piercing the skin of the apple. Each female apple maggot fly can lay hundreds of eggs. Each point where the apple is pierced leaves a small dent with a tiny dot in the middle where an egg was laid. When the eggs hatch, the larvae wind their way through the fruit leaving a trail of frass. Because of the number of times the fruit is pierced, the fruit becomes inedible. Both codling moth larvae and apple maggot larvae overwinter in the soil in a pupa state.
Steve Lucero, of the Sandoval County Cooperative Extension Service suggests these treatment options. Codling moths appear in late May. The moths are approximately half-inch long with grey and brown bands and they appear at dawn and dusk. Upon appearance, begin applying a pesticide such as an organically approved spinosad or kaolin clay. Spray the trees every two weeks from mid-June until the end of August.
Unlike the codling moth, only one generation of apple maggot flies is produced each year. Apple maggots appear starting in June and continue through most of the summer. Adult flies often leave and feed outside the orchard, in wooded or brushy areas. There is no cure for apple maggots once they are inside the apples. Controls must prevent damage by stopping the flies before they lay their eggs. To monitor for apple maggots, hang sticky traps from the tree at eye level in early summer and replace them every three to four weeks. Treatment options are in links below.
The insecticides recommended in this article are effective but they do have negative impacts on pollinators. NMSU recommends weeding/mowing flowering plants in the orchard that might be contaminated with drift and not to spray when it is windy to reduce drift. See https://extension.umn.edu/yard-and-garden-insects/apple-maggot; and https://extension.usu.edu/pests/ipm/notes_ag/fruit-apple-maggot
A book researched and written by Corrales’ Martha Egan has been selected as a “Book of the Year” by Foreword Reviews journal. Her book, Relicarios The Forgotten Jewels of Latin America, published last year by Fresco Books, won a silver award. With lavish photographs, the art book exposes a little known Latin American artform. “As the author of this book, which represents 40 years of research and I’m extremely pleased that Foreword Magazine and its editors recognized Relicarios The Forgotten Jewels of Latin America by awarding us a silver in the art category for 2020,” Egan said.
“The topic is an obscure one, unfamiliar to even Latin American art historians. Most of the 200 photographs relating to these beautiful gems are previously unpublished.” She said the publisher’s book design “shows them and the text with off with spectacular artistry. I did my best to present academically sound research in a readable, engaging manner… pirates! Shipwrecks! Implausible relics! Miracles!” Egan is a long-time Corrales resident and founder of Pachamama, a shop offering Latin American folk art, crafts and jewelry relocated from Santa Fe to Corrales’ Casa Perea Art Space, 4829 Corrales Road, next to Ex Novo Brewery.
The journal focuses on independently published books, recognizing the best books published from small, independent and university presses, as well as self-published authors. For this year’s competition, over 2,100 entries were submitted in 55 categories, with Foreword’s editors choosing the finalists. Those titles were then mailed to individual librarians and booksellers charged with picking the gold, silver, bronze and honorable mention winners. Egan will give talk about books at Casa Perea on Saturday, July 31, during a mid-summer event 5-9 p.m. Tickets are $20. Raffle drawings offer merchandize valued at $200 for first prize, $100 for second and $50 for third.
By Scott Manning
Former Village Councillor Gerard Gagliano, CEO of the technology security company Prodentity, is concerned about the future of the stalled Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository project and about future nuclear waste repository projects. Nuclear waste storage is a serious problem in the United States. Waste generated from nuclear power production and from military nuclear weapon systems is radioactive and potentially deadly to people and to the ecosystem if the waste materials are improperly stored. Additionally, these waste products remain radioactive for thousands of years, meaning that a highly secure location and facility must be designated to store nuclear waste.
The U.S. government designated Yucca Mountain in Nevada to be the site for permanent nuclear waste storage in the 1987 Nuclear Waste Policy Act. The site was intended to be used to store high level radioactive waste (HLW), which is defined as highly radioactive materials from spent nuclear fuel in reactors. According to Gagliano, Yucca Mountain was a good choice to store the nuclear waste material. Yucca Mountain is dry and barren, making the location suitably isolated and stable for the storage of radioactive material. Yucca Mountain is also in the Nevada Test Site in the Nellis Air Force Range, so the site would be protected from trespassing. Finally, geology at the site indicated that the location was safe and stable enough to store nuclear waste far underground.
Despite these advantages, the proposed repository site encountered serious political opposition. Harry Reid, a U.S. senator from Nevada, opposed the development of the repository site. Reid argued that the proposed site was overly expensive and scientifically flawed. Gagliano explains that the proposal never garnered widespread support from Nevada citizens. In 2010, the Department of Energy (DOE) ultimately withdrew its license to construct the project, which effectively ended any prospects for building nuclear waste storage in Yucca Mountain. Gagliano’s company Prodentity was hired in 2001 to develop the security regimen for the proposed Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository project. Prodentity developed a comprehensive security plan that involved physical, information, and network security considerations.
Physical security entails the infrastructure and human personnel required to keep the site isolated from outsiders. By implementing electronics, Prodentity designed a system to ensure that only authorized persons were allowed to access the facility. This involved designing alarm systems that would detect breaches. Physical security is imperative because the design and construction of the storage system would be sensitive to any disruptions or changes inside of the storage area.
Information security considerations focused on securing sensitive information. Prodentity supplemented information security by developing training protocols for workers so that anyone operating or building the site would be properly trained. And network security involved the programming of autonomous rail cars that would deliver and move nuclear waste cargo into the facility. This programming effort required security because the site had to be protected against cyberattacks that could manipulate or derail the railcars. For example, the security network had to defend against the risk that a faux server could access the control systems in the storage system and send a railcar on a dangerous errand. Prodentity was awarded the security job because Gagliano had been granted patents on much of the security technologies needed to design and implement a comprehensive security system. Prodentity designed a software environment that housed the security infrastructure and modernized its technology over the years, but the company did not use its designs because of funding issues and later the effective termination of the project.
Gagliano and Prodentity are currently evaluating the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) site near Carlsbad, New Mexico to see if the site can be approved for the storage of HLW. But Gagliano suspects that the site is not adequate for HLW due to a 2014 waste leak at the site. Although the leak was contained with minimum environmental impact, it exposed geology concerns. This leaves the United States without a nuclear waste storage site for HLW. According to Gagliano, there are over 130 sites in the country, mostly run by commercial power plants, where nuclear waste is stored. Gagliano argues that this current model of localized storage of nuclear waste seems to be more dangerous than a single storage facility deep underground. And given the country’s history with nuclear weapons and nuclear power, a nuclear waste storage site is needed for old nuclear waste regardless of whether nuclear activity continues in the future.
The issue remains where and when a new nuclear storage facility for HLW will be developed. As more and more people move into previously unoccupied parts of the United States, the number of isolated candidates for nuclear storage shrink, and Gagliano is unsure if nuclear storage will ever become more popular among citizens. With the end of the Yucca Mountain Project and without any suitable alternatives, the United States is without a permanent HLW storage facility.
More than 25 artists submitted work for the Placitas art exhibition July 31 through September 9 when responding to the announced theme: the color yellow. The art show is at the Placitas Community Library which is open Tuesdays 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., as well as Sundays 1-4 p.m. The show’s prospectus explained, “Let us begin with the summer sun, that brilliant yellow orb whose rays provide both comfort and danger to those of us who are drawn to it. We cannot look directly at it, nor can we look away, and those who linger too long in its path may pay a painful price.
“Yellow is indisputably a color that signifies both the joys and angst of summer. That is why the Placitas Community Library Art Committee asked artists to reference ‘yellow’ with all of its contradictions and complexity for the August 2021 exhibition.” Among the pieces is a depiction of the sun fashioned out of bicycle chains. An artist reception will be held Friday, August 13 from 5-7 pm. All work is available for purchase and 25 percent of the purchase price will benefit the Placitas library.
Guitar maker Roberto Pimentel won the raffle to decide what style of haircut John Perea will get following an unshorn year. A drawing was held Saturday, July 17 in the Tijuana Bar at Perea’s Restaurant after organizer Sam Thompson announced that raffle ticket sales had raised $2,941 for the Corrales Fire Department. Fire Chief Anthony Martinez said the money would be used for “things that may not be budgeted” for the Village’s firefighters and rescue teams.
Thompson said nearly half of the tickets were sold by John Perea himself. The winning ticket was pulled from a jar by his wife, Ana Perea. Pimentel was not present at the drawing, so it was not known immediately what style haircut would be given.
Thompson said other fundraisers for the Fire Department are continuing, including firefighters’ old boots and helmets planted with flowers for sale. These can be seen at the main fire station.
Speaking in Corrales’ La Entrada Park June 5, Congresswoman Theresa Leger Fernandez was adamant that concerted action be taken to confront climate change. “We are ground-zero for climate crisis,” she emphasized. “We need to be talking about revenue replacement” for money that would come to New Mexico as the state and nation move away from fossil fuel extraction. She was accompanied by her legislative assistant, Adeline DeYoung, who grew up in Corrales and until recently worked for Citizens Climate Lobby. In introducing DeYoung, Leger Fernandez pointed out that the young Corraleña had written her master’s thesis on states’ relying on oil and gas to fund education.
Leger Fernandez said she intended to introduce a bill in Congress to mitigate financial losses due to decreased oil and gas leasing on federal lands. “My bill is going to separate out oil and gas from federal lands, so we don’t need to worry about the loss as we transition off of that. “We’re not going to cease that drilling right away; that’s just not how it works. Fifty percent of the oil and gas produced in New Mexico comes from federal land, and we need to wean ourselves of that. So my bill is going to say, ‘let’s look at the last five years of oil and gas revenues from public lands,’ and say ‘We’re going to give you the average of those five years, guaranteed. So you’re no longer going to be worried about what we’re doing on federal land because you’re going to be guaranteed that payment.
“That’s going to go down over time, of course, but we’d have a guaranteed paycheck that would allow us to do what we need to do on our federal land to save this beautiful place we call home. I think that’s the way we need to go; being honest about our difficulties during that transition, but also address the climate crisis. This would not touch anything on private land or state land, just on federal land.” The District 3 congresswoman further explained the concept. “What I will be proposing is that on federal land, we de-couple the revenue that the state receives from oil and gas development on those federal lands from whatever happens on them.
“So the State of New Mexico would receive an average of what we have received over the last five years, and that would be received as a guaranteed payment. That would allow the federal government to decide what it needs to do to assist our climate goals on federal land without harming New Mexico. That might mean leaving it in the ground, or no more new leasing. This would not impact existing leases and existing drilling. I think that is the kind of approach we need to look at. How do we take bold action and at the same time recognize the vulnerability that New Mexico has?
“My revenue replacement bill would de-couple the federal royalties that New Mexico gets from the payments that our state gets. And one of the nice things about it is that it would be guaranteed, so the State would know in advance what it would get and could budget for it.” As it has been, she explained, those revenues fluctuated greatly, in a boom-bust cycle.
Purchase of two more conservation easements to preserve farmland was postponed so that a single transaction with the N.M. Department of Finance and Administration (DFA) to purchase Corrales’ municipal bonds could be consolidated. The Village Council had been expected to exercise pending options to acquire easements at its July 20 session. But Village Administrator Ron Curry said July 15 that the Village’s bond attorney, Jill Sweeney, was trying to combine use of general obligation bonds for easements on the Phelps Farm and the Lopez Farm. As in the past, DFA buys the Village’s GO bonds for the bond market and is paid interest on the funds provided over time.
The pending acquisitions are expected to use the last of the $2.5 million from GO bonds approved by Corrales voters in the 2018 municipal election. Curry said final appraisals had not been submitted, but that the bond sales would be adequate to cover costs. Village officials have until November 30, 2021 to exercise an option on the three-acre farm owned by Emilio, Veronica and Renee Lopez, and a similar time frame has been set for the 10-acre Phelps Farm nearby. Those are expected to be the last easements to be acquired using funds generated by the 2018 GO bonds. Last year, the Village acquired a similar easement on the Haslam family’s farm a little south of the Phelps and Lopez tracts between the Main Canal and the Corrales Lateral irrigation ditch west of Corrales Road.
That earlier acquisition preserved 12 acres at a cost of approximately $960,000 from those bonds. The easement agreement between the Lopez family and the Village of Corrales notes that the three acres “includes scenic open space located along, visible from, and directly adjacent to Corrales Road, the primary thoroughfare through the village and the Corrales Bosque Preserve; and a public recreational trail along Sandoval Lateral, which is frequented by many residents and visitors for walking, running, horseback riding and mountain biking. The publicly accessible viewing platform along the Sandoval Lateral and Corrales Bosque Preserve will also provide significant opportunities for the public to enjoy the scenic values of the property.”
As with earlier farmland added to the Village’s farmland preservation program, the easements to be acquired would be held and administered for the Village by the New Mexico Land Conservancy, based in Santa Fe. If the Lopez deal goes through, the owners of the land, or any subsequent owners, would have the right to construct an agriculture-related building within a quarter-acre enclave, similar to other earlier transactions. At the May 25 Village Council meeting, an option to purchase a conservation easement on that land owned by Courtnay and Anne Koontz was approved unanimously. A final appraisal has yet to be made, but the Village is expected to pay approximately $780,000 to prevent the tract from being developed. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXX No.8 June 5, 2021 “Another 10 Acres of Prime Farmland To Be Saved.”) Members of the Corrales Farmland Preservation and Agriculture Committee were invited to submit a guest commentary to Corrales Comment to explain where that effort goes next since the GO bonds likely will have been spent. That is expected to be published in the August 7 issue.
Corrales high-tech firm Ideum is expected to finish its interactive display “Exploring the Structure of the Universe” SOON. The project is one of several featured by the N.M. Film Office highlighting the company’s growing reputation nationally and internationally. The interactive media production is scheduled to be online by 2025. It will allow visitors to one of the nation’s national laboratories to explore the next generation of particle accelerators,” according to the Film Office. The project “will allow researchers to peer more deeply into the structure of subatomic particles than ever before. What they learn will shed new light onto the structure of matter and the origin of the universe itself.”
Executive producer for the project is Ideum’s Hugh McDonald. Another project now in production, “The Body Explorer,” is a three-dimensional interactive exhibit for a science facility in the Middle East. “Visitors will explore an elaborate 3-D model of the human body and investigate the various medical technologies that can enhance human life,” the Film Office explained. “A wide range of technology from cochlear implants and artificial hearts to embedded microchipss and electronic tattoos are on display” with explanations of where the current science would lead. “The Body Explorer” is to be released next summer.
Ideum Producer Darold Ross explained it this way. “Humanity is continually re-conceptualizing what our relationship with technology is, even as technology evolves at a break-neck pace. “This experience will invite visitors to consider their own opinions on emerging technologies and how they interface with the human body. Visitors will answer questions about their personal feelings on the implementation of medical technology in the body, and see their answers represented in real time as they compare to other respondents. The survey will cover a wide range of moral and ethical questions across a broad range of technologies.”
“As our company continues to expand our work with world-class museums and Fortune 500 companies across the country and across the world, the New Mexico Film Office has been there every step of the way,” according to Ideum founder and chief executive officer Jim Spadaccini. “Their support has been vital to our success as we are quickly gaining an international reputation for developing creative and compelling digital interactives right here in New Mexico. Even during the darkest times in the pandemic, we were able to maintain more than 40 full-time positions while we continued our work and to land new opportunities.” (See Corrales Comment Vol. XXXVII No.3 April 7, 2018 “Ideum Will Test Display Prototypes in Blue Sky Building.”)
Also under way is a soundscape and presentation system expected to be in production through next June. It is a collaboration with a zoo in the Midwest to create sounds for a new aquarium building. Closer to home, visitors to the Albuquerque BioPark’s “Bugarium” have experienced one of Ideum’s projects. Among scores of others are “Meet the Bisti Beast, New Mexico’s Tyrannosaur,” “Operation Smile: the global cleft palate repair project” and the U.S. Navy Seals History Project. (See Corrales Comment Vol. XXXIV, No.18 November 7, 2015 “Corrales Firm’s Display Featured at New ‘Bugarium.’”) In 2017, Ideum bought the former Blue Sky woodworking building at the corner of Corrales Road and West La Entrada, next to Village Pizza. Founded in the San Francisco area by Jim Spadaccini in 1999, Ideum relocated to Corrales in 2005, re-opening in a former gas station and auto mechanics garage. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXIX, No.16 October 9, 2010 “Corrales Hi-Tech Firm Sells to Science Museums, iPhone.”)
As the business grew, Spadaccini moved to the office complex at the south end of Corrales, where Ideum occupies 22,000 square feet of space to design, produce and prototype innovative hardware and software equipment often used museums around the world. Products are interactive displays and multi-touch tables. The expansion to the former Blue Sky Woodworks building is used to build boxes for Ideum’s interactive display equipment. In 2017, Ideum got a $75,000 grant provided by the N.M. Local Economic Development Act (LEDA) program.
About five years ago, Spadaccini introduced an innovative new product, the Portrait Touch and Motion Kiosk, an interactive display system featuring an ultra high-definition 55-inch display with 60 touch points and motion-tracking sensors. The seven-foot tall kiosk is constructed of aircraft grade aluminum that contains touch guided screens for use at museums, trade shows and other settings. “The Portrait Touch and Motion Kiosk is our first all-in-one standing system,” he said. “It is the perfect addition to our line of multi-touch tables and Presenter touch walls. We have brought our years of experience in creating turnkey, integrated touch-systems to the Portrait Kiosk.” The units are designed in Corrales and built entirely in the United States.
As Spadaccini explained, Ideum focuses on creating “the next generation of visitor experiences that blend both the physical and digital realms.” The products are sold in 38 countries. Among other of Ideum’s clients and customers: the Baseball Hall of Fame, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Apple Computers, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Exploratorium, National Science Foundation, Maxwell Museum of Anthropology, the Technology Museum of Innovation, the Space Sciences Laboratory at the University of California-Berkeley, Marriott Resorts, the Chabot Space and Science Center and the Museum of the African Diaspora.
At the National Museum of the American Indian in the nation’s capital, Ideum produced a table top interactive display of a portion of the prehistoric Peruvian Inca Road near Machu Picchu. Anyone who has caught even a single episode of the CSI-type television shows that now proliferate would likely be familiar with what Ideum makes and sells. You probably recall seeing the TV detective walk up to a huge, colorful computer screen displaying multiple images of evidence and suspects. He then “grabs” one image to shift it to the center, then pokes the screen to instantly and dazzlingly bring up a plethora of data about that clue. Ideum’s Multi-Touch 50 model does all that.
Before founding Ideum, Spadaccini was director of interactive media at the Exploratorium in San Francisco. His department was responsible for developing educational web resources and media exhibits for the museum floor. For his work there, he received a Smithsonian Computerworld Award, an Association of Science and Technology Centers Award for innovation and three consecutive Webby Awards for “best science site” on the Internet.
Climate change. It’s everywhere. In newspaper headlines, that is. But also in everyday neighbor-to-neighbor talk. It’s as though, suddenly, everybody finally grasped Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth,” and joined a consensus that we humans need to do something to avoid disaster. Note that Gore’s global warming slide show presentation, launched on a lecture circuit in 2000, was released as a blockbuster movie in 2006. That was 15 years ago. What if people had acted decisively back then? Was that too much to expect? Humans don’t respond that quickly? Gore’s first book on the subject, Earth in the Balance, went on the New York Times bestseller list in 1992, 29 years ago. Will short-sightedness always prevail?
His book An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, came out July 28, 2017, four years ago. By then, some people around the globe had begun to act decisively on already-unfolding climate change. Corrales Comment offered on-the-scene news reporting from the crucial United Nations climate change conference in Paris in December 2015. This was the only New Mexican news medium to provide that first-hand coverage, which can be read at our website http://www.corralescomment.com. Corrales Comment will report from the UN climate conference in Scotland this coming November, assuming pandemic restrictions allow. The crux of the UN’s 26th Conference of the Parties (COP-26) convening in Glasgow will be to “increase ambition” by every nation on earth to implement steps to dramatically reduce planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.
In 2019, as COP-25 got underway in Madrid, the executive secretary for the UN’s climate change programs, Patricia Espinosa, explained, “This year, we have seen accelerating climate change impacts, including increased droughts, storms and heat waves, with dire consequences for poverty eradication, human health, migration and inequality. “The world’s small window of opportunity to address climate change is closing rapidly.” That was 2019. Since then scientists have recorded temperatures of 118 degrees F in the Arctic region, unprecedented heatwaves in the Pacific Northwest, a mega-drought in the Southwest, extraordinary flooding in Germany, accelerating disappearance of glacial ice in high mountains around the globe and crop failures resulting in mass migrations, among other climate crises.
Readers of the Albuquerque Journal learned July 19 that birds are dying of excessive heat in the United States, Australia and South Africa. On the same day, The New York Times reported that huge wildfires in Russian’s normally frozen north “have been made possible by the extraordinary summer heat in recent years in northern Siberia, which has been warming faster than just about any other part of the world.” These days, The New York Times publishes several climate change-related articles in nearly every issue, often at the top of the front-page. Other major papers do the same. The Times’ lead story July 15, for example, was headlined “Europe Lays Out Stringent Plan in Climate Fight. Challenging the World: Curbing Fossil Fuel Use With Penalties for Noncompliance.”
The next day, it published an op-ed article titled “We Can’t Afford to Be Cheap in Fighting Climate Change.” The conservatively liberal newspaper’s lead article in the Sunday Times, July 18 carried the headline “Climate Change Comes For the Wealthy Nations. Brutal Heat and Deadly Floods Show World Unprepared to Cope with Extreme Weather.” Inside the same edition, a banner headline reads “Floods Thrust Climate Policy Onto Center Stage of German Politics.” It’s not just East Coast newspapers. The Albuquerque Journal headlined “Heat Wave in US, Canada Devastates Crops, Livestock” above a sentence in the second paragraph explaining “What’s happening in parts of the U.S. and Canada shows the damage climate change is wreaking on agriculture.”
The same week, the Journal carried a front-page article warning that “New Mexico Is Grappling With a Mega-Drought” and pointing out that “Rising global temperatures, a consequence of greenhouse gas-induced climate change, make drought worse by affecting regional snowpack.” The journalistic trend has even made its way onto lifestyle pages. In the July 17, New York Times, the headline “You Can Live To Fight Climate Change” was followed by a sub-head that “Individual Choices in Lifestyle and Investing Can Have a Positive Effect on the Environment, Experts Say.”
For some time now, the topic has invaded advertising space as well. Bayer, maker of aspirin and other drugs, enticed newspaper readers this summer with the question in a large ad that read “Can biology reverse disease and slow climate change?” It touted the “bio revolution, one of the megatrends we’re investing in to help treat chronic human conditions, like a warming planet. To us, there’s nothing more valuable.” These intensifying messages across many, if not most, platforms, are not meant to appeal to tree-huggers. Compared to a few years ago, Americans of all persuasions are concerned that, as reported in the Albuquerque Journal June 28, “Earth is now trapping nearly twice as much heat due to mounting greenhouse gases in the atmosphere from carbon emissions than it did in 2005, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the U.S. environment agency National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.”
Captains of industry have heeded the shift in public attention to threats posed by global warming. Earlier this month, the world’s largest investment firm, BlackRock, demanded that the major multinational corporations make firm commitments to bring down global greenhouse gas emissions. BlackRock’s CEO, Laurence Fink, spoke at the “Group of 20” economic summit that governments and corporations need to do more to combat global warming. He called for a shift that would “fundamentally change the function of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, as well as re-shape the role of governments in combatting climate change,” it was reported.
In June, Europe’s biggest oil company, Royal Dutch Shell, said it would step up its reduction in carbon emissions worldwide. The corporation’s leader, Ben van Beurde, said a court decision in the Hague in May would spur faster reductions. The court ruled that Shell has to cut net carbon emissions by 45 percent by 2030 compared to 2019. It may not be an accurate gauge of the extent to which corporate executives have committed to joining the fight against climate change, but perhaps a paradigm shift may be seen in the publication of a book later this summer by Yale University Press: Prosperity in the Fossil-Free Economy: Cooperatives and the Design of Sustainable Businesses by Melissa Scanlan.
Citizens groups are also mobilizing to capitalize on the growing awareness of climate crises already occurring. On July 19, elected officials from around the world announced formation of a Global Alliance for a Green New Deal to press for binding commitments to reduce carbon releases. Emission target reductions, the coalition stressed, “although important, don’t change things: policy does.” The new group’s leadership urged policy setters around the world to “not wait for November’s critical COP-26 summit, but to embark on bold transformative action to make the world fairer and greener now.” One of the 21 founders, U.S. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, said “Climate change is here, and it is an existential threat to humanity. We have already seen the horrifying repercussions of failing to act: wildfires ranging across the West Coast, extreme hurricanes, heatwaves in Australia and massive flooding around the world. natural disasters like these will only get worse unless we act as a global community to counteract this devastation.”
A member of the British parliament, Caroline Lucas, added, “Pledges and targets will not avert catastrophic climate change. Ambitious action will, but it’s been perilously absent. The world is running out of time and out of excuses.” And in the U.S. Senate, Martin Heinrich introduced his Zero-Emission Homes Act that would reimburse Americans for buying and installing household electric appliances, presumably replacing those burning natural gas. “Electrifying America’s homes is a sure fire way to cut down on fossil fuels and take bold action on climate,” the senator said.
“We’ve got to act boldly on climate right now. It’s the only way to preserve our planet for future generations. From heating and cooling to cooking and transportation, our households make up about 42 percent of our country’s energy-related emissions.” In 1979, President Jimmy Carter installed solar hot water heating panels on the White House roof; President Ronald Reagan removed them in 1986. President George W. Bush installed the first photovoltaic panels on the White House grounds in 2003. In 2013, Barack Obama ordered solar water heating panels back on the presidential household roof.
Although many, perhaps most, Corraleños are acting as though the pandemic has passed, 335 people here had the illness as of July 16. As of that date, 4,372 New Mexicans had died from COVID-19, and 207,002 had tested positive for the coronavirus. And 15,011 were then in the hospital for treatment. Corrales had four new cases between June 27 and July 16, according to the Fire Department’s Tanya Lattin. For perspective, she pointed out that Corrales had just 26 cases on July 13 last year; on July 13, 2021, Corrales had 219 cases. Lattin continues to offer vaccinations one to three days a week. Interested persons should call her at 702-4182 to schedule a Pfizer vaccination.
“We are not out of the pandemic, but with New Mexico’s great vaccination rate, we are doing better than other states,” she said. “We need to keep it that way, and it takes all of us following COVID safe practices to keep our infection rate low. Wash your hands, stay home if you are sick, get tested if you are sick. The Public Health Order still requires unvaccinated people to wear a face covering in public, while no one is checking for vaccination status, please consider others who may be immune compromised, older, or they just did not develop a large amount of antibodies from vaccination, and follow the rules about face coverings. Also be kind to people who are wearing face coverings; it is an added layer of protection. When I started in the medical field many years ago, it was common practice not to wear gloves for most things. Now we wear gloves for many things to protect ourselves from blood-borne pathogens.
“I am fully vaccinated and have been since January, I still wear my mask in many settings. Not only to add a layer of protection for myself, but to protect others since I am around unvaccinated and ill people. If you want a vaccine or have questions about vaccine please contact me, as we want to make it easy for people who want a vaccination to get one and have them available in Corrales. If you know of someone who is homebound and wants a vaccination, we are available to vaccinate in their home. Together as a community we will get through this”.
In Sandoval County, 53 percent of COVID-19 cases are in women. The age category most affected now are people 20-29 (2,171 cases as of July 16). The second highest category was people aged 30-29 (2,080 cases). For those aged 70-79, Sandoval County had 626 cases, while the age category 80-89 registered 245 cases. As of that date, 69.6 percent of Sandoval County residents had been vaccinated.
The 35th season of Music in Corrales begins with a concert in La Entrada Park by Corrales trumpeter Bobby Shew and his jazz sextet on Saturday, September 18 at 7 p.m. The second offering in the new eight-concert season, Friction Quartet on October 23, will also be in the park outside the Corrales Library. After that, COVID-restrictions allowing, the remainder of the season will be inside the Old Church, although the Irish music group Socks in the Frying Pan will be presented as an online video concert only. That concert will be offered on Saturday, November 20 and Sunday, November 28. Season tickets and Premier Choice Tickets (for three or more tickets) are now available online at http://www.musicincorrales.org. The full season ticket price is $175. Price for the Premier Choice Ticket is $24 each for three or more concerts. Pre-season advance ticket sales end August 31, after which prices will increase.
Offerings range from performance of a work by an Albuquerque native, composer Nicholas Lell Benavides, and a blues singer to a German-Brazilian classical guitar duo and a Mozart prize winning pianist. First up is the Bobby Shew Jazz Sextet on Saturday, September 18, starting at 7 p.m. in La Entrada Park. Raised in Albuquerque and now living in Corrales, Shew played trumpet for several “big bands” such as those of Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman and Buddy Rich. Settling in Los Angeles, he did studio work for television shows that included those of Mary Tyler Moore, Bob Newhart and Mork and Mindy. The Saturday, October 23 concert, also in the library park, brings in the classical and contemporary string quartet Friction. The group is “artist in residence” at the Napa Valley Performing Arts Center. The concert here begins at 7 p.m.
The November event, the only one planned as entirely online, features Irish music by Socks in the Frying Pan, shown, two days, Saturday, November 20 and Sunday, November 28. The group hails from County Clare, on Ireland’s west coast, the hotbed of Irish music today. Then the December offering is Crys Matthews, a blue singer and songwriter, said to be an inspiration for those who fight for change. This concert is in the Old Church starting at 7:30 p.m. The first concert of 2022 has Hot Club of Cowtown, described as “country meets jazz.” That is on Saturday, January 22, 7:30 p.m.
The February concert is given by classical pianist Claire Huangci, whose range goes from Bach and Scarlatti to Bernstein and Corigliano. She returns for her third engagement in Corrales. The young American pianist won first prize and the Mozart Prize at the 2018 Geza Anda Competition. On March 20, the Sunday afternoon concert in the Old Church is by Take3, with classical-jazz fusion. It begins at 3 p.m. The final concert in the 2021-22 season comes Saturday, April 23, with Nova, a Brazilian German guitar duo. The two musicians met while studying at the Royal College of Music in London. The concert in the Old Church begins at 730 p.m.
A preliminary design for future paths along upper Meadowlark Lane shows an uphill bike path along the south side of the road while cyclists would be expected to use the regular eastbound traffic lane going down. The road shoulder along the north side of upper Meadowlark would be designated for horse riders and carriages. At a sparsely-attended public meeting July 8, Village Engineer Steve Grollman briefed three members of the Village Council and three members of the Village’s Bicycle-Pedestrian Advisory Commission. It was the start of what Village Administrator Ron Curry had said would be a wide-open re-assessment of trail options after state highway officials nixed a multi-purpose paved path along the north side of the road due to non-compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXX No.1 February 20, 2021 “Corrales Returns $167,417 Meant for Meadowlark Trails.”)
During his briefing July 8, 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. 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. 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.
But at least two potential problems arise. First, unless no-passing rules are strictly enforced, cyclists in the eastbound traffic lane may be at exceptional risk near the medians. Second, cyclists making a right turn from southbound Loma Larga onto westbound Meadowlark could easily find themselves where they don’t want to be. The lane they should use going west is on the south side of that busy intersection, and could be difficult to access.
How horse riders would be expected to cross Loma Larga at the Meadowlark intersection remains unexplained as well, although that problem was raised years ago. Neither Grollman nor Curry indicated when the next opportunity for public input on the trail proposal will come. At the July 8 meeting, Grollman said he was about two-thirds finished with the design.
Back in August 2018, the engineer in charge of construction plans for reconfiguration of upper Meadowlark, Brad Sumrall of Weston Solutions, told the Village Council that the south side of the road from Loma Larga to the Rio Rancho boundary would remain pretty much as is, the terrain to be graded, with existing vegetation removed for a horse riding path. A proposed paved, multi-use path was to be constructed along the north side of the road, but even then, that part was expected to be more complicated, especially with steeper terrain near the top.
In a nutshell, the design and engineering for the proposed asphalt path showed grades going east-west and north-south that were too steep for safe wheelchair access. Sumrall had sought a waiver from ADA requirements, but that was rejected. A work-around involving flattening terrain on homeowners’ driveways was abandoned. So the strategy was that the trails portion would be accomplished with Village funds alone which, presumably, would not need to meet state-federal regulations, Curry suggested. Returning the money provided by N.M. Department of Transportation would be “the first step in restarting the whole process,” he added. That was to involve starting over with consultations among residents along upper Meadowlark, and the community in general, as to what is desired along the road connecting Loma Larga to bike lanes in Rio Rancho.
In February of this year, Curry said he expected to launch a new public involvement effort in April 2021, starting with consultations with the current Village Council member representing the upper Meadowlark neighborhood, Tyson Parker, joined by its previous representative, Dave Dornburg, who had indicated a desire to participate. First proposed well more than a decade ago, the project secured funding through the Mid-Region Council of Governments for a bicycle connection between the two municipalities. But the Village declined the money after the Village Council was caught up in homeowners’ disputes mainly about drainage. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXX, No.10, July 9, 2011 “Corrales Gives Back $160,000 for Upper Meadowlark Trail.” )
But proponents kept the project alive, building support community wide. Village officials conceded that more preliminary, conceptual work should have been done, especially regarding drainage.
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. Residents claimed the proposed changes might dump stormwater run-off onto their adjacent property, would increase traffic unbearably, make it difficult to safely exit their driveways onto Meadowlark and obliterate their frontage landscaping. Proponents noted that upper Meadowlark is one of the few Village roads where plenty of right-of-way exists to accommodate multi-modal transportation, that bike lanes there would significantly improve opportunities for bicycle commuting, and that, as an inter-municipal project, funding had been allocated for it.
From the beginning, opponents argued that funding provided through the Mid-region Council of Governments was nowhere near adequate to do the project right. No funds, for example, were provided for anticipated costs of managing drainage from the modified roadway. The council chambers were 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 they try to pull out from their driveways onto Meadowlark, and drainage concerns. They were apparently struck by Village Engineer Steve Grollman’s admission that the funding available to design the bike trail and compacted earth path did not specifically include money for drainage issues.
The New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions will be receiving more than $600 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding from the New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration to replenish the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, as well as to pay back a federal loan issued by the U.S. Department of Labor. That loan was to support the surge of unemployment insurance claimants during the COVID-19 pandemic. The state’s Trust Fund balance on Jan. 27, 2020, was $460.1 million. Later, after the onset of the pandemic in March, the state's number of unemployment claimants increased by more than 1,300 percent in a matter of weeks.
The economic impact of the pandemic pushed almost 200,000 individuals, at the peak, into the state's unemployment insurance system; the State was able to disburse almost $4 billion to displaced workers and New Mexicans all across the state amid the crisis. The number of claimants qualifying for state and federal unemployment benefits, however, contributed to the depletion of the trust fund by mid-September 2020. The funds transferred will be used to both complete the repayment of the federal loan and re-establish the trust fund to its pre-pandemic levels. The trust fund balance, after payments and transfers are completed, will be $460 million.
The total loan received by Workforce Solutions from the U.S. Department of Labor to continue getting benefits to New Mexicans in need was $284 million. On June 24, 2021, the department made a $100 million loan payment, a sum appropriated to the department from the state general fund in the 2021 legislative session. The remainder of the loan balance will be repaid with federal funding.
What should be done to provide bicycle, pedestrian and equestrian paths along upper Meadowlark Lane between Loma Larga and Rio Rancho? The roadway was re-designed and rebuilt more than two years ago with the promise that a new effort would be made to learn what villagers wished to have along the road shoulders. That had already been determined a long time back based on extensive public involvement, including a consultant conducting a planning charette, but the resulting 2013 plan was scrapped when it was learned the proposed path along the north side of the road could not use funding contingent on compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). Finally, the public input effort has resumed with a meeting in the Village Council Chambers Thursday, July 8. Results of that meeting could not be included in this issue.
According to Public Works Director Mike Chavez in 2019, approvals were in place for the bike and pedestrian trail along the westbound lane, although no start date was announced. That part of the overall project was delayed for a re-design of a paved bike trail to satisfy the N.M. Transportation Department’s concerns about compliance with ADA. The original design had problematic slopes both east-west and north-south at the same locations near the top of West Meadowlark. Resolution of that issue was to have been resolved by modifying several driveways on private property to reduce the steepness of approaches to the proposed paved trail. But that never happened. Village Administrator Ron Curry said more than a year ago that the best work-around was to use the Village’s own money, rather than federal-state funds that might require ADA compliance. Although Curry did not link the two, that substitution may have been made possible after Corrales received funding last month through the state highway department’s Municipal Arterial Program (MAP).
The upper Meadowlark project received intense, and often contentious, public input since it was first proposed around 1990. In 2010, the Mid-Region Council of Governments (MRCOG) allocated $160,000 for an Upper Meadowlark bike trail connecting Corrales and Rio Rancho, but the Village Council turned the money back. West Meadowlark residents strongly opposed the project as then proposed, arguing the funds were inadequate to address stormwater drainage problems that might result. At the June 28, 2011 Village Council meeting, councillors voted unanimously to send back $160,000 for proposed trails. But almost immediately councillors unanimously resolved to ask MRCOG for a new grant to construct trails along Meadowlark or some other road that could connect to Rio Rancho’s bike paths. The council’s decision to turn back the MRCOG grant came in a package of related resolutions. The first re-allocated the funds that the Village would use for its local match to go with MRCOG’s $160,000.
The $51,000 which had been tagged to go with the grant (which was originally targeted to complete construction of Loma Larga) was re-directed to construct bike lanes for the extension of Don Julio Road in the Far Northwest Sector out to Highway 528 at its intersection with Northern Boulevard in Rio Rancho. That decision alone killed the Meadowlark bike trail project, so the following resolution to turn back the MRCOG grant was pre-determined; there was no other potential money for the required local match. Then-Councillor John Alsobrook took a longer view on West Meadowlark Lane’s problems. “We’ve learned quite a bit about the history of this section of road. It had stop signs put in and then it had stop signs taken out. It had a right-turn lane that was put in, and the right-turn lane was taken out. It had speed humps put in and taken out, and speed tables were put in.” In a revision to its initial recommendations, the consulting firm hired to suggest ways to improve upper Meadowlark Lane called for bike riders to use the same downhill driving lane as autos, or divert to the future pedestrian path along the south side of the re-configured roadway, now completed.
Appearing before the mayor and Village Council at their September 10, 2013 meeting, Steve Burstein of Architectural Research Consultants presented a new “Option A” that shows a five-foot wide bike lane adjacent to the westbound driving lane, while eastbound bike riders would be expected to come down in the same regular traffic lane used by motor vehicles. If cyclists did not want to “take the lane” with regular traffic coming down hill, they would be encouraged to bike along the proposed pedestrian path along the south side of Meadowlark, he said.
Among the advantages of the revised plan, cyclists using the bike paths along the Rio Rancho section of Meadowlark Lane would have a continuous connection to designated routes coming down into Corrales. Downhill bike riders would be informed to merge with regular vehicle traffic, or veer off onto the pedestrian trail. Some residents along the north side of upper Meadowlark had objected to routing both uphill and downhill bike riders to a future path on the north side of the road. They said they feared pulling into the path of fast bike riders as they left their driveways and tried to enter traffic. In Burstein’s revised plan, downhill cyclists would use the eastbound driving lane or use the pedestrian path along the south side of the road. The change was endorsed by the Corrales Bicycle, Pedestrian Advisory Commission as well, following communications with Burstein and his planners. Back then, Village Administrator John Avila said he understood work on the Meadowlark project could be at least partially funded through the MAP, which offers funding annually.
While Village officials had already assumed they could use future MAP money for changes to the intersection of Meadowlark and Loma Larga, Avila said he thought the same funding source could be tapped to pay for changes within the upper Meadowlark right-of-way for its entire length up to the Rio Rancho boundary.
Drawings submitted by Burstein at the 2013 council meeting showed the 60-foot right-of-way divided as follows, from south to north:
• a five-foot buffer from homeowners’ property line;
• a five-foot-wide pedestrian path (to be used also by bike riders who don’t want to ride in the regular downhill traffic lane);
• a five-foot buffer from the eastbound driving lane;
• an 11-foot eastbound driving lane next to;
• an 11-foot westbound driving lane next to;
• a five-foot wide bicycle lane as part of the pavement;
• an 18-foot shoulder along the north side of the road that would accommodate drivers trying to enter or leave driveways as well as;
• a four-foot-wide horse path along the most northerly part of the right-of-way.
Perhaps the consultants’ most important finding was that the proposed changes to Meadowlark Lane would not preclude the roadway’s designation and use as a “collector” road. That means such improvements would likely be eligible for funding through the federal-state Mid-Region Council of Governments. For nearly a year, that had been a lingering doubt: changes that residents might insist upon to reduce traffic impacts along upper Meadowlark could disqualify the project from essential funding.
Proposed as an agenda item for the Village Council’s July 20 session is discussion about possible regulations for walls and fences along Corrales Road aimed at protecting scenic quality. The topic has been surging and ebbing over the past year with the Planning and Zoning Commission prodded to present a draft ordinance that mirrored what the Village of Los Ranchos enacted for Rio Grande Boulevard on the other side of the river. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXX No.8 June 5, 2021 “New Rules for Corrales Road Walls, Fences.”) At least three council members are expected to support imposition of new regulations because they have said so publicly over the past six months. They are Councillors Zach Burkett, Tyson Parker and Kevin Lucero.
Planning and Zoning Administrator Laurie Stout was asked to evaluate the Los Ranchos ordinance to protect scenery along Rio Grande Boulevard and whether it achieves a balance for landowners’ privacy. “What the Los Ranchos ordinance does is that it allows a modicum of privacy since you’ve got your walls to a certain extent but with an open pattern at the top. And they also have setbacks that we can look at for a front fence. That would be another option. “It allows people to keep their animals in and keep other animals out, as the case may be. As you drive down Rio Grande Boulevard, it is a delightful experience. You can see the farmland, the large lots, the architecture. Corrales Road is a scenic byway, so looking at an ordinance would certainly be appropriate to balance the rights of the property owner with the overall feel that we want to keep here in Corrales.”
At the council’s June 15 meeting, Stout said the P&Z commission was still tweaking a draft ordinance, but that it might be ready to present to the council for posting and publishing at the July 20 session. As discussion wound down during a May meeting, Mayor Jo Anne Roake summarized. “At this point I can see things coalescing around focusing on a couple of areas in town, such as the scenic byway and the historic area to start with and maybe creating an ordinance that has Los Ranchos as a model to keep kind of a balance” between scenic quality and landowners’ privacy. Burkett said last spring he was researching what might be done to revive the status of Corrales Road as a designated scenic byway and what might be done to bolster that. Former Corrales Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Terry Brown had made that a high priority since at least 2010.
In a power point presentation to the Corrales Planning and Zoning Commission on April 12, 2011, Brown demonstrated what has been lost by view-blocking walls along Corrales Road and what has been preserved by see-through fences and low walls. But for other Corraleños, the idea that Village officials might tell them what kind of fence is permissible reeks of governmental over-reach and offends libertarian values. At the December 8, 2020 Village Council meeting, Councillor Burkett said he would like to see incentives by Village government to encourage other styles of walls or fences that do not inhibit views. He said he wanted the council to address the issue after seeing such tall, solid walls erected by builder Steve Nakamura on two properties at the south end of Corrales over the past year.
Similar long walls have gone up adjacent to Corrales Road at the north end in recent years, creating what Brown has referred to as a “canyon” effect that destroy the scenic quality for which Corrales has been known for many years. When Brown heard of Burkett’s interest, he said he looked forward to collaborating on a proposal to address the worsening situation. “When I was chair of the Corrales Planning and Zoning Commission, the last issue I tried to get a reluctant council to approve was a recommendation for a requirement for a partially open wall ordinance along Corrales Road. “The new CMU walls being built by Mr. Nakamura at the south end of Corrales are the antithesis of what Corrales needs,” Brown added.
“Look at the fencing along Rio Grande. This is what I envision for our village, and what is desperately needed to protect the views along the Corrales ‘scenic byway.’” Views along Corrales Road of pastures, horses, farms, orchards, vineyards and old tractors are central to this community’s character and perhaps even its economic vitality. A degree of national recognition for those attributes was gained in 1995 when Corrales Road was designated a “scenic and historic byway.” But a Village-appointed byways corridor management committee disbanded amid controversy more than a decade ago and was never fully reconstituted.
By Linda Walsh
Alyson Thal, a traditionally trained family doctor who became disillusioned with the present healthcare delivery system, now incorporates a vegetable garden with her practice and a community health perspective. It is nearly impossible to separate the history of a particular land from the history of the people who live on it and the same is true of the small plot of land on Corrales Road under Thal’s stewardship. Thal, the physician who started Corrales Family Practice at 3841 Corrales Road, spent much of her early childhood on a small family farm in Stanley, Kansas, where her father was professor of surgery at the University of Kansas Medical School. There she learned to ride horses and work cattle and watched her mother tend a beautiful and productive garden.
Her mother was also a gourmet cook so Thal got to experience the beauty of the garden and the direct fruits of her mother’s efforts. When the family moved from Kansas to a large ranch in Mora, in northeastern New Mexico, Thal went from riding English to western, from jumping fences to rodeo team roping. She also gained a deep appreciation of the role of nature in everyday life, and an awareness of how people must adapt to an ever-changing environment. She learned that gardening and agriculture demanded flexibility and patience. It was a lesson she applied to many aspects of her life as a physician and mother of six. In 1999 Thal moved to Corrales to start the Village Doctors with another physician. She had spent 13 years working in most of the healthcare systems as a frontline doctor, and was ready to quit “big city medicine.” She wanted more time with each patient for “an opportunity to get back to the essence of the doctor/patient relationship.”
As healthcare in traditional medical practices eroded due to over-crowding, higher costs, and especially less time to see patients, Thal looked for an opportunity to take more control of how she practiced medicine. Three years after moving to Corrales, Thal purchased the three-acre property on Corrales Road that had been headquarters for a construction company,and began the work of transforming it into a place of healing. Rehabilitating the original building to a functioning clinic was a huge undertaking. The ancient plumbing had to be redone, the rooms rearranged to accommodate patients and staff; the whole building needed to be made comfortable, home-like and welcoming. Once the clinic was complete she started work on the courtyard “because I want people to feel joy, I want them to feel happy, I want them to be awed when they see the beauty of nature.”
Thal originally envisioned the front acre of the property as a new kind of clinic, one that converted the idea of a waiting room into an interactive learning center, acknowledging that “life is too short to wait.” She envisioned a circular room with a garden in the center. Her ultimate goal was a home for the best of western and alternative medicine, integrating traditional and non-traditional in a beautiful space. As so often happens with great plans, life intervenes. When Thal was embezzled in 2008, the dream of building a new clinic had to be abandoned and a new one created for her practice and the front acre. The land was always part of her mission to deliver a more holistic form of healthcare. Knowing full well that “health” is multifaceted and that it includes social, emotional, physical and intellectual needs, her vision was multi-purposed. She saw the garden as an answer to help her patients who at times suffered from isolation and depression, sought community or needed an activity that could contribute to their health.
A garden would also rehabilitate the land. The next question was how to bring her idea to fruition. Fate intervened when L.D. Anderson, a long-term patient and Master Gardener, octogenarian and enthusiastic volunteer, entered the scene. When Thal asked him what his secret was to maintaining such a positive attitude and energetic life, he responded gardening and giving back. In 2012 at an open house for the conversion of her traditional practice to her partnership with the management company MDVIP, and with Anderson at the sign-in table, the Corrales Family Practice Garden enlisted its first volunteers. Though several added their names to the list at that event, only three were ready to roll up their sleeves and work in the dirt. They were Edy Burtis, Linda Ozier and Cindy Harper.
Along with Anderson as supervisor and consultant-Master Gardener, Edy Burtis had the most experience. Linda Ozier and Cindy Harper came with a desire to learn and a willingness to pitch in on many levels. The garden started out as a small corner of the current one third acre, and the work was hard. The early days of the garden presented many obstacles and the small band of volunteers learned by trial and error. One of the biggest needs was to maintain a steady flow of water. Thal enlisted the help of her family, imbued with ranch and farm experience, to install a well and later till the soil. The arid earth gradually relinquished the deep tap-rooted weeds and river rocks. It absorbed the irrigated water and soil amendments as well as all the energy and creativity the volunteers could bring.
According to Richard Zabell, an early volunteer in the garden, the three essential ingredients to a successful garden are good soil, water and volunteers. An engineer by training, Zabell took command of the watering system. With the help of Jim Koontz, this included laying tubing and T-tape, maintaining the well, adding a timer and staying on top of the many ruptures, leaks and frustrations an irrigation system can bestow. Koontz, rancher and long-time resident of Corrales, besides his volunteer work in the garden, shares his ranching experience and equipment tilling and hauling in organic matter and hauling out everything that can’t be composted.
Financing for a second well pump came in a grant from MDVIP, with which Thal had partnered after her practice was embezzled. It has allowed her the time to develop her doctor/patient collaborations so critical to effective healthcare. It has also given her the opportunity to develop additional avenues to enhance her patients’ health. MDVIP has continued to give financial support to the garden every year since that first request to replace the pump. The number of volunteers has grown as the garden has expanded from the first corner plot in 2013 to the current third-acre plus. Envisioned at first as a place for patients to enjoy the benefits of healthy fresh food, social activity and all the spirit-enhancing benefits that digging in the dirt and producing fresh food can bring, the volunteer group also needed to grow. In 2018 the Sandoval Extension Master Gardeners approved the garden for Master Gardener volunteer activities. Not only do the Master Gardeners help with the garden, but the garden gives the Master Gardeners an opportunity to fulfil their mission of teaching others how to garden sustainably. Thal also continues to prescribe the garden to her patients; volunteers from the Corrales community are welcome.
The garden is a thing of beauty during the growing season. In early spring the pollinator bed between the small orchard and field starts to show signs of life. Volunteers begin to sow rows of onions, beets, radish, bok choy and carrots. By late spring the first bags of food are being carried to St. Felix Pantry and the warm weather crops of summer squash, zucchini and cucumbers are sown. The seedlings of eggplant and okra are transplanted. By early summer the garden is going full steam. Rows of young tomato plants in large covered cages and peppers dominate the landscape. The tomatoes and peppers have been nurtured from seed to viable young plants by Seed2Need under the expert direction of Penny Davis and her small army of dedicated helpers. In late summer volunteers harvest the tomatoes, squash, cabbage, broccoli, cucumbers, okra and the last of the eggplant, and peppers and melons. As the harvest dwindles in early fall, the work of cleaning up the field begins. Toward the end of the harvesting season, Thal throws a party to thank all those who have contributed to her practice and the garden. She invites her patients and their families, the gardeners and friends in the community. They share music and dancing, food and awards, garden tours, produce to take home and an enhanced sense of community.
Thal is fond of saying that what gives her hope, what contributes to her life as a sole practitioner in Corrales, is seeing her patients, friends and community members in the garden and watching it bloom every year. Since Corrales was established as a farming community, perhaps seeing the tradition of small plot farming on the Corrales Family Practice garden gives joy to others as well. The garden that began as vacant dirt eventually attracted others who saw the potential in it: a blank slate upon which to create something beautiful, an opportunity to give back to the community and also, inevitably, an outlet to help heal from the sorrows brought on by sudden loss, for the loss of purpose brought on by retirement, for a need to put active and inactive minds and bodies to work and to learning, for the need to create something both beautiful and productive. No one could have foreseen the needs this community garden would help fulfill in a time of loss and hardship brought on by the COVID-19. While keeping to the rules of distancing and masking, the garden not only donated over 3,000 pounds of food to St. Felix Pantry, but became a rare place of social contact, of work outside the confines of quarantine and of gratitude for the opportunity to contribute to the health of others. The garden also proved that medicine does not need to be confined to a medical office, pharmaceutical option or facility or to one person at a time. A good community garden can be good medicine for individuals and the community.
Corrales’ first, and so far only, legal marijuana retail outlet has been open more than a month at the corner of Corrales Road and Rincon Road. Operated by Southwest Organic Producers (SWOP), it sells only medical cannabis to patients with a prescription. But next year, the site may also sell recreational pot. “We look foward to the future of cannabis, and the changes that will come with recreational approval next year,” SWOP’s northern regional manager, Sheena Brogdon said in an email to Corrales Comment July 2. She said her firm “is excited to be the first dispensary in Corrales. At SWOP, we focus on meeting our medical patients’ needs through a variety of products. “We carry a little bit of everything: tinctures, edibles, concentrates and flower. Our specialty is our locally grown cannabis, from our farm right here in Corrales.”
For months, signs announcing the dispensary would be “coming soon” were posted roadside and on a banner hung from the old building that some villagers had known as the Kim Jew Photography Studio. Before that, it housed a restaurant, a massage clinic and other short-lived enterprises. Today, the east part of the building is a flower shop.
Although Brogdon did not specify where in Corrales the marijuana is grown, one of the SWOP partners is Spencer Komadina, who is growing in large greenhouses at the north end of Corrales. SWOP was started by Corrales’ Tom Murray in 2009, and its products all were grown from 450 plants on his three acres here. The interest by New Mexicans in medical cannabis continues to grow. As of May 31, 2020, New Mexico had 94,042 registered Medical Cannabis Program card holders, with Sandoval County at 6,514, and Bernalillo, 30,562. By November 30, 2020, 101,770 patients were registered, 7,281 in Sandoval County, and 33,976 in Bernalillo County. With legal recreational marijuana right around the corner, more than a few Corrales landowners are eying prospects for cannabis cultivation. What changes lie ahead for Corrales as these developments unfold? (See Corrales Comment Vol. XXXVI No.23 2018 “Have a Look At Bernalillo’s Huge Marijuana Operation.”)
Corrales’ ordinance regulating marijuana cultivation came under careful scrutiny back in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
The mayor and Village Council held a work-study session with Village Attorney Charles Garcia prior to their February 12, 2018 meeting that addressed marijuana cultivation and sale. Councillors heard a presentation on recommendations to amend Ordinance 18-002 regulating the cultivation of cannabis. According to Garcia, the new language would remove an inconsistency between the Corrales law’s Sections 1-4 and Section 5, which could leave the Village vulnerable to a court challenge. Section 5 essentially banned any cannabis cultivation, processing or distribution of pot as long as federal law deemed it illegal.
A last-minute amendment to the law approved by the council in January 2018 stated, “Therefore, nothing in this ordinance authorizes any marijuana cultivation or use under any state law or local ordinance, nor shall any building permits or planning and zoning approvals or any other authorization issue for any such activity in this village until the federal law no longer makes such activity a federal crime.” After the amendment was added, the council voted on the finalized ordinance. The decision to approve Ordinance 18-002 was met with a round of applause from the crowded room. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXVI No. 24 February 10, 2018 “Cannabis Ordinance Allows Crop Only in C-Zone.”) But Village Attorney Garcia told the mayor and council that that wording was inconsistent with provisions in the earlier sections. “It contradicts Sections 1 through 4,” the attorney said flatly. Back in 2018, some urgency was injected by Mayor Jo Anne Roake’s observation that the Village Office had been fielding frequent inquiries about prospects for starting cannabis growing operations in Corrales. “We’re getting daily inquiries and interest expressed about cannabis growing here,” the mayor pointed out.
Back then, the council’s biggest opponent to a local ordinance that would allow marijuana cultivation is Councillor George Wright. He had consistently stated that when he was sworn in as a member of Corrales governing body, he took an oath affirming he would uphold the U.S. Constitution, which declares that federal law is superior to state or local laws. “Federal law is supreme,” he pointed out, and so far, cannabis is considered an illegal narcotic. Wright declined to seek another tem on the council. In November 2017, the Village Council held a work-study session with a representative from the agency within the N.M. Department of Health that regulates use of medical marijuana, as well as with a state licensed grower in Corrales.
Three officials from the N.M. Department of Health addressed a council-P&Z work-study session October 24, 2017. The Village Council passed a 90-day moratorium the previous month on new applications from medical cannabis growers. The resulting law did not ban marijuana for medical use outright, but specified areas of the community that might be appropriate for that use. At the work-study session, the Health Department’s (DOH) public information officer, Kenny Vigil clarified that the agency’s rules do not require any particular height for perimeter fences around cannabis sites, nor that the plants must be grown indoors. “We approved an outdoor grow earlier this year,” Vigil said. A total of 14,500 licensed marijuana plants were then being grown around the state. The product was sold at 60 authorized dispensaries and is tested at four laboratories under contract with the DOH.
Vigil pointed out that between 200 and 600 applications were received every day seeking permission to grow medical marijuana. At that time, New Mexico had approximately 49,000 medical cannabis users, about half of whom are registered as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). That number is believed to have increased dramatically since fall 2017, to more than 60,000. The controversy took center stage in 2017 after an Albuquerque-based non-profit, The Verdes Foundation, purchased four acres of land at the north end of Corrales to grow cannabis for its marijuana dispensaries. Faced with opposition here, especially from homeowners who feared such disruptions as night time glare from grow lights and noxious fumes, Verdes last year halted attempts to start cultivation in Corrales and sold their acreage. (See Corrales Comment Vol. XXXVII No.17 November 10, 2018 “Cannabis Grower Verdes Pulls Out of Corrales.’)
The SWOP outlet has been a long time in coming. Although the site development plan application was approved by the Village Planning and Zoning Commission on November 20, 2019, assorted hoops required jumping through, or what P&Z Administrator Laurie Stout described soon thereafter as “applicable state and federal agencies on their specific requirements.” At that time, a long-time Corrales cannabis grower, Tom Murray, explained to P&Z prior to their positive ruling that he was “the first cannabis producer in Corrales, and one of the first four in New Mexico.” Murray emphasized the gross receipts coming to the Village via a retail outlet would be based on an estimated “$4.2 million of revenue that will originate through that point of sale and will include a good portion of customers outside of the village.” Back then, Spencer Komadina pointed out that the retail outlet here would likely involve three to four employees, with an office above the store front. He said “all manufactured products would be made outside Corrales by six extraction companies” the group works with.
By Carol Merrill
On Monday, June 7 the Corrales Library welcomed patrons in person for the first time in more a year. In the quiet shady park one young lady sat in the grass and leaned her back against a tree listening to something on her phone. Children played at the swings and slides. One person walked into the library in the first hour. Then more and more showed up. This cultural hub has awakened. A volunteer meets you at the door with a smile, a special Corrales mask, if you need one, hand sanitizer and sanitary wipes. And, the bathroom is open. That’s an important service. There is a plastic shield around the circulation desk to protect the volunteers checking out materials. Even with all the precautionary items here and there, it’s good to be back.
The graceful koi fish are swimming circles in their pool surrounded by green plants. The koi are the new emblematic motif for the library logo on stationery. The books on all the shelves in every room have never looked so untouched. They seem to be standing at attention. It’s as if they have been waiting for browsers to return. Now you can find that new copy of a favorite mystery writer. The Friends of Corrales Library held their traditional blow-out book sale in the park on the weekend of the Fourth of July. You find only one public computer available in the small computer room. There will never be five people in that tiny unventilated space. Later, when the internet access is improved, there will be computers spread around in the TeeRoom and the reading room.
Now that the library is open at last, you can check out up to 25 items at once if you are taking a trip this summer. That includes up to five new books and DVDs. Each room has an overhead sign with the number of people allowed in that part of the library. There are three hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) air filter machines, gifts from the Fire Department. The fans are noisy, but reassuring that the air is clean. They are humming along in the Children’s Room, the Southwest Room, and the Teen Room. Marian Frear, the head librarian, said it has been the weirdest year in her career. Whatever decision she made, someone was unhappy. For example, some were displeased when she closed the library. She decided to follow the lead of the Fire Department following the N.M. Department of Health guidelines. Now, when people bring books back, the staff leaves them on a special shelf for a few days to take care of possible contamination. The children’s summer reading program has begun. For the young ones there is an on demand virtual program “Unicorns: Break the Cage.”
For children ages 13-19 there is a competition “Words vs. Pictures” where contestants submit photos and a “Flash Fiction” piece. All submissions go to: firstname.lastname@example.org There are great prizes. Marian said, “We always give bikes to the little ones and there’s a really nice digital camera and other delights for the teens.” Check the website for details at Corraleslibrary.org.
A pre-school story hour will be held in the park every Wednesday at 10. It’s nice that the children can run around. Presently they don’t have toys out in the children’s area. They will bring them out slowly. After story hour families can check out books. You can purchase a hardback book for $2. But the free books have been out on the porch for months. People loved those during quarantine time. There were grab bags for the kids with little projects in a bag during lock-down. They were like little take-home art projects and were very popular. Friends of Corrales Library did a lot of work helping to assemble the grab bags for children. Explora Museum provided one activity which was sanitized owl pellets that you could dissect. There was a diagram of the bones you might find in the pellets.
Looking to the future, the Friends of Corrales Library (FOCL) are planning to put in a small building, an annex at the end of the parking area to store donated books and probably to provide some programming space as well. In addition Frear would like to see expanded wifi access so anyone in the park or in their car could use the internet. Frear said, “A zoom program isn’t quite the same thing as an in-person program. We may keep up doing some zoom programming because it turns out people like not having to drive, and you can go to the program in your pajamas.” The Spanish conversation group has picked up some members who are not local, so it is expected to meet hybrid fashion via Zoom and in the park. Normally the 10 to 15 members meet in the Southwest Room. The Spanish conversation group will be hybrid for now: zoom and in person. Good to know that our community library is resilient, ready to serve and sustain folks in Corrales.
Jay Block, a current Sandoval County Commissioner, is running to be governor of New Mexico because he said he wants to use his leadership experience to help New Mexico recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, support local businesses and keep families safe. His district within the Sandoval County Commission includes residents in the Village of Corrales and in southeast Rio Rancho. Block is one of four Republicans who have announced they would challenge Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham who seeks re-election. Also preparing to run in the Republican primary are Karen Bedonie of Farmington, Greg Zanetti of Albuquerque and Tim Walsh of Albuquerque.
Block is proud of his job as commissioner and points out that during his leadership Corrales was voted the safest city in New Mexico in SafeWise and Movoto reports. He also notes that Rio Rancho, now his hometown, is the most affordable place to live in New Mexico and one of the most affordable cities in the country. Block mentioned that he has a long history of leadership in military, business and government. The Republican candidate served in the military as an ICBM missile maintenance and launch officer before serving in Afghanistan in 2005-2006. After his military service, he worked in business as a consultant in private industry. His tenure in government service began in 2016 when he was elected as a Sandoval County commissioner.
Block suggested that he has been successful in leadership because he is good at working across the aisle to promote compromise. He explained his approach to politics by referencing a Venn diagram: politicians approach issues and the policymaking process with their own beliefs and values, and some of these beliefs may differ from other politicians and constituents. But good policies can be developed by focusing on values and beliefs that people have in common, the candidate said, adding that he is responsive to the needs of his constituents, and he always tries to respond to their concerns.
During an interview, he described the conduct of the current governor’s administration. He is highly critical of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham for her handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. He said her policies caused unnecessary harm to New Mexican businesses. And he believes that her administration has treated conservatives unfairly. As for his proposed policies, Block supports lowering taxes for first responders, ending state taxation on military pensions and social security benefits, limiting the power of the governor and securing the southern border.
By Scott Manning
Retired Corrales dentist Guy Clark continues his advocacy work as chairman of Stop Predatory Gambling, and he now focuses on the Campaign for Gambling-Free Kids to restrict the gambling industry from targeting children and teens. Clark became involved in advocacy work against predatory gambling in the 1990s when he was asked to serve as a representative from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling (NCALG). The coalition transitioned to the Stop Predatory Gambling Foundation in 2008. The Stop Predatory Gambling Foundation limits its advocacy work to predatory gambling and does not intend to limit social gambling. The foundation defines predatory gambling as a government-corporation partnership that sanctions commercialized gambling that exploits citizens.
Predatory gambling often involves the marketing of commercialized gambling to the public, and the industry is designed so that the gambling corporation collects the bulk of money gambled. In contrast, social gambling is usually conducted in a small environment without a corporation collecting most of the money spent. Gambling at a dinner party or at a local office event are examples of social gambling. The Stop Predatory Gambling website makes the case against predatory gambling because it claims the industry generates enormous social and economic costs to society. In particular, the website identifies that predatory gambling is an addictive activity that is designed so that the corporation running the gambling operation (the “house”) collects most of the money spent in gambling over the long term, thereby guaranteeing that gamblers lose out. This near guarantee of lost money is often obscured in gambling marketing in which gambling corporations grossly exaggerate the chances of winning. Therefore, citizens gamble in an industry that overwhelmingly consumes private wealth but that misleadingly presents gambling as a viable path to wealth creation.
The Stop Predatory Gambling Foundation argues that the predatory gambling industry consumes private wealth that would be better spent in local businesses and in purchasing assets that build wealth such as property and stock portfolios. Those in favor of government-sanctioned gambling argue that gambling revenues are important for funding government operations. The Stop Predatory Gambling Foundation responds that governments likely spend more on social services and welfare in the long run because predatory gambling generates enormous social costs. According to Clark, predatory gambling is an addictive and self-harming activity that is correlated with suicide, child and spouse abuse, and homelessness. The enormous social and economic costs of predatory gambling make it an ineffective means of generating funding. Predatory gambling has a history in New Mexico. Native tribes have signed gambling compacts with the State of New Mexico, and the native tribes have built casinos. In addition, limited gambling operations have been run at horse racetracks around the state. And despite the social and economic costs of gambling, legislative efforts continue to expand gambling in New Mexico.
This past legislative session, House Bill 101 was submitted that supported the expansion of gambling at racetracks to include slot machines. Historically, slot machines have been limited to tribal casinos. The bill also aimed to allow for online sports betting at the racetracks. Stop Predatory Gambling advocated against the proposed bill. Clark explained that those in favor of adopting the bill argued that expanded gambling at racetracks would help to fund horse racing. Clark countered this reasoning by explaining that horse racing is a struggling industry and should not be supported by predatory gambling. HB 101 did not pass the initial legislative committees. In Clark’s experience, HB 101 served as an initial test to determine community support, and similar legislative efforts will be tried again in the future. Clark contrasts the efforts made to end dog racing with horse racing.
Dog racing and horse racing are both forms of gambling, but the two sports have otherwise had different trajectories. Advocacy groups against dog racing have been highly successful at ending dog racing across the country. Advocacy groups emphasized the animal cruelty to greyhounds in the dog racing industry. Although some efforts have been made to curtail it, horse race gambling remains more common. Clark suggests that there is beginning to be a similar undercurrent of criticism against horse racing, so the industry may change in the coming years. According to Clark, there was significant opposition to the house bill last session. Some tribes, including Sandia and Mescalero, testified against the bill because it would generate more gambling competition.
Notably, other tribes did not testify against the bill. Although he said he is did not testify in oppositon, Clark said it might be that some hoped the legislation would clear the way for expanded online gambling in general. Online gambling is a new iteration of the predatory gambling industry. Online gambling is especially prolific with fantasy sports betting. In this format, participants bet on the outcomes of sports games. The online format, however, has also enabled a more fast-paced version of gambling in which participants bet on sports games in real-time and play-by-play. This new, fast-paced format generates more gambling involvement that contributes to addiction. Clark is especially concerned about how the predatory gambling industry harms young people under the age of 16. Young people are involved with sports, and the online format of predatory gambling makes fantasy sports betting highly accessible. To justify his concerns, Clark points to the United Kingdom as an example of a country that has a more developed online gambling industry than the United States. In the United Kingdom, online gambling has already had an impact on young people: young people have gambling apps on their electronic devices, and online gambling is more common than substance use. The United Kingdom Parliament has already considered legislation that would restrict online predatory gambling.
Clark is now working on the Campaign for Gambling-Free Kids to restrict the gambling industry from targeting and catering to young people. As a minimum, Clark supports the restriction of gambling advertisements in TV, radio, and online media from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. when kids are likely to be active. Clark explains that the kind of legislative restrictions placed on cigarette company advertising serve as a model for the kind of restrictions he supports for regulating the predatory gambling industry. Reflecting on his time as chairman of Stop Predatory Gambling, Clark gives a mixed review of the organization’s success at ending predatory gambling. The organization has consistently engaged in advocacy that has prevented new predatory gambling legislation from becoming law. But Clark admits that the organization has struggled to repeal existing legislation that permits predatory gambling. In effect, gambling legislation that passes the legislatures sets a precedent that is difficult to disrupt or reverse. In fact, successful efforts to restrict gambling such as in South Dakota and South Carolina were done through the judiciary, not through the legislature.
Despite these challenges, Clark believes that predatory gambling will face pressures to change in the coming years. Stop Predatory Gambling and similar efforts enjoy bipartisan support. Clark explains that Stop Predatory Gambling advocacy efforts appeal to conservative concerns over protecting the strength and health of families and progressive concerns over protecting citizens from predatory corporations. In addition, Clark believes that online gambling operations have given a new life to the predatory gambling industry over the short term, but have entailed the destruction of the industry over the long term. As the social and economic costs of online predatory gambling become more apparent, Clark thinks that more advocates will come out against predatory gambling and that public perception will change.
New Mexico’s two national labs could get a funding boost from provisions within a massive technology investment bill making its way through Congress. The U.S. Innovation and Competition Act has been passed by the Senate and will soon be considered by the House. The package was cobbled together by multiple senate committees and would authorize $200 billion in spending, including $52 billion in funding for manufacturing semiconductors, which are used in electronic devices, and other types of research and development programs in the United States. American production of such microelectronics has fallen significantly in the last 30 years, while countries like China have ramped up production and are dominating the industry.
U.S. Senator Ben Ray Luján worked to include two amendments in the bill that would benefit New Mexico. One was a $17 billion investment into Department of Energy facilities and national labs. The other would create the Foundation for Energy Security and Innovation, an organization that would “advance collaboration with energy researchers, institutions of higher education, industry and nonprofit and philanthropic organizations to accelerate the commercialization of energy technology.”
A planned high-volume drive-thru coffee shop near the corner of Cabezon Road and Loma Larga-Ellison Drive has residents in Skyview Acres warning that Corrales’ heavily-used exit to the south would become impassable from lined up cars. The now-vacant land east of the Mister Carwash along Highway 528 (Alameda Boulevard) is the site for a Dutch Brothers coffee shop and a phase two 3,350 square foot restaurant with another drive-thru. Neither of these would have a direct connection to Loma Larga-Ellison, but members of the Skyview Acres Neighborhood Association have raised the prospect that vehicles trying to enter the drive-thru lanes will bring stacked-up traffic especially when the coffee shop first opens.
The neighborhood association’s Anna Brown submitted comments that among immediate concerns is that “traffic issues on Alameda related to two new drive-thus; one, Dutch Brothers, with a history of heavy traffic. The second drive-thru restaurant is not yet known. The Dutch Brothers is expecting 94 vehicles during the hours of its peak morning traffic. “Traffic cutting though our neighborhood and through the office complex to the east of the property if traffic on Alameda backs up.” However, the developer’s representative. Ronald Bohannan, said analysis has demonstrated that “Dutch Brothers Coffee will not alter commuter traffic, but will capture the pass-by trips already going past the site.… It was determined that a traffic study for Dutch Brothers is not necessary, but will be required with the development of the second pad” for the proposed restaurant.
In a Zoom meeting with the neighborhood association June 30, Bohannan assured traffic impacts there would be minimal because there would be no direction connection with those streets. “There is no direct connection other than to the dental office that goes over to Ellison-Loma Larga.” He said the future coffee shop will have a right-in, right-out access off of Highway 528. The drive-thru would have a lane that would accommodate 30 vehicles waiting to place and receive orders.
Nearby residents are worried that drivers will be impatient about trying to merge into westbound traffic, especially if they will have to make a U-turn to head east. “We believe this is the worse location for a Dutch Brothers they could have selected,” Brown said June 30. Another resident, Jen Kruse, was adamant. “Let me be very clear what we’re concerned about. We’re not concerned about Dutch Brothers traffic coming into our neighborhood. We’re concerned about traffic being backed up on Highway 528, and people knowing that our neighborhood can be a short-cut to get to Corrales Road or to get back to Ellison. “Already currently, we can sit as the ends of our driveways and watch people come in from the Cottonwood side and go out the Loma Larga side or vice versa. We know that our neighborhood is being used as a short-cut.
She pointed out that the Dutch Brothers shop east of Rio Rancho’s Highway 528 has caused congestion problems there.
The association raised other concerns including blowing trash and noise since the business plays music outdoors from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. A decision on the site development plan is expected before the City of Albuquerque’s Environmental Planning Committee, perhaps July 15. That meeting begins at 840 a.m.
If Village government purchases conservation easements on two farms at the north end of Corrales at the July 20 council meeting, that will deplete all of the $2.5 million approved by voters in 2018. At their June 15 session, councillors approved buying an option to place a conservation easement on the Lopez farm, just south of the other pending option on the Phelps farm, owned by Trees of Corrales. Village Clerk Aaron Gjullin said June 30 that the council is expected to exercise both of those options at the July 20 meeting, essentially spending what remains of the $2.5 million raised from issuance of general obligation bonds in 2018.
After Corrales voters raised an initial $2.5 million for the program back in 2004, the first-round of conservation easements on four parcels totalling about 30 acres of Corrales farmland was concluded September 29, 2005, after more than 30 years of community effort to save farmland from development. Even though Corraleños’ second round of GO bond funding for farmland preservation here will have been depleted, plenty more acreage around Corrales now in pasture, orchards, crops or open space could still be saved in perpetuity through the Village’s conservation easement program. Among major tracts remaining are the Trosello Farm, part of which has been used by the Wagner family for its Farmland Experience and corn maze, and the Gonzales family’s acreage west of the Juan Gonzales Bas Heritage Farm west of Wells Fargo Bank. That 5.5-acre parcel was purchased outright by the Village, but the family’s three acres next to the bank fronting Corrales Road may also be available.
In March 2018, Corraleños overwhelming approved that second issuance of $2.5 million in municipal general obligation (GO) bonds to acquire new easements. That first round of GO bond funding was used as the local match for more than $1 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That federal source of funding dried up, so subsequent acquisitions of conservation easements were achieved with Village funding alone. In 2004, Corrales became the first municipality in the state to approve bonds to save farmland through purchase of conservation easements. If the Phelps farm and Lopez farm easements are completed, Corrales will have preserved nearly 55 acres in perpetuity.
Approximately six acres of that total protected by a donation by Jonathan Porter at the south end of Corrales before the Village’s program started. Porter, son of acclaimed photographer Elliot Porter, donated an easement on his land to the Rio Grande Agricultural Land Trust, gaining substantial tax benefits. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XX, No. 1, February 24, 2001 “First Conservation Easement Here Saves 6 Acres of Farmland.”) Each day across the United States more than 3,000 acres of farmland are lost to sprawling development, according to the Washington, DC-based American Farmland Trust. But over the past 45 years agricultural conservation easement programs have protected about two million acres of such threatened farmland, with programs operating in more than 15 states.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as of April 2021, more than 1.9 million acres in the United States have been preserved as farmland, and another three million acres in wetlands and grasslands have been protected with easements. About 17 years ago, Corrales was urged by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program to request up to $1 million to continue the Village’s farmland preservation program.
By a margin of nearly 5-to-1, Corrales voters approved issuance of municipal bonds to buy conservation easements on farmland here to keep it out of development. The bond election August 31, 2004 was the first major success in a decades-long commitment by villagers to keep their community rural. Participation in the program is entirely voluntary. The intent is to give landowners an option for not selling their acreage to developers. The landowner still retains all the other rights that came with his or her ownership. He or she could sell the farm, sell the water rights, sell the mineral rights, leave it to heirs or do anything else one might normally think of —except develop it as home sites or other non-farm uses.
Once the development right is sold, the land in question would thereafter, in perpetuity, have a deed encumbrance with recorded easement that legally specified that the parcel could not be developed. On May 12, 2005, the Village Council made its first easement acquisition by formally approving purchase of an easement on two acres owned by Shirley and Jack Kendall. The parcel on which development rights were purchased sits at the northeast corner of the intersection of West La Entrada and the Corrales Acequia, or ‘first ditch.” It is adjacent to the Gonzales family fields farmed from Corrales Road westward to the Main Canal, which subsequently was purchased outright by the Village and is now known as the Juan Gonzales Bas Heritage Farm. The Kendall easement, and all acquired later, is held and administered for the Village by the Santa Fe-based N.M. Land Conservancy. Easements were later purchased for the field adjacent to Casa San Ysidro Museum, and for a portion of Dorothy Smith’s farm south of Meadowlark Lane between the first and second ditches.
A fourth easement was acquired on a portion of the Koontz family’s Trees of Corrales property at the north end of the valley. In recent years, villagers have expressed interest in acquiring conservation easements for the scenic Trosello tract or at least parts of it, as well as for the equally iconic horse pastures of CW Farms at the south end of the village. Although the Village acquired no easements on the Trosello tract using the 2018 GO bond proceeds, the land is thought to be protected from development at least in the near term by a lease agreement between the landowner and the Albuquerque-based One Generation Fund, in association with the Native American Community Academy (NACA). (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXX No.4 April 10, 2021 “Trosello Field Leased as Non-profit Demonstration Farm.”)
“A couple of weeks ago, I went out and met with Alan Brauer with the Native American Community Academy, Councillor Bill Woldman said in May. “They have entered into a lease agreement on the Trosello fields …the lease is not going to be through the farmland preservation program,” Woldman explained. “They brought a number of students from NACA, mainly Navajos, to the fields to take a look at it. I liked the presentation from Alan for what they propose to do there. It would be about 16 acres, 12 on the east side and four on the west side. “I think it’s going to be an absolutely terrific project once they get going.” He said the lease covers the entire tract along the east side of Corrales Road. “There will be no condos or skyscrapers or other developments there at least for as long as the lease runs,” he suggested.
Before easements on the Lopez and Phelps farms, the most recent purchased was on three acres of the 4.7-acre Boyd property east of Corrales Road in 2015. The Village of Corrales paid approximately $185,000 from the general obligation bonds to purchase an easement on the Boyd property at the end of Candi Lane, according to Beth Mills, of the N.M. Land Conservancy.
A new law restricting secondary dwellings on residential lots in Corrales was passed unanimously at the June 15 Village Council meeting. Ordinance 21-04 clarified what constitutes an impermissible kitchen and defines a dwelling unit which “may be a mobile home, modular home, manufactured home or site-built house. It may also be an independent unit of an apartment, townhouse or other such multiple-unit residential structure where allowed by Zoning Code. Recreational vehicles, travel trailers or converted buses, whether on wheels or a permanent foundation, cannot be a dwelling unit.” The key point in the wording above is that Corrales law permits only one such dwelling unit on an acre of land, or on two acres of land in the former Bernalillo County portion of the village.
The ordinance does not ban, or otherwise restrict casitas, or guesthouses, or so-called “mother-in-law” quarters, that already exist here. The adopted amendments to Section 18-29 and Section 18-203 of the Village’s Code of Ordinances were considered necessary because such secondary dwelling have proliferated in recent years with property owners erecting them as rentals. The preamble of the ordinance passed June 15 states the intent as follows. The Village Council “directs the Village to require the residential dwelling unit density to be limited to a maximum of one per lot, with a minimum lot size of one or two acres, depending on the zone, and; Whereas, New Mexico State Statute directs that the zoning ordinances should be in accordance with the Comprehensive Plan: “the regulations and restrictions of the county or municipal zoning authority are to be in accordance with a comprehensive plan and be designed to:
1. Lessen congestion in the streets and public ways;
2. Secure safety from fire, floodwaters, panic and other dangers;
3. Promote health and the general welfare;
4. Provide adequate light and air;
5. Prevent the overcrowding of the land;
6. Avoid undue concentration of population;
7. Facilitate adequate provision for transportation, water, sewerage, schools, parks and other public requirements; and
8. Control and abate the unsightly use of buildings or land, and;
Whereas, as per Village Code Section 18-28 (a) “any use not classified as a permissive use or a use by review within a particular zone is hereby prohibited from that zone”, and; Whereas, in accordance with the Comprehensive Land Use Plan, Village ordinances limit density to one dwelling unit per lot, with a minimum lot size of one acre in A-1 Agricultural and Rural Residential, Historical, and Neighborhood Commercial zones and two acres in A-2 Agricultural and Rural Residential zone. (Dwelling units are not a permissive use in Professional Office or Municipal zones); and Whereas, a Dwelling Unit as defined in Village Code Sections 18-29 Definitions and Section 18-203 Definitions “means any building or part of a building intended for human occupancy and containing one or more connected rooms and a single kitchen, designed for one family for living and sleeping purposes”, and;
Whereas, a Kitchen as defined in Village Code Sections 18-29 Definitions and “means any room used, intended or designed to be used for cooking or the preparation of food. The presence of a range or oven, or utility connections suitable for servicing a range or oven, shall be considered as establishing a kitchen”, and;
Whereas, in addition to a dwelling unit, the zoning ordinance allows for an “accessory structure” to be built on residentially and commercially zoned lots. An Accessory Structure as defined in Village Code Section 18-29 Definitions states “Accessory uses and structures means uses and structures which are clearly incidental and subordinate to principal uses and structures located on the same property” and;
Whereas, despite the above-mentioned regulations limiting density to one dwelling unit per lot, secondary dwelling units, sometimes known as “casitas”, have periodically been constructed in Corrales. This occurs when an accessory structure is legally constructed on a lot already containing a dwelling unit, and the accessory structure is subsequently converted to another dwelling unit via the addition of an oven or range, and; Whereas, the “oven/range or utility connections suitable for servicing one” is the only distinguishing feature separating an accessory structure from a dwelling unit, and; Whereas, the Village of Corrales has no municipal water or sewer with the majority of lots nearly entirely on-site water (well) and septic, low density development is not only an aesthetic issue but a health and safety concern….”
As discussion began on the motion to adopt the changes as presented by Planning and Zoning Administrator Laurie Stout, several changes to her recommendations emerged, which had been anticipated based on discussion at the previous council meeting. After public comment from Ryan Burt, Scott Parker, John Clark and Vanessa Santo as the June 15 meeting, Councillor Tyson Parker wanted the new ordinance to specify that “kitchen means any room used, intended or designed to be used for cooking or the preparation of food.” That motion was approved unanimously. Then Parker offered another amendment to the main motion: “Dwelling Unit [is] a single unit with connected rooms intended, or designed to be built, used, rented, leased, let or hired out to be occupied, providing complete independent living facilities for one or more persons, including permanent provisions for each and everyone of the following uses: living, sleeping, eating, cooking and sanitation. A dwelling unit may be a mobile home, modular home, manufactured home or site-built house. it may also be an independent unit of an apartment, townhouse or other such multiple-unit residential structure, where allowed by the Zoning Code. Recreational vehicles, travel trailers or converted buses, whether on wheels or a permanent foundation, cannot be a dwelling unit.”
Parker’s second amendment, above, was also adopted, but not unanimously. Councillors Kevin Lutero and Stuart Murray voted no. Next Councillor Parker moved that the new ordinance should change the definition of “accessory uses and structures. His proposed wording was that an “accessory building or structure means a building detached from and incidental and subordinate to the dwelling unit and located on the same lot, such as a detached garage, workshop or studio. An accessory building or structure shall not be used as a second or independent dwelling unit.” His third amendment also passed unanimously, 5-0.
Finally, a motion to adopt Ordinance 21-04, as amended that evening, was approved with a unanimous vote of the councillors. Near the end of debate on the casitas motions, Councillor Stuart Murray expressed concerns that tight restrictions will still depend on close monitoring and enforcement by the P&Z office. “I’m concerned that regardless of good intentions for these rules on casitas or extra dwelling units, people are going to put them out there for rent as Airbnb or whatever they want, and ultimately we’re changing the dynamics of the village because we’re adding more people,” he cautioned.
A free presentation on large and small animal evacuations will be presented at the Seventh Day Adventist School gymnasium on July 19, at 6:30 pm. The event, organized by the Corrales Equestrian Advisory Commission and Corrales Horse and Mule People (CHAMP), will feature Village first responders who will brief animal owners on the Corrales Animal Evacuation Plan and go over details. The gym is at 24 Academy Drive. “Fire season is here, and the dry weather, hot temperatures and wind make for a dangerous combination. We have already had a close call, so it is imperative that animal owners are prepared for the worst possibility,” said Janet Blair, co-chair of the commission. “Our evacuation plan is a good one, and we should be able to protect village residents and animals as long as everyone is familiar with it,” Blair added.
The presentation will include directions on how to prepare an emergency evacuation kit. Fire Department Commander Tanya Lattin said “We will go over how each person needs to build their own plan. The Village will call for an evacuation and set up holding sites, dependent on location. It is each person’s own responsibility to be able to evacuate their animals.”
Corrales kids usually have been successful in showing and selling livestock they raised at the annual Sandoval County 4-H Livestock Fair and Auction. The event returns August 4-7 at the fairgrounds in Cuba, even though the full county fair will not be held. Livestock check-in is Wednesday, August 4, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The 4-H Horse Show starts at 9 a.m. the same day. Thursday, August 5 begins with events for small animals, rabbits, poultry and a lamb and goat dress-up show. The main events come Friday, August 6 with such attractions as shows for dairy goat, meat goats, swine, lambs and steers. Buyer check-in is Saturday, August 7 9-10 a.m. The livestock sale starts at 11 in the Leeson Arena.
No food booths or vendors will be on hand, so take your own food, drinks, chairs and shelter if needed.
Entries for small animals and livestock must be submitted online at http://sandoval.fairwire.com.
RV, camper and tent space can be reserved by contacting Nathan Crespin email@example.com.
Full hook-ups are $20 a night and dry camping is $14 a night.
Speaking in Corrales’ La Entrada Park June 5, Congresswoman Theresa Leger Fernandez was adamant that concerted action be taken to confront climate change. “We are ground-zero for climate crisis,” she emphasized. “We need to be talking about revenue replacement” for money that would come to New Mexico as the state and nation move away from fossil fuel extraction. She was accompanied by her legislative assistant, Adeline DeYoung, who grew up in Corrales and until recently worked for Citizens Climate Lobby. In introducing DeYoung, Leger Fernandez pointed out that the young Corraleña had written her master’s thesis on states’ relying on oil and gas to fund education.
Leger Fernandez said she intended to introduce a bill in Congress to mitigate financial losses due to decreased oil and gas leasing on federal lands. “My bill is going to separate out oil and gas from federal lands, so we don’t need to worry about the loss as we transition off of that. “We’re not going to cease that drilling right away; that’s just not how it works. Fifty percent of the oil and gas produced in New Mexico comes from federal land, and we need to wean ourselves of that. So my bill is going to say, ‘let’s look at the last five years of oil and gas revenues from public lands,’ and say ‘We’re going to give you the average of those five years, guaranteed. So you’re no longer going to be worried about what we’re doing on federal land because you’re going to be guaranteed that payment.
“That’s going to go down over time, of course, but we’d have a guaranteed paycheck that would allow us to do what we need to do on our federal land to save this beautiful place we call home. I think that’s the way we need to go; being honest about our difficulties during that transition, but also address the climate crisis. This would not touch anything on private land or state land, just on federal land.”
The District 3 congresswoman further explained the concept. “What I will be proposing is that on federal land, we de-couple the revenue that the state receives from oil and gas development on those federal lands from whatever happens on them. So the State of New Mexico would receive an average of what we have received over the last five years, and that would be received as a guaranteed payment. That would allow the federal government to decide what it needs to do to assist our climate goals on federal land without harming New Mexico. That might mean leaving it in the ground, or no more new leasing. This would not impact existing leases and existing drilling. I think that is the kind of approach we need to look at. How do we take bold action and at the same time recognize the vulnerability that New Mexico has?
“My revenue replacement bill would de-couple the federal royalties that New Mexico gets from the payments that our state gets. And one of the nice things about it is that it would be guaranteed, so the State would know in advance what it would get and could budget for it.” As it has been, she explained, those revenues fluctuated greatly, in a boom-bust cycle.
Ominous black smoke billowed above the tree canopy near homes near the end of Gossett Lane Sunday afternoon, June 13, sending fire fighters scrambling. At 1:10 p.m., the outdoor temperature in Corrales had climbed to 106 degrees, and highly flammable cottonwood seeds had clumped along fence lines and landscaping during a steady but shifting breeze, augmenting the risk that followed a series of what were reported as explosions. Property was charred, but no one was injured. While neighbors hosed down their homes, livestock was quickly rescued, thanks to an already prepared evacuation protocol. A neighbor, Mei Hua, posted this description to You Tube: “A huge explosion shook the house. Ran outside and the neighbor’s yard and a portion of the bosque were ablaze.”
A cause for the fire was not immediately clear. A neighbor said a large branch may have fallen from a tree on the property, so that may have pulled down a power line that ignited the blaze. When a transformer on a power line fails for one of several reasons, it produces a loud boom and a fireball accompanied by a large plume of smoke. That description would seem to fit what was reported that Sunday afternoon, but Fire Chief Anthony Martinez, still on scene nearly six hours later, said a transformer had not blown. The Fire Department’s Tanya Lattin said the following day that “the cause is under investigation.” The sounds of explosions were said to have been tires bursting from the heat. Lattin said she would not speculate about the cause, but noted “tires are loud and there were lots of them on the property.”
“It was a really big fire,” Martinez said. Units responded from Rio Rancho, Albuquerque and Sandoval County to assist Corrales fire fighters. Lattin said the fire was difficult to contain due to numerous “cars, boats, machinery, shed, dog houses, piles of wood, piles of tires, fences, multiple large cottonwood trees and fencing.
“When the Fire Department arrived on scene, around 25 cars, a large stack of tires, trees and fences were on fire. I’m sure some of the back sheds were burning as well.
“The home was surrounded 180 degrees by high-intensity flames, with the back fence and neighbor’s bamboo burning.” Battalion Commander Lattin said the house did not burn although the attic space “was hot and smoking.”
Since the equipment being used to re-pave Corrales Road is prone to break-downs, according to company representatives, Cutler Repaving has a mechanic and electrician on the job site. As of June 14, progress was lagging due to an equipment problem the previous week, leading some villagers to doubt that the entire length of State Highway 448 through Corrales would be paved sooner than 25 days from the June 8 start date. But then, announced timelines have seemed a little squishy from the start. As the re-paving began, Cutler employees distributed door-hanger notices to properties along Corrales Road seeking cooperation as the machinery was expected to roll past specific locations. But the notice slipped into Corrales Comment’s roadside mailbox (without postage paid) said “On June 6-13 we will be making street improvements in front of your home. No parking will be allowed on the street between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. as well as restricted traffic during the work operations.”
In fact, the paving vehicles were nowhere near that location as of June 14. The notice also was curiously out-of-synch with the Corrales situation by informing that the “curbline milling process will reduce the elevation of the old pavement to line it up with the gutter.” Was the highway department, or the Village of Corrales, supposed to have installed a gutter at some time over the past 70 years? The notice further explained that “the repaving process uses heat to soften the old pavement. Occasionally shrubs and brushes near the curb are subject to damage. Please help us protect these by making a garden hose available to wet down the bushes or shrubs.”
Despite the inappropriate boiler-plate language in the door-hanger notice, the Kansas-based company contracted to re-pave Corrales Road was true to its word about wait times for backed-up traffic. It had promised drivers would not have to wait in the queue more than 15 minutes to fall in behind the pilot car. Occasionally as many as 40 vehicles were waiting to move through the construction zone, but generally tempers remained in check. Cutler’s method, at least initially, was to pave one lane for a mile and then go back to do the other half of the roadway, so that, after a two-day period, both lanes would be re-paved for a mile.
Written into the contract was a dictum that Corrales Road is to be fully re-opened by 5 p.m. Work begins by 9 a.m. The work plan calls for the signs and traffic cones to be placed starting around 8 a.m. Usually in the past, when traffic was disrupted along Corrales Road drivers made their own decisions to detour onto the ditch banks, specifically either the Corrales Acequia west of Corrales Road or along the Corrales Interior Drain on the west. But those options seem to have been chosen less often this time. In the olden days, clouds of dust would billow up and hang in the still air as impatient drivers raced off in a huff along the ditch roads to get to work, or to appointments, or just to exercise an excuse for a huff.
By Scott Manning
In the wake of the recent cyberattacks against the Colonial Pipeline and the meatpacking company JBS SA, Gerard Gagliano explains the nature of recent cyberattacks and what measures must be implemented in new security systems to keep governments and businesses safe. Gagliano is a cybersecurity expert and the founder of Prodentity, a Corrales company that specializes in developing security solutions. According to Gagliano, the current approach to cybersecurity in business and government emphasizes the importance of credentials which determine and restrict access to sensitive information. This access-control model will be familiar to readers: to access an online account, one must present a username and password as identification. In a more sophisticated implementation, different users on a server are granted credentials based on their role in the organization. This means that an individual of authority in a business or organization may be granted extensive access to a variety of sensitive materials in the computer system. To access these materials, the user simply presents the correct credentials as proof of identity.
Gagliano explains that this current credential-based model of cybersecurity is 60 years old and seriously flawed. Consider, for example, what happens when a hacker obtains the correct, credential information of a high-ranking official in an organization. This hacker can use the credential information to pose as the official and access highly sensitive information from the computer system. Or take the case where a hacker obtains a low-level credential which enables only limited access in a computer system. The hacker can remain inside of the computer system to assess the security weaknesses of the system from within. Over time, the hacker can gain higher access credentials or observe activities that take place in the organization’s computer system and server. In a ransomware attack, the criminal accesses highly sensitive information and encrypts the company or government data so that a key is required to access the information. The criminal then charges the organization a large amount of money and gives the organization the key in exchange.
The Colonial Pipeline and JBS SA suffered from ransomware attacks in May. Ultimately, both Colonial Pipeline and JBS SA were forced to pay the criminals ransom in exchange for the keys to encrypted company data. These examples demonstrate that the credential-based model does not provide adequate security against sophisticated hacking and ransomware. Gagliano explains that a new security paradigm must be embraced that supplements credentials with a “trust and context” model of security. This new model of security, developed in the 1990s, creates a criterion of behaviors and patterns that must be followed for a credentialed user to be trusted in a computer system. To understand this approach, consider the situation where your car breaks down and you need repair services.
Most people would consult with their friends and family for a referral to a good repair service before consulting with the yellow pages because we trust our friends and family more than anonymous third parties. This model of trust can be mirrored in the cybersecurity setting: users in a computer network exhibit behaviors that constitute a spectrum of cyber trust. In practice, this trust model would translate to a variety of applications. For example, a sophisticated security model would consider not just the credentials of an individual but also the network that the individual is using to access the computer system. If the company is domestic with no international operations but a credentialed user attempts to access the computer system from a server outside of the country, then the security system would restrict this access. This kind of irregular server access yields lower trust than domestic server access.
Context also matters. Say that a cybersecurity network identifies that a certain credentialed user often accesses the computer system during a standard workday. Then there is an attempt made to access or work in the computer system made at 1 a.m. This behavior is also suspicious because it deviates from the normal work schedule. This kind of low-trust behavior can also be monitored and controlled. And to supplement access credentials, additional security questions and requirements of proof of identity could be required of users as they operate a computer system. All these considerations would make the trust-based model of security far safer than the current credential model. Gagliano explains that this new security model aims to be proactive in security rather than reactive. The traditional security model is reactive, meaning that it works to identify and minimize damage done after a breach has already occurred. The new trust-based model would limit breaches from occurring at all by restricting broad access to credentialed individuals and only granting access to the parts of a computer system that specific operators regular use. This change minimizes the risk that one compromised set of credentials would threaten vast amounts of data contained in a computer system.
Gagliano says that this new security framework must be adopted to fundamentally change cybersecurity. Other solutions may help to move away from the old model, but without this new framework the solutions are at best an incremental step forward. Both businesses and governments use the outdated, credential-based model of cybersecurity. Gagliano suggests that organizations have been hesitant to implement cybersecurity changes for a host of reasons. In his experience as an advisor for the government, government officials were afraid to make large decisions about cybersecurity. And Gagliano suggests that some businesses have been more focused on profit margin than on solving the cybersecurity problem. This inertia is only worsened by naiveté in the severity of cybersecurity threats and by procrastination.
According to Gagliano, the cybersecurity issue is made worse by a lack of transparency from companies and the government about cyber-attacks. Experts speculate that fewer than half of ransomware attacks are made public in any way. Gagliano suggests that this is because companies and governments are embarrassed to reveal their vulnerabilities to their customers and citizens. The concern for citizens and consumers is further compounded by the fact that there exist no laws that require compensation for individuals who are associated with a hacked company or government service. If a company loses a customer’s credit card information in cyberattack, the bank will often just issue the individual a new credit card without further compensation. Cybersecurity is also a concern for the ever-expanding internet of things (IOT) which encourages the model that devices of all kinds should be connected to the internet. These kinds of products include everything from smart home devices to kitchen appliances that are connected to the internet. Many of these consumer devices are designed with little to no consideration of cybersecurity. According to Gagliano, this kind of cybersecurity sloppiness exists all the way down to the individual living routers where people install WIFI networks and leave the default password on the machine. To combat this sloppiness, Gagliano calls for comprehensive security considerations for all internet devices.
The recent cyberattacks at the Colonial Pipeline and at JBS demonstrate that natural resources and food supplies are susceptible to cyberattacks. Gagliano calls for a new model of cybersecurity that considers all internet devices because any network is potentially at risk. Cyberattacks have evolved over the past few decades into sophisticated operations. In the infancy of cyberattacks, the goal of such attacks was simply malicious. These malicious attacks aimed to cause harm to computer networks. But cyberattacks have evolved into a commoditized industry. These days, ransomware services are offered to hackers who pay to use ransomware platforms to encrypt and ransom sensitive corporate and governmental data. The hacker keeps a portion of the money made and gives a percentage to the ransomware service that provided the hacking infrastructure. The next frontier of offensive cyber defense involves tracing these hacking infrastructures and shutting them down. Unlike most companies, the government has the resources and reach to trace internet interactions concerning this commoditized hacking industry. But these hacking groups are savvy about preserving their infrastructure. DarkSide, the criminal group behind the Colonial Pipeline attack in early May, announced that it was disbanding. This move was likely done to bury the evidence of the hack and to preserve its infrastructure for further use.
In addition to commoditized cyber-attacks by lone-wolves and criminal organizations, there is the question of foreign involvement. A major concern is hacking from rival nations such as China and Russia. Gagliano explains that hacking groups located in China or Russia are, if not officially state sponsored, then tolerated and accepted by the government. Gagliano advises that the trust-based security model be adopted by government and industry regardless of what political agreements are reached concerning cybersecurity. Gagliano admits that hackers are bright individuals and that someone will always figure out a workaround in any security system. Therefore, even after adopting the trust-based cybersecurity model, companies and governments must remain vigilant and open to further security solutions. Improvements to cybersecurity will be an ongoing process. A good first start would be to eliminate the outdated credential-based model.
Another three acres of farmland adjacent to Corrales Road at the north end of the valley is under an option for the Village to purchase a conservation easement. The three acres between Corrales Road and the Bosque Preserve are known as the Lopez Farm, owned by Emilio, Veronica and Renee Lopez. If the Village’s acquisition is completed, they would continue to own the land, but not the right to subdivide it for home sites. In that sense, the land would be preserved in perpetuity as open space or farmland. The minimum price for such a conservation easement on that tract is $360,000. The Village’s option runs until November 30, 2021.
At the June 15 Village Council meeting, councillors voted on whether to gain that option. Their decision could not be included in this issue. The Lopez farm would be the second property in recent weeks for which the Village gained an option to purchase such an easement. The Village is set to preserve in perpetuity another 10 acres of farmland at the north end of Corrales. That is the Phelps Farm on the east side of Corrales Road where Trees of Corrales has had a tree nursery for its wholesale business in recent years. It is a little south of the intersection with Romero Road, one of the main entrances to the Bosque Preserve.
The offered Lopez acreage is just two parcels away from the Trees of Corrales Phelps Farm, to the south, near Lipe Road. At the May 25 Village Council meeting, an option to purchase a conservation easement on that land owned by Courtnay and Anne Koontz was approved unanimously. A final appraisal has yet to be made, but the Village is expected to pay approximately $780,000 to prevent the tract from being developed. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXX No.8 June 5, 2021 “Another 10 Acres of Prime Farmland To Be Saved.”) The money for both easement acquisitions has been generated from sale of general obligation (GO) bonds as directed by Corrales voters in the 2018 municipal election. Those bonds were issued to raise $2.5 million to be used for farmland preservation.
The 9.78-acre tract is under an option until the end of October this year. Last year, the Village acquired a similar easement on the Haslam family’s farm a little south of the Phelps land between the Main Canal and the Corrales Lateral irrigation ditch west of Corrales Road. That earlier acquisition preserved 12 acres at a cost of approximately $960,000 from those GO bonds. The agreement between the Lopez family and the Village of Corrales notes that the three acres “includes scenic open space located along, visible from, and directly adjacent to Corrales Road, the primary thoroughfare through the village the Corrales Bosque Preserve; and a public recreational trail along Sandoval Lateral, which is frequented by many residents and visitors for walking, running, horseback riding and mountain biking. The publicly accessible viewing platform along the Sandoval Lateral and Corrales Bosque Preserve will also provide significant opportunities for the public to enjoy the scenic values of the property.”
As with earlier farmland added to the Village’s farmland preservation program, the easements to be acquired would be held and administered for the Village by the New Mexico Land Conservancy, based in Santa Fe. If the deal goes through, the owners of the land, or any subsequent owners, would have the right to construct an agriculture-related building within a quarter-acre enclave, similar to other earlier transactions. Early in the Village’s program, the Farmland Preservation and Agricultural Commission developed a check-list for the easement program with 14 “positive criteria,” including pre-1907 irrigation water rights, whether the parcel abuts an irrigation ditch, or is currently being farmed, as well as scenic quality, potential for wildlife habitat and whether there is strong neighborhood support.
A U.S. Department of Agriculture fact sheet described the concept as follows. “A conservation easement is an interest in land, as defined and delineated in a deed, whereby the landowner conveys specific rights, title and interests in a property to a State, Tribal or local government or non-governmental organization. The landowner retains those rights, title and interests in the property which are specifically reserved to the landowner in the easement deed, such as the right to farm.…
“A landowner submits an application to an entity… that has an existing farm or ranch land protection program. In exchange for payment, participating landowners agree not to convert their land to non-agricultural uses, and to develop and implement a conservation plan for any highly erodible land.” The fact sheet on the USDA’s Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program further pointed out that “The value of a conservation easement usually is determined through a professional appraisal. A qualified appraiser assesses the difference between the fair market value of the property, often using comparable sales, and its restricted value under the easement.…
“The easements generally restrict non-farm development and subdivisions. Some farm-related housing may be allowed.… The easements become part of the land deed and are recorded in the local land records.” On August 31, 2004 by a margin of nearly 5-to-1, Corrales voters approved issuance of municipal bonds to buy conservation easements on farmland here to keep it out of development. The 2004 bond election was the culmination of a 33-year commitment by villagers to keep their community rural. At least 29 states in the United States have conservation easement programs to save farmland. Those have already secured at least 6.5 million acres for future agricultural use. According to the American Farmland Trust, “Every day 2,000 acres of agricultural land are paved over, fragmented or converted to uses that jeopardize farming.”
A new, taller cell phone tower disguised as an elm tree may soon be erected behind the main fire station. Planned and presented more than a year ago, the Verizon cell tower would go in the area formerly used for recycling. A revised proposal was considered by the Corrales Planning and Zoning Commission at its June 16 meeting. Results of the commission’s decision could not be included in this issue. The existing 70-foot tall flag pole cell tower in front of the fire station would be removed and replaced by the 85-foot tower east of the station. With exceptions, Corrales has a height restriction of 26 feet. Some villagers had filed objections to the proposed higher cell tower, but the Village recently lost in its bid to deny the cell tower request on the former Sandia View Academy property. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXX No.4 April 10, 2021 “Cell Tower Erected Next to Corrales Main Canal.”)
A few near neighbors complained a year ago when the new tower at the fire station was proposed, and some have done so in recent weeks as the project came back to the P&Z commission. But preliminary approvals have been rolling in. A lease agreement was signed and finalized between the Village of Corrales and Crown Atlantic Company in April 2021 for the area behind the firs station that would be used. Village Administrator Ron Curry signed the lease agreement. The application submitted to P&Z is for Site Development Plan SDP 21-03, Crown Castle, Replacement Cell Tower at Fire Station No.1, 4920 Corrales Road. It seeks site development plan approval “to remove the existing 70-foot ‘flagpole’ style cell tower at 4920 Corrales Road (in front of Fire Station No.1) and replace it and relocate with an 85 foot ‘tree’ style cell tower behind the fire station building on the south side of the property. This property is zoned M for Municipal Use.”
The submission further advises, “ Site Development Plan applications specific to Wireless Facilities are governed by Article VI. Telecommunications Facilities, which begins in Village Code at Section 18-201. Wireless telecommunications facilities are a permissive use on municipal properties, per Section 18-207. “Originally, this application was to have been heard end of 2019 or early 2020, but COVID-19 and other considerations pushed it forward. While most documents provided by the applicant did not need revision, the Village requested an updated NIER (radio-frequency report) and review of the engineering (structural report), both of which were done. A town hall meeting was held in July 2019 whereby Crown Castle staff, including their engineer, flew out to Corrales and met with members of the public to answer questions. Certified letters were sent to all within 300 feet of the proposed tower at that time, and approximately 20 neighbors did attend. The Village did not ask Crown Castle to repeat the town hall.”
The submission pointed out that, as part of the lease agreement, Fire Chief Anthony Martinez made several requests, to which the applicant agreed. These include to replace a portion of the crumbling wall between the Fire Station and Sherrod Court on the south side; erect a 35-foot flagpole; replace an existing chain-link gate with an industrial or commercial grade security metal gate; move a shed on the Fire Department property; and provide a five-foot telecommunications antenna on top of the new 85-foot tower behind the fire station.
P&Z Administrator Laurie Stout said the new tower would be 15 feet taller than the one in front of the fire station, including the Fire Department’s five-foot antenna. She included the following in her summary for the commission. She said the application must include “a scenic and landscaping plan showing the appearance of the proposed wireless telecommunications facility from all streets, roads and recreational trails within one-half mile of the property where located and from all sites, buildings, existing structures, cultural resources or other objects identified in the cultural resources report, and including a landscaping plan or other plan showing how the visual effect of the proposed wireless telecommunications facility will be mitigated.” That meant production of full-color “before and after” renderings “showing the visual impact of the proposed tree-style cell tower from five different vantage points. The Village requested that Crown Castle utilize the ‘stealth’ technology called for in Village Code Section 18-208 (b) (3), i.e. the ‘tree’ style, to better blend in with the surroundings. Although jokes have been made because it is called an ‘elm’ style, the proposed cell tower is not a tree and in no way resembles the Chinese elm forbidden in the Village! There are elm varieties, such as the Frontier Elm, that are allowed.”
Stout explained that the existing cell tower that was “permitted and built in 1999, is a 70-foot tall flagpole with antennas enclosed in a canister at the top. Crown Castle is requesting permission to construct a new 85-foot pole disguised as an elm tree as a replacement for the flagpole to allow for improved Verizon Wireless signal coverage, greater equipment flexibility to deploy advanced wireless technologies, and the accommodation of additional users to increase service offerings within the Village. Due to its narrow profile, the existing flagpole cannot accommodate the latest antenna and radio equipment which are required by today’s wireless networks without modifications which would compromise its appearance as a flagpole. The new, taller elm tree will not only permit the installation of advanced technologies and equipment, it will also allow for additional users to utilize the same facility to offer their services within the Village.”
She further explained that “The reason why the existing 70’ flagpole facility is not suitable for either expansion or co-location is due to its narrow profile. The addition of additional antennas or even replacement of existing antennas on the existing flag pole is extremely limited since it is only 20 inches in diameter. The latest wireless antennas designed to utilize new frequencies licensed by the FCC are much wider and deeper than the original antennas in use when the facility was designed in 1999. Advanced broadband technologies also require radios to be installed adjacent to the antennas instead of on the ground. Finally, the multiple frequency bands used generally require multiple antennas per sector. Installing all of the necessary equipment on the existing flag pole would require structural modifications to make it significantly wider which would compromise the camouflage design of the flag pole.
“In addition, the existing pole is not designed to accommodate additional wireless providers. Any additional provider would have to mount its antennas and radios externally, further degrading the facility’s aesthetic. Given that this facility is located directly off of Corrales Road, it would be impossible to comply with the aesthetic standards required in Village code. As such, co-location is not feasible on the existing structure. And, she said, “Placing the new facility, while 15 feet taller, in the back half of the property will dramatically decrease its profile and visibility from the frontage, since it will be largely screened by the existing fire station, water tank and other nearby structures. In addition, the elm tree design will more readily blend in in those spots where it is visible above the tree line.”
Stout said “The elm tree design was specifically chosen to blend in with the character of the Corrales Road scenic byway. Elms are a common, if not traditional, landscaping tree in the North Valley. As demonstrated in the accompanying photo simulations, from a distance the protruding visible portion of the antenna structure will blend into the tree line and not readily stand out as a wireless facility.” The long-delayed AT&T cell tower at the west end of Academy Drive was finally erected this spring. The tall, thick, white tower went up in late March, but initially lacked antenna installations. But it was still a shock to villagers whose homes face east toward the Sandia Mountains. The tower is next to the old Academy Furniture Store at the rear of the Sandia View Academy property, and is most visible from the entrance to the Camino de la Tierra Subdivision.
Residents’ calls to the Corrales Planning and Zoning Office began almost immediately, protesting the obvious violation of the Village’s height restrictions. But most were probably unaware that Village officials fought that battle and lost in federal court. In 2019, Village officials acquiesced to AT&T Mobility’s demand that it be allowed to erect a 65-foot cell phone tower at the west end of Academy Drive, near Loma Larga. The Village’s decision to refrain from blocking the telecommunications tower came after its law firm advised in an August 9, 2020 memo that no obstacles be placed on AT&T’s intent to move ahead with construction.
The Village’s lawyers had warned that the 1996 Federal Telecommunications Act is weighted heavily in favor of telecommunications companies seeking to provide better and better coverage. A big obstacle here was that the Village had permitted other cell towers of the same height, including on its own municipal property… one of which was for AT&T. Plans for a cell phone tower on the old Academy Furniture property were first rejected by the Corrales Planning and Zoning Commission in April 2013. AT&T appealed that rejection to the Village Council which upheld the P&Z ruling. From there, it was off to courtrooms.
(See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXII, No.7, May 25, 2013 “Sandia View Cell Tower Appeal.”)
The proposal considered at the June 16 Planning and Zoning Commission meeting is the closest thing yet to a two-story motel or extended stay facility in Corrales. The property at 5065 Corrales Road is already zoned for commercial use and now being used as a “wellness retreat.” The plan would accommodate people wanting a “combination of medical, behavioral, emotional and therapeutic practical applications.” In the application for site development plan approval, owner Joan Lewis wants to add to the four medical offices already operating there. As the site development plan states, “four existing bedrooms with baths that the applicant would like to use as four commercial short-term rentals, which is permissive use in the C-zone as per Section 18-37(3)aa Short-Term Rental lodging establishments with no more than six guest rooms.”
The site plan calls for 20 parking spaces plus three spaces for the disabled. Planning and Zoning Administrator Laurie Stout recommended approval of the site plan because it complies with Village regulations. “Recommendation: application is compliant with Village Code Section 18-45(b). Approve with applicant’s stated uses very clearly outlined by her during the meeting. Up to four short-term rental units upstairs, with a total occupancy not to exceed eight persons.” The P&Z commission’s decision on the site plan could not be included in this issue.
Lewis’ submission to the P&Z commission included the following description of what she intends to do if the plan is approved. “The intended use of the property at the above address is to establish a comfortable community-oriented wellness retreat that takes advantage of the ambience of the village of Corrales and provides educational and/or participating programs for clients interested in a combination of medical, behavioral, emotional and therapeutic, practical applications and didactic events for accessing wellness.”
According to the application, “the owner currently plans to reside in the western portion of the first floor. At some point, the residential space may be utilized for commercial use for two additional office spaces with private baths that share kitchen and living room spaces.… Commercial use is projected for the second floor for a short-term rental of four rooms with private baths that share a kitchen and living space. The separate (400 square foot) building adjacent to the residential western portion of the first floor is commercial for small meetings commensurate with the intent of the property use as noted above.
“To this end, we are offering:
1. Short term rental. four bedrooms, each with a private bath, on the upper level of the back of the existing structure, two office suites below.
2. Laundry room, enclosed and separate from structure… to handle linens.
3. Front and back decks for small seminars, breakouts or relaxation.
4. Parking lot designed to accommodate 20 spaces.
5. A gazebo, small tables and chairs are planned for comfort and shade for clients.”
Two other applications for short-term rentals elsewhere in Corrales were considered at the June 16 P&Z meeting. Carol Akright sought permission to run a short-term rental business in her home at 108 Camino de la Tierra. That would be for one bedroom in the three bedroom house to accommodate two adults and one child under 12. The other, sought by Jan Fiala at 416 Camino Arco Iris, would rent out two bedrooms in a four-bedroom home, with a maximum of four adults. Short-term rental of Corrales homes and Airbnb arrangements began to come under closer scrutiny after the owner of a former church building at 5220 Corrales Road allowed it to be used as an event center. At its August 21, 2019 session, the Corrales Planning and Zoning Commission grilled Nick Mystrom about his plans to use the church-turned-residence as a rental through Airbnb. He had come before P&Z seeking approval for a home occupation permit, while admitting he had been renting it out for more than a year, several times for wedding events. Several residents in the neighborhood attended the August 21, 2019 commission meeting to complain that activities, especially parties, at 5220 Corrales Road were disruptive and unpleasant. But Mystrom died later that year, and the property was sold.
The incidents described by neighbors were just the latest complaints arising from rentals in residential areas; often problems have arisen when rowdy guests rent Corrales homes for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. At the November 12, 2019 Village Council meeting, councillors agreed to post and publish an ordinance to establish better control over short-term rentals, and collect lodgers’ tax and gross receipts tax on such rentals. “It is estimated that we have about 100 short-term rentals operating in the village,” P&Z Administrator Stout said. “Right now, we have no way to regulate them. This new ordinance will give us the tools to do that.” Mystrom had described himself as a real estate investor.
Despite new regulations on guest houses, or “casitas,” in an ordinance considered at the June 16 Village Council meeting, such secondary dwellings are sure to remain controversial. Councillors’ vote on Ordinance 21-04 “amending Section 18-29 of the Village Land Use Code to Provide Clarity to the Definitions of Accessory Structures, Accessory Use, Kitchen and Dwelling Unit” could not be included in this issue, but the new law was expected to be adopted. Corrales’ basic land use laws have always been meant to maintain low residential density, especially to avoid contamination of domestic wells due to septic discharges. To achieve that, in most of Corrales, lots were to be at least one acre, upon which only one home could be built. Until now, secondary living quarters were permissible only if they did not include a kitchen.
But therein lay the need for a better definition of what constitutes a kitchen. Proposed Ordinance 21-04 put it this way. “Kitchen means any room used, intended or designed to be used for cooking or the preparation of food or containing a range or oven, or utility connections suitable for servicing a range or oven.” So a refrigerator would seem to be allowed; is a microwave oven an oven, even if you only want to heat water for tea? And the ordinance considered at the June 16 council meeting included this definition of an accessory building or structure: “a building detached from and incidental and subordinate to the dwelling unit and located on the same lot, such as a detached garage, workshop or studio. It may have a half bathroom, but no shower or tub, and may not contain bedrooms or a kitchen. It shall not be used as a dwelling for human occupancy or habitation.”
More clarity was to be instituted by the following definition of dwelling unit. “One or more rooms and a single kitchen designed as a unit for human occupancy or habitation by one family for living and sleeping purposes, but not including recreational vehicles, travel trailers or converted buses, whether on wheels or a permanent foundation. A dwelling unit may be a mobile home, modular home, manufactured home or site-built house. It may also be an independent unit or an apartment, townhouse or other such multiple-unit residential structure where allowed.” Since Corrales incorporated as a municipality in 1971, a bedrock community consensus prevailed that regulations were needed to retain a rural, or at least a semi-rural, character, and that an essential tool to accomplish that were restrictions on how many dwellings could be built on one acre (or on two acres in the south end of Corrales that was formerly within Bernalillo County).
However, from the beginning, political and social pressures arose to accommodate special circumstances, such as allowing a mobile home to be temporarily placed on a one-acre lot so that the son or daughter of an aged or ailing parent could provide care. But after the family crisis had passed, how would it be assured that the secondary dwelling was removed… and not rented out for supplemental income? And what if construction of a “casita,” an actual house, was permitted for that purpose, would the Village actually require that it be demolished? The council’s deliberations on regulations for casitas were informed by results of a survey among citizens produced by the Planning and Zoning Commission this past April and May. Responses came in online via a SurveyMonkey format and by a printed questionnaire submitted to the Village Office.
Of the 182 responses, the viewpoints collected came predominately from people who have lived in Corrales more than 20 years. Just 33 of the 182 responses were submitted by people here for five years or less. Fifty-two percent were between 61 and 75 years old. Seventy-two percent of respondents said they are extremely concerned or very concerned about the negative impact to domestic wells from increased density resulting from secondary dwellings. A section of the survey on “regulation of the construction of new casitas” asked whether villagers agreed with imposing new regulations that would ban new casitas. Forty-five percent said yes, they agreed or strongly agreed with that idea. But the most favored new regulation would be to “limit the total square footage of all dwellings on a lot,” 71 percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed. Still, 28.8 percent strongly disagreed with banning construction of new casitas.
P&Z Chairman John McCandless told Corrales Comment he was struck by “the apparent disconnect between the predominant concern expressed about casitas —the impact on groundwater quality— and the favored policy suggestions. I found it interesting that only about a third of the respondents thought it would be a good idea to require all new casitas to be connected to a Village wastewater system. “There are a number of possible explanations, including the fact that we don’t have much of a wastewater system at this time, but it seemed counter-intuitive to me that folks would be concerned about groundwater contamination and yet not generally support connection to a sewer system.”
Considerable insights are offered in the respondents’ open-ended comments submitted. Below are samples. Identities were not given.
• “Casitas adversely increase the population density and directly contravene the one-house-per-acre which is vital in making Corrales. Corrales is literally surrounded by towns and cities with higher density: anyone who wants more can go there. Casitas and multiple houses, like those on the West Ella lot, diminish the value of our investment in our properties and will turn Corrales into just another overbuilt suburb. Trying to force a change in the village this catastrophic 50 years on is a disservice to everyone who has lived here and made Corrales as attractive as the newcomers find it. If the administration simply enforced the existing ordinances and followed the Comprehensive Plan, we would not be in the sorry situation that the fecklessness of the Village employees has created.”
• “The issue of casitas is not as big as the huge houses going up that can accommodate more people than a modest home and casita can. Some of the garages on the new homes could easily be turned into casitas and the Village would be none the wiser.”
• “Prospective regulations for casitas should address whether the intended occupant(s) is a family member/relative versus one who is not, giving favorable consideration to a proposed casita for family members/relatives. Concurrently, the regs need to address what happens when ownership changes, i.e. not allowing occupancy of a casita by non- family members/ relatives.”
• “Casitas serve a lot of residents in the community for family members. Maybe provide a grace period of two years for any commercial renting or use to deter over-population of casitas and permits.”
• “Casitas are a dodge to avoid existing rules. If you allow casitas, Corrales will end up just like every other suburb... a sort of East Rio Rancho.”
• “There are many elderly folks living in Corrales, and having a casita to rent out, or they live in and rent the house that allows them to stay in their homes. What I don't like are these extremely large homes on an acre that then add a large casita.”
• “A casita can be a community asset. It brings income to the community. It can allow family to be close, or a small home in a rural setting, or a space for visitors, which may assist with income for owners. A casita is typically a small build.”
• “Casitas are being used to get around the housing density rules of the village and for use as Airbnbs. They are turning single family residential areas into multi-family residential areas,either on a full-time or part-time basis. Allowing casitas is letting unscrupulous people change the nature of the village. Please stop this!”
• “We are interested in building a casita for an aging parent. The idea of banning casitas is shocking and unjust. Perhaps if there is concern over vacation renting, that should be addressed. Banning casitas is not the way to go.”
• “I believe that the Village should permit construction of new casitas. For several specific items, such as short term rentals or even wastewater, appropriate regulations can manage the issues. Rather than banning casitas, let’s benchmark and use good regulations. Home owners deserve to be able to build casitas in order to house aging parents, set up business and art studios, have room for guests, or even make some needed money.
• “Corrales is a special place for not only those that live there, but for those that don't. I have lived in the Albuquerque area for most of my life, and Corrales is one of only a few remaining places in the metro area with a relaxed, rural lifestyle and appeal. Mega-homes (+4000 sf) should be restricted to mega-lots (3-acres plus) and multi-home dwellings should be resisted at all costs. But ‘casitas’ are hard to regulate without consistent inspections and enforcements which take resources. However, with folks consistently moving in from other areas of the country, and local developers looking to cash in on the Corrales appeal, more of the trendy casita concepts come with them; I fear casitas will contribute to ruining the village as they will bring in more people and therefore contribute to the impacts summarized in the above survey.”
• “A tasteful casita can be a beautiful addition to the already stunning homes we have in our village. The vast numbers of deteriorating and dilapidated mobile homes and yards filled with broken down vehicles directly impact the landscape of the village. Why aren’t these eyesores being targeted by the Village instead of a stunning, beautiful addition to someone's already gorgeous home? Homeowners that add a casita to their property most likely already have a very tasteful and properly maintained property. Why would they not maintain the upkeep, appearance and regulate how the property is utilized? Having a casita option for an elderly parent to maintain some semblance of independence, yet have the close support and help from a family member on the same property, is at the top of my list as to why casitas should be allowed.”
• “Property owners in Corrales have paid a premium to live in a semi-rural Village with wide open spaces. If people want higher density and/or sewer systems, paved roads and two or more dwellings per acre, they should move to Rio Rancho, Bernalillo or Albuquerque. The vast majority of residents were drawn to live and invest in Corrales because the Village Code guarantees the rural/semi-rural lifestyle and the ability to keep horses and livestock, farm and enjoy irreplaceable attributes such as dark skies and low density. This administration has done a disservice to the residents by repeatedly moving to make Corrales an over-built nightmare run by developers, real estate agents and newcomers who want to recreate whatever paved and over-developed paradise they left.”
• “There is no circumstance, for any reason, regardless of the size or the utility connection that we should allow any more casitas . By allowing what you have done to date is destroying the very reasons we moved to Corrales 25 years ago, and I am sure I am not alone when saying that. This is not a vacation destination for the sake of procuring gross receipts taxes. It is our home. This administration, as well as past administration, have destroyed the very essence of Corrales. Stop the construction of casitas.”
• “The village should be concerned about the need for multi-generational housing and provisions for live-in help for the elderly. Our demographics are changing, and I believe state law is more generous about the need to accessory dwelling units. Corrales should recognize that there should be allowances made for those who would like to care for elderly relatives or might need the care of younger relatives and the housing needs that would accommodate such needs.”
• “Limiting growth in population is a founding policy of the Village. Increased residential population is a losing proposition for the Village as the amount of tax revenue derived from residential properties does not cover the cost of the services residents demand. Unfortunately, when you couple this with our historic views on limiting commercial development in favor of increased residential development, it means the Village will always struggle to pay for the services residents require.”
• “I think that people should be able to build on their own property to accommodate the needs of their family. Some families have extended memberships of multi-generations and people should be able to make the best decisions for their families’ comfort. Not all casitas are used for commercial/financial gain, so maybe the questioning should be based on who is using the casitas.”
With that “extra” $4.7 million discovered last year still unspent, intact and sitting in reserve, the Village Council has approved a budget for the next fiscal year that anticipates revenues of $5.9 million in the general fund. As always, the biggest chunks of that would go to the Police Department ($1,216,796) and Fire Department ($753,026). Corrales’ preliminary budget has been submitted to the N.M. Department of Finance and Administration for review and corroboration before the FY21-22 starts July 1. Parks and Recreation expects to spend $440,198; Corrales Library $260,218; Public Works $440,854; Planning and Zoning $336,938; and Municipal Court $172,429. According to the budget approved, another big slice goes to “General Services” for $902,337, while Finance/Administration is to get $916,028.
Where will that money come from? Mostly gross receipts tax (much of it apportioned from GRT collected around the state) and property taxes. Property tax coming to Corrales in the next fiscal year is expected to reach $1,736,621, and a mix of GRT collections destined for Corrales coffers would be $3,221,007. Every little bit helps, of course. Sale of Corrales license plates is expected to bring in $1,500, and noise permits $200. Among those more miscellaneous sources of revenue are swimming pool fees at $55,000, rent of public facilities $29,000 and animal impound fees $2,500. Village Administrator Ron Curry said May 30 he is optimistic that income for Village government will improve in the coming fiscal year. “We are projecting a five percent increase in revenue, and we believe that’s fairly conservative.”
He said Corrales businesses are starting to bounce back after pandemic closures and property taxes will stay strong. Some help is expected from the federal government’s pandemic economic recoverly spending, he said without speculating how much that might be. Curry was asked specifically about what became of the “found” $4.7 million that had been found sitting in a reserve account. None of it has been spent, he assured. “We want to be as conservative about that as possible. But of course, with savings interest rates being what they are, that sum is not growing much at all.”
Curry offered possible clarification for what seemed to be a random conversation at the May 25 council meeting about prospects that the Village might consider buying property. He pointed out that at the council’s budget work-study session last month, former Councillor Fred Hashimoto had asked that consideration be given to purchase of the front three acres of the Gonzales tract, adjacent to Wells Fargo Bank. He and others have made that request repeatedly over the past five years, but he got no assurances that is likely to happen during the next fiscal year.
A tax rate review and recalculation was conducted for all New Mexico employers by the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions (NMDWS) under the provisions of the Small Business Recovery Act of 2020. Revised notices were sent out informing employers if their rate increased, decreased, or was unchanged from the notices sent in November 2020.
NMDWS recalculated the tax rate for over 50,000 contributory employers to omit benefit charges, employer wages, and contributions for the period of March 1, 2020 through June 30, 2020. As a result of the recalculation, roughly 9,000 employers had their tax rate for 2021 decrease when compared to the rate initially issued in November 2020. Roughly 2,000 employers received a tax rate increase and the remaining employers’ rates remained unchanged.
Local nonprofit organization Albuquerque Involved brought together community-minded teens from across Albuquerque during the pandemic. The Albuquerque Involved Mentee (AIM) program was designed to help high school students discover and interact with local non-profits. Through AIM, teens learn how the non-profit grant application and funding process works. For the 2020-2021 school year, students met remotely to have the experience of designing an application and evaluation process for grants.
Through a gift from Nancy Croker and Joe Gorvetzian, the program awarded grants to three Albuquerque non-profits out of 45 applications received. The successful grant recipients, each receiving $3,333, were Paws and Stripes, New Mexico Alliance for School-Based Health Care and United Voices for Newcomer Rights.
The abandoned, trashed-looking mobile home left along the Corrales Main Canal last month attracted lots of humor.
Before it was dismantled and hauled away in late May, the not-so-mobile home generated guffaws and smirk when signs were affixed offering it for rent or designating it as a police substation.
Indeed, a Corrales police car was often parked nearby, some thought to nab the person or persons who had littered the roadway.
But Police Chief Vic Mangiacapra said May 29 that the owner had been identified, and that the mobile home was being removed from a nearby location as directed by the Village’s land use code enforcement officer.
”The owner was in the process of moving the trailer off of a nearby property as a result of a code enforcement case, but didn’t make it very far,” Mangiacapra said. “The officers were keeping an eye out just to make sure it didn’t turn into the neighborhood playground before getting hauled off.”
No clarification was offered at the May 25 Village Council meeting when Village Clerk Aaron Gjullin reported that “it is now gone and we will move forward with other items related to it.”
Neither he nor Village Administrator Ron Curry explained what those other items might be. Curry said it was dismantled and hauled away in a dumpster because that was easier that trying to right it on reliable wheels to be towed away.
Two sculptures by the late John Keyser have been donated to the Village of Corrales by the artist’s family. A dedication ceremony for the metal works installed at the Recreation Center will be held Sunday, June 13.
“It is now 10 years since John’s passing,” his wife, Sybil Keyser, said in announcing the donation. “One piece sits at the entrance to the gym at the rec center and the other is by Liam’s Pond, where Art Edelhoff is rebuilding the shade structure where the “Geese” are standing to incorporate John’s art.”
The dedication ceremony begins at 10:30 a.m. and will continue until noon.
Keyser worked from his metal art studio on West Meadowlark Lane about 100 yards west of Corrales Road. Perhaps most Corraleños have seen his art since it is welded to the top of wall outside the studio.
He was 59 when he died June 8, 2011.
An artist with interests ranging from philosophy to horse training and chicken-raising, Keyser moved to Corrales in the mid-1970s, part of that era’s influx of talented, creative people committed to a sustainable lifestyle.
The structure he built along Meadowlark Lane in 1976 was meant as an art studio, but it evolved into the family home. As his success in art progressed, he built another studio nearby from which he produced the metal artwork and functional art furniture featured by high-end retailers such as Harrods of London and Nieman Marcus.
Born in Wilmington, Delaware, he earned a degree at the Maryland Institute of Art in Baltimore. He and his wife, who lived in the same apartment building while she studied at Antioch, moved to New Mexico to pursue a master’s degree in fine art.
While a student at UNM, he won the State of New Mexico’s first “One Percent for the Arts” commission. The piece he produced, “Static Motion,” still stands on the UNM campus, and has been recognized for its importance by the Smithsonian Institution.
Many of Keyser’s commissioned artworks will continue to be seen around Corrales for decades to come, including gates, doorways and furniture. He also created the “Dance of the Whooping Cranes” sculpture at the entrance to the Rio Grande Zoo.
His work was featured in a five-page spread in a 1990 issue of Better Homes & Gardens. Some of his home decor pieces became so popular he had to hire workers to produce the copyrighted designs sold in furniture stores and crafts shops across the country. The Kokopelli figure he created was installed in the Lincoln Center Museum.
His active lifestyle included kayaking, cycling and roping. He first became sick in 1999, his wife said, and when he began to recover, he concentrated on more site-specific works of art. Beginning around 2005, she said, he mainly did custom tables, fireplaces, gates and other commissioned work.
Renewed discussion of possible regulations on construction of walls and fences along Corrales Road could come at the June 15 Village Council meeting. The council’s summer schedule voided the regular meeting that would have fallen on June 8. At the last meeting in May, Councillor Zach Burkett asked that the next agenda include an update on possible amendments that would protect the scenic quality along Corrales Road. This spring, he and other council members asked the Corrales Planning and Zoning Commission to make recommendations for an ordinance that would restrict tall and/or opaque barriers adjacent to the Corrales Road Scenic Byway. As of the May 25 council meeting, the commission had not forwarded a proposed ordinance. In those earlier discussions. councillors said they favored the approach taken by the Village of Los Ranchos to protect scenery along Rio Grande Boulevard in the North Valley.
Those regulations were explained as follows by Corrales Planning and Zoning Administrator Laurie Stout. “Los Ranchos uses the idea of low and open walls/fences. They restrict height of all fences to six feet. Solid walls within the front setback can only be four feet with an option to add additional open fencing on top of that to a maximum of six feet total. No solid wall or fence shall be located within the clear sight triangle of a driveway and a public or private right-of-way.”
At the March 23, 2021 council meeting, all members of the governing body supported the goal of protecting scenic quality along Corrales Road, possibly with a new ordinance modeled after that used for Rio Grande Boulevard. Councillor Kevin Lucero made the point that any decisions on this issue will have implications for the quality of life in Corrales for decades. “The decisions we make in the coming months will determine what Corrales looks like over the next ten, 20, 25 years. What we want Corrales to look like for future generations.”
But those decisions will need to balance landowners privacy rights with protecting scenic quality, he noted. Burkett tried to head off the controversy that scuttled the 2011 draft law by saying he did not expect any regulation that would apply to roads except Corrales Road and possibly the historic zone near the Old Church and San Ysidro Museum. To try to include other neighborhoods would be opening a can of worms, he cautioned. But the council steered clear of imposing a moratorium on construction of view-blocking walls ahead of any new ordinance.
Instead the mayor and councillors directed the Corrales Planning and Zoning Commission to submit recommendations for an ordinance that would limit the height and opaqueness of new walls or fences along Corrales Road. They suggested new regulations might mirror those for Rio Grande Boulevard. Councillor Zach Burkett led discussion at the March 23 council meeting. No target date was indicated for the P&Z commission to make recommendations. The current push to protect scenic views began shortly after erection of tall cinder block walls fronting Corrales Road at the south end of the valley. Councillor Burkett said he regretted that such walls had been permitted and asked that the council consider what might be done to prevent the same from happening all along the road.
A former chairman of the P&Z commission, architect Terry Brown, had tried to persuade the Village Council to pass such an ordinance 10 years ago, but councillors balked and the initiative died. The biggest stumbling block was that the 2011 draft ordinance seemed to apply to other roadways throughout Corrales and at intersections where walls would block visibility. The council sent the draft back to P&Z for more work, but a revision was never submitted. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXX No.2, March 6, 2021 “Council Revives Interest in Corrales Road Scenic Quality.”) Councillor Stu Murray asked whether Burkett thought scenic views from Loma Larga ought to be addressed as well. Burkett suggested that might complicate finding a solution.
“I don’t see that views along Loma Larga are that much of an issue,” Burkett responded. “But more importantly, that would open up a can of worms” since Corrales Road is a scenic byway, a specific area, which is also true for the designated historic district. Beyond those, he said, the Village would likely have a difficult time defending why some other roadways would be protected and not others. “That would make this conversation a lot harder.” Councillor Tyson Parker concurred. If regulations for Loma Larga were imposed, what would be the rationale for deciding not to protect views on other roads. “What about one block from that area? What about two blocks from that area? It gets to be more of a can of worms.”
Councillor Mel Knight also advised against such regulations for Loma Larga, not because the drive lacks scenic quality but because the relative elevation of Loma Larga allows vistas to the east to see open spaces over any existing walls. “Even though there are some walls that have already been built, you can still kind of see over them, because the elevation of Loma Larga is higher than the east side of that road. So I agree that Corrales Road and the historic district are the prime areas that we need to look at as far as restricting walls.” Planning and Zoning Administrator Stout was asked to evaluate the Los Ranchos ordinance to protect scenery along Rio Grande Boulevard and whether it achieves a balance for landowners’ privacy.
“What the Los Ranchos ordinance does is that it allows a modicum of privacy since you’ve got your walls to a certain extent but with an open pattern at the top. And they also have setbacks that we can look at for a front fence. That would be another option. It allows people to keep their animals in and keep other animals out, as the case may be. As you drive down Rio Grande Boulevard, it is a delightful experience. You can see the farmland, the large lots, the architecture. Corrales Road is a scenic byway, so looking at an ordinance would certainly be appropriate to balance the rights of the property owner with the overall feel that we want to keep here in Corrales.”
Mayor Jo Anne Roake summarized. “At this point I can see things coalescing around focusing on a couple of areas in town, such as the scenic byway and the historic area to start with and maybe creating an ordinance that has Los Ranchos as a model to keep kind of a balance” between scenic quality and landowners’ privacy. Burkett said March 1 he was researching what might be done to revive the status of Corrales Road as a designated scenic byway and what might be done to bolster that status.
Former Corrales Planing and Zoning Commission Chairman Terry Brown has made that a high priority since at least 2010. In a power point presentation to the Corrales Planning and Zoning Commission on April 12, 2011, Brown demonstrated what has been lost by view-blocking walls along Corrales Road and what has been preserved by see-through fences and low walls. But for other Corraleños, the idea that Village officials might tell them what kind of fence is permissible reeks of governmental over-reach and offends libertarian values.
At the December 8, 2020 Village Council meeting, Councillor Burkett said he would like to see incentives by Village government to encourage other styles of walls or fences that do not inhibit views. He said he wanted the council to address the issue after seeing such tall, solid walls erected by builder Steve Nakamura on two properties at the south end of Corrales over the past year. Similar long walls have gone up adjacent to Corrales Road at the north end in recent years, creating what Brown has referred to as a “canyon” effect that destroy the scenic quality for which Corrales has been known for many years.
When Brown heard of Burkett’s interest, he said he looked forward to collaborating on a proposal to address the worsening situation. “When I was chair of the Corrales Planning and Zoning Commission, the last issue I tried to get a reluctant council to approve was a recommendation for a requirement for a partially open wall ordinance along Corrales Road. “The new CMU walls being built by Mr. Nakamura at the south end of Corrales are the antithesis of what Corrales needs,” Brown added. “Look at the fencing along Rio Grande. This is what I envision for our village, and what is desperately needed to protect the views along the Corrales ‘scenic byway.’” Views along Corrales Road of pastures, horses, farms, orchards, vineyards and old tractors are central to this community’s character and perhaps even its economic vitality.
A degree of national recognition for those attributes was gained in 1995 when Corrales Road was designated a “scenic and historic byway.” But a Village-appointed byways corridor management committee disbanded amid controversy more than a decade ago and was never fully reconstituted. Brown, an architect, is concerned that the community’s treasured scenic quality is being incrementally lost due to an unfortunate landscaping feature: view-blocking solid walls or fences at the edge of the road. “I was on the Planning and Zoning Commission for eight years, and I was the chair for two years. As an architect, I felt strongly that we needed to protect this view, this viewshed from Corrales Road,” Brown explained.
“People come here to see Corrales… they don’t come here to look at walls and fences. They come here to see horses and donkeys and llamas and cows, and the views that stretch from the fields to the riparian habitat and all the way to the Sandias. “They don’t want to see walls; they don’t want to see that ‘canyon effect.’” Back in 2010-11, Brown and others pushed hard for the Village Council to adopt an ordinance or regulation that would prohibit owners of property abutting Corrales Road from erecting a solid fence or wall taller than three feet at the road frontage property line. Draft Ordinance 11-007, amending the Village’s land use regulations regarding fences, was tabled at a February 2011 council meeting and never revived for vote.
No other proposals have been pursued, and tall cinder block walls and wooden fences continue to go up, blocking views. Corrales is left vulnerable, Brown cautioned. “In some places we have a tall wall along one side of Corrales Road, but it’s left open on the other side. I guess that’s probably acceptable,” he volunteered. “But what if a developer or homeowner says ‘Hey, I need to have more opacity on my side of the road, too.’ And then, the next guy says the same thing, and pretty soon, a hundred years from now, Corrales Road will be just one long canyon.”
On the other side of the river, regulations for Rio Grande Boulevard have apparently closed off that undesired future. “I believe along Rio Grande Boulevard you can only have a limited expanse of opaque wall and the rest of it has to be open. The walls are low; for the most part, you can see over them or through them. “Since Corrales Road is a scenic byway, I think it is worthy of getting the same treatment.” Without any regulation requiring scenic views be maintained, Brown warned, “you get whatever a developer is going to give you.”
In laying out the 2011 rationale for recommended action by the Village Council, then-P&Z commission Chairman Brown put it this way: “One of Corrales’ greatest assets that maintain the rural character of this village is the vistas of vineyards, agricultural fields, large animals, towering cottonwoods and the Sandia Mountains beyond. With this in mind, the P&Z commission recommends the modification noted above for fences along Corrales Road. Our concern is that without this proposed modification to our ordinance, Corrales Road could become a walled-in road where nothing could be seen beyond the six-foot high walls along both sides of Corrales Road. We already have portions of Corrales Road with this unappealing aspect.” (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXVIII No.3 March 23, 2019 “Can Scenery Along ‘Scenic Byway’ Be Preserved?”)
During early discussion about regulating the size and opacity of walls along property lines, the proposed rules would have applied to roadsides throughout Corrales. But P&Z commissioners and council members backed away from that, anticipating villagers’ resistance for reasons of privacy. That continues to be a primary concern, although the thwarted 2011 ordinance exempted existing walls and fences; the rules would have applied only to new walls or fences. Even so, the draft ordinance that went to the Village Council back then would have applied only to property along Corrales Road, not residential neighborhoods east or west of it.
While privacy issues seem to have been dominant during the P&Z and council discussions about protecting scenic quality nine years ago, it’s clear that visitors to Corrales have no interest in knowing who’s rolling in the hay with whom. A secondary concern was road noise from increased traffic along Corrales Road. Proximity to the road is the critical factor in how disturbing tire-on-asphalt noise would be to residents. But if the residence is that close to Corrales Road, or any neighborhood road, the structure itself would likely obstruct a view of fields, farm animals or the mountains. Brown said he was not aware of any road noise mitigation measures that might be used that still allow scenic views. He said a tall wall, fence or dense vegetation may be the only way to effectively block road noise if the residence is very close.
In Brown’s February 25, 2011, letter of transmittal from the P&Z commission to the council, he pointed out “This revised proposed ordinance recommends modifications to the previous proposed ordinance by requiring all new fences along Corrales Road (Scenic Byway) to have no solid fence exceeding three feet in height erected on the front lot line or within the front setback area of any lot or within the vision clearance area abutting a driveway. “If someone wants a fence taller than three feet, then that portion of the fence would have to be an open fence.” The wall or fence could actually be taller than three feet, but the upper portion would have to be open or see-through to some degree, he added. Serving as Planning and Zoning Commission vice-chair at that time was Corrales’ current mayor, Jo Anne Roake.
“The Village Council did not like the idea at that time,” Brown recalled. “They didn’t like the idea of dictating to a homeowner what type of fence they could have. However, we already have ordinances that cover what type of fence you can have and what it looks like; what is acceptable and what is not.”
“It’s like anything else in the village; it should be the villagers who decide what’s in the best interest of the village. We want to encourage tourism, but if, when they come, we have a canyon of walls on both sides of Corrales Road, that’s not going to be very attractive.”
Corrales psychologist and art innovator Michael Baron has recently completed a large, wooden wall hanging as a statement on America’s divisions.
Some of his earlier assemblages of wood dowels were shown in the July 19, 2014 issue of Corrales Comment. His earliest work became table tops and other furniture.
His latest piece “Bridging Divides,” has been mounted on a wall in his Corrales home.
“After the election was called November 7 last year, my five-year hiatus from wood mosaic artwork ended with a five-month project, “Bridging Divides,” completed April 7 and hung just three days ago,” Baron explained.
“Our country’s divides widened in recent years …or have just been made more painfully obvious. Through the efforts of so many willing to see we are all on this globe for but a minuscule period during this delectable tease called ‘Life,’ maybe we stand a better chance of bridging divides.”
His wood mosaic art can be seen at http://www.artofdowel.com.
The Corrales Equestrian Advisory Commission will be sponsoring an equine de-spooking clinic at the Corrales TopForm Arena Saturday June 19 from 9 a.m to 2 p.m. There is no charge for the clinic, which is designed to build confidence in horse and rider and to acclimate horses to the various difficulties and challenges they might encounter along the trail. “We will have all kinds of obstacles, from tarps to bridges and balloons set up with experts on hand to guide riders safely through the course,” said Bon Bagley of the CEAC. “This is an important safety training opportunity for riders.” Two sessions will be held: riders up to 16 may attend the morning session, from 9 to 11 a.m. Adults can come to the afternoon session from 11:30 to 2 p.m.
The Village is set to preserve in perpetuity another 10 acres of farmland at the north end of Corrales. It is the Phelps Farm on the east side of Corrales Road where Trees of Corrales has had a tree nursery for its wholesale business in recent years. It is a little south of the intersection with Romero Road, one of the main entrances to the Bosque Preserve.
At the May 25 Village Council meeting, an option to purchase a conservation easement on the land was approved unanimously. A final appraisal has yet to be made, but the Village is expected to pay approximately $780,000 to prevent the tract from being developed. The money has been generated from sale of general obligation (GO) bonds as directed by Corrales voters in the 2018 municipal election. Those bonds were issued to raise $2.5 million to be used for farmland preservation.
The 9.78-acre tract is owned by Courtenay and Anne Koontz, also owners of Trees of Corrales. The Village has until the end of October this year to exercise the option.
Last year, the Village acquired a similar easement on the Haslam family’s farm a little south of the Phelps land between the Main Canal and the Corrales Lateral irrigation ditch west of Corrales Road.
That earlier acquisition preserved 12 acres at a cost of approximately $960,000 from those GO bonds.
If the Village choses to exercise the option to purchase the Phelps easement, that will have essentially depleted revenue generated from that 2018 bond approval.
Through the farmland preservation program, the people of Corrales have removed at least 63 acres from residential development since it began in 2004. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXIII No.21 December 18, 2004 “Prospects Good for Another $360,000 USDA Grant to Save Farmland.”)
When voters here approved issuance of $2.5 million in GO bonds in 2004, Corrales became the first municipality in the state to establish a conservation easement program.
With those revenues secured as matching funds, the Village was successful in getting a $1.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). When all of the first round of GO bonds were spent, villagers were asked to approve a second issuance of $2.5 million in bonds to continue the program. Again, villagers enthusiastically said yes in 2018.
The proposed agreement for the new easement would reserve a half-acre parcel adjacent to the bosque for a future small residence and another half-acre site for a future farm-related building.
The agreement negotiated with the Koontz family describes the following benefits.
• “Public Recreation Value. The property will include a ‘public viewing area’ off of Corrales Road where the general public will be able to pull off and park and enjoy the unobstructed view of the farmland, bosque and Sandia Mountains. The area will offer four parking spaces and at least two viewing benches. The recreational value of this area is directly linked to bird watching and quiet enjoyment of the majestic views that the conserved property offers. The owner has agreed to contribute up to $10,000 for improvements made to this public viewing area. The owner would also ask the Village to help maintain the area (e.g. garbage collection, cleaning, and other maintenance) as well as include the area under the Village’s liability insurance policy for publicly accessible areas.
• “Farmland Preservation. The property consists of valuable irrigated farmland (prime and important soils) that has been in production for decades. The conservation easement will encumber the water rights to the property in perpetuity, meaning the water rights cannot be severed or separately sold from the Property and will only be used for agriculture or wildlife habitat purposes.
The owner believes they may have pre-1907 water rights, but that has yet to be determined.
• “Scenic Open Space. The property is located along, and directly adjacent to Corrales Road, the primary thoroughfare through the Village of Corrales. This portion of Corrales Road had an approximate 4,000-5,000 daily vehicle count in 2017. The property is visible by the general public from Corrales Road and from existing recreation trails within the Corrales Bosque Preserve.
• “Wildlife Habitat. Since the property is irrigated farmland, it serves as valuable habitat for migratory birds along international flyways and also provides habitat for a number of other native species.”
The agreement gives the following as “estimated property valuations,” important factors because the Village of Corrales will be prohibited from paying more than fair market value.
“A consulting appraisal was completed for the property by Hippauf, Dry & Connelly Real Estate Appraisers and Consultants in November of 2019. The consulting appraisal valued the property at $110,000 to $130,000/acre. Another appraisal was completed on the Haslam property in 2020 that placed the property value at approximately $127,000 per acre. The Haslam property is similar in size and location to the property, therefore, we can assume the “before” value of the Property will be approximately $130,000/acre or about $1,300,000 (rounded for planning purposes).
“Also, as part of the Haslam appraisal, it was noted that the diminution due to the conservation easement was approximately 60 percent with the reservation of one residential building envelope and one agricultural building envelope. This project will also have one residential building envelope and thus a diminution of approximately 60% is warranted for planning purposes.
“Therefore, the approximate value of the conservation easement is $780,000 +/-.”
In a section of the draft agreement headed “Suggested Conservation Strategy,” the following understandings are laid out.
“This strategy assumes the Koontz Family (“owners”) are paid the full value of the conservation easement by the Village of Corrales bond funds. If the Owners are interested in a partial donation to receive a state tax credit and federal income tax deductions, we can alter the strategy to reflect this approach.
“The option… shall expire on October 31, 2021.
“Purchase Price. In the event that the buyer exercises the option to purchase the easement over the conservation easement property, seller shall sell the easement to buyer by a direct conveyance to N.M. Land Conservancy of the easement over the conservation easement property for a minimum purchase (“floor price”) of $750,000.00. If valuation of the easement exceeds the floor price, buyer agrees to pay seller the floor price plus any amount that exceeds the floor price (“easement purchase price”). Buyer shall provide written “Floor Notice” to seller if buyer determines that the appraisal is less than the floor price. Seller may be excused from the obligation of selling the easement to buyer if seller is provided floor notice and seller provides buyer written notice of seller’s desire to be excused from this option to purchase the easement….”
Early in the Village’s program, the Farmland Preservation and Agricultural Commission developed a check-list for the easement program that has 14 “positive criteria,” including pre-1907 irrigation water rights, whether the parcel abuts an irrigation ditch, or is currently being farmed, as well as scenic quality, potential for wildlife habitat and whether there is strong neighborhood support.
Some confusion may still exist among villagers as to what, exactly, will be purchased. It is only the development right on those parcels that will be bought with municipal bond proceeds.
Ownership of the land continues to reside with the property owner who sells the easement. However, the property has a deed restriction saying it cannot be developed in any way other than as farmland or open space.
A USDA fact sheet described the concept as follows. “A conservation easement is an interest in land, as defined and delineated in a deed, whereby the landowner conveys specific rights, title and interests in a property to a State, Tribal or local government or non-governmental organization. The landowner retains those rights, title and interests in the property which are specifically reserved to the landowner in the easement deed, such as the right to farm.…
“A landowner submits an application to an entity… that has an existing farm or ranch land protection program. In exchange for payment, participating landowners agree not to convert their land to non-agricultural uses, and to develop and implement a conservation plan for any highly erodible land.”
The fact sheet on the USDA’s Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program further pointed out that “The value of a conservation easement usually is determined through a professional appraisal. A qualified appraiser assesses the difference between the fair market value of the property, often using comparable sales, and its restricted value under the easement.…
“The easements generally restrict non-farm development and subdivisions. Some farm-related housing may be allowed.… The easements become part of the land deed and are recorded in the local land records.”
On August 31, 2004 by a margin of nearly 5-to-1, Corrales voters approved issuance of municipal bonds to buy conservation easements on farmland here to keep it out of development. The 2004 bond election was the culmination of a 33-year commitment by villagers to keep their community rural.
At least 29 states in the United States have conservation easement programs to save farmland. Those have already secured at least 6.5 million acres for future agricultural use.
According to the American Farmland Trust, “Every day 2,000 acres of agricultural land are paved over, fragmented or converted to uses that jeopardize farming.”
Intel has requested financial assistance and tax breaks from the Sandoval County Commission, the City of Rio Rancho and the State of New Mexico to convert its factory between Corrales and Rio Rancho. Agreements with those governmental entities follow Intel’s announcement May 3 that it would invest $3.5 billion to upgrade and renovate Fab11X for mass production of its innovative laser-driven three-dimensional computer chips. The Sandoval County Commission’s June 3 meeting included an ordinance “authorizing the use of County Local Economic Development Act [LEDA] funds between the County and Intel Corporation and sharing certain limited gross receipts taxes.” Similar agreements have been composed involving the City of Rio Rancho and the State of New Mexico. The agreement with Sandoval County means that half of all gross receipts tax and compensating tax generated by Intel’s construction project will be reimbursed to Intel, and secondly, up to $500,000 in LEDA funds from the County’s program would be paid to Intel.
The “Project Participation Agreement” considered at the commission’s June 3 session has similar benefits for Intel except that the State LEDA funds would amount to $5 million. Rio Rancho’s participation is described this way in the agreement. The City of Rio Rancho has agreed to support this expansion with local City LEDA assistance in the amount of up to $250,000 (City LEDA Funds”) This assistance is subject to appropriation approval by City’s Governing Body and the approval of an intergovernmental agreement between the City and the County.”
A fact sheet produced for the June 3 meeting stresses the point that “This is not an industrial revenue bond and does not negatively impact property taxes; no pilot payments. “Over the next four years, [Sandoval County] pays t Intel $500,000 from existing LEDA funds. These funds already in account set aside in 2017 for economic development —no impact on County budget or general fund!
“Over next 10 years, [Sandoval County] pays Intel 50 percent of gross receipts tax or compensating taxes derived from their construction at the plant not required for any County debt service.” All of these grants and tax reimbursements are predicated on Intel spending up to $3.5 billion on the plant expansion and equipment, as well as a hiring “target of 700 net new full-time employees at the facility by December 31, 2024” which would be expected to generate gobs of gross receipts tax.
But the participation agreement does contain a “clawback penalty” which Intel would have to pay if a minimum number of those jobs failed to materialize. It also includes a “facility closure clawback: “If the facility ceases operations in the county on or before Decembr 31, 2031, the company will repay to the County all LEDA funds that the company actually received from the County as of that date.…”
Curiously, the County Commission’s Ordinance No. 6-3-2021.8A cites a finding that would justify those benefits for Intel as follows. “The board hereby declared that it has considered all relevant information presented to it relating to the project and the agreement, and hereby finds and determines that the provision of economic development assistance for the project is necessary and advisable and in the interest of the public and will promote the public health, safety, morals, convenience, economy and welfare of the County and its residents.” It was not clear from the agreement recitals how the plant expansion or the new computer chips will improve the citizenry’s morals. But there’s probably an imbedded algorithm for that.
During an announcement May 3, Intel officials said Fab 11X and other parts of the complex will be re-built and reconfigured to mass produce the innovative 3-D, layered chips referred to as Foveros technology that allow customized mix-and-match assemblages, expected to be most useful for advanced artificial intelligence and 5G applications. The $3.5 billion project apparently will not need yet another round of industrial revenue bonds (IRBs) since proceeds remain from earlier bonds. Intel New Mexico began in 1980 with an IRB offering of $2 billion; another $8 billion was provided in 1993, and then $16 billion in 2004. In June 2019, the Sandoval County Commission extended Intel’s time frame for using the last bonds.
The Village Council is expected to vote on an ordinance clarifying regulations, and imposing new restrictions on, construction or conversion of secondary dwellings, commonly referred to as “casitas,” at its June 15 meeting. The council unanimously approved the draft ordinance at its May 25 session.
In the past, many Corrales property owners have rented out casitas or guesthouses in what other villagers consider a contravention of the Village’s “one home per acre” rule that dates back to the community’s incorporation as a municipality in 1971.
It’s a guaranteed perennial controversy, ebbing and rising with the times. Even though the intent of Corrales’ ordinances and regulations would seem to be clear —maintain a low residential density to retain a semi-rural ambiance and prevent drinking water contamination due to septic overload— good and compassionate exceptions have always been proposed.
Most often the rationale for non-compliance with the one-acre minimum lot size for a dwelling (two acres in the former Bernalillo County portion of Corrales) has been that living quarters were needed so that a son or daughter could look after an elderly, frail parent. Usually such a request for a variance or exception has been disallowed, even if the caregiver were living in a mobile home or trailer that would (or at least, could) be removed after the family crisis had passed.
More often than not, that secondary dwelling remained indefinitely as a rental because no one in Village government checked and because neighbors were reluctant to report the offense.
But the controversy heated up in recent years, especially as new homes were built on vacant lots along with a sizable secondary dwelling. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXX No.5 April 24, 2021 “Give Your Opinions About Impact of Casitas on Density, Well Water Quality.”)
But why, if Corrales’ zoning ordinances disallow two homes on a one-acre home site, would a building permit be granted for a casita, especially if that permit was requested at the exact some time that the primary house was to be constructed?
The answer is found in loopholes in the Village’s laws and particularly in how a “dwelling” is defined. In recent years, a second residence has not beenprohibited unless it has a kitchen, or a full kitchen. What, exactly, constitutes a kitchen? A room that has a cooking range? Or a new construction that is plumbed for a gas or electric range, even if one is not to be installed right away? What about a microwave appliance?
The amendment to be voted on June 15 attempts to settle the controversy with the following provisions. “Kitchen: means any room used, intended or designed to be used for cooking or the preparation of food or containing a range or oven, or utility connections suitable for servicing a range or oven.”
At that time, a further amendment to the definition of kitchen is expected, based on discussion among councillors at their May 25 meeting. Councillor Stu Murray offered a new meaning used in the 2015 International Building Code. A kitchen is a “space in a home designed to be used for the preparation of food.”
P&Z Administrator Stout said she liked the new definition. “I think that’s a good idea,” she affirmed. “I think that amendment would work just fine, and our office would be able to uphold that.”
The only hesitancy came from Councillor Tyson Parker, an architect, who cautioned that the new wording could have unintended consequences from circular logic.
Another key amendment defines a dwelling unit as “One or more rooms and a single kitchen designed as a unit for human occupancy/ habitation by one family for living and sleeping purposes, but not including recreational vehicles, travel trailers or converted buses, whether on wheels or a permanent foundation. A dwelling unit may be a mobile home, modular home, manufactured home or site-built house. It may also be an independent unit of an apartment, townhouse or other such multiple-unit residential structure, where allowed.”
Published below is the verbatim text of the proposed amendment to the Village of Corrales’ land use policy regarding casitas, guesthouses or accessory structures.
Proposed Ordinance No. 21-04
An ordinance amending Section 18-29 and 18-203 of the Village Land Use Code to provide clarity to the definitions of accessory structures, accessory use, kitchen and dwelling unit.
Whereas, the Village of Corrales Comprehensive Land Use Plan (2009) includes policy 2.3.1 which directs the Village to require the residential dwelling unit density to be limited to a maximum of one per lot, with a minimum lot size of one or two acres, depending on the zone, and; Whereas, New Mexico State Statute directs that the zoning ordinances should be in accordance with the comprehensive plan:
“the regulations and restrictions of the county or municipal zoning authority are to be in accordance with a comprehensive plan and be designed to:
1. Lessen congestion in the streets and public ways;
2. Secure safety from fire, floodwaters, panic and other dangers;
3. Promote health and the general welfare;
4. Provide adequate light and air;
5. Prevent the overcrowding of the land;
6. Avoid undue concentration of population;
7. Facilitate adequate provision for transportation, water, sewerage, schools, parks and other public requirements; and
8. Control and abate the unsightly use of buildings or land”, and;
Whereas, as per Village Code Section 18-28 (a) “any use not classified as a permissive use or a use by review within a particular zone is hereby prohibited from that zone”, and;
Whereas, in accordance with the Comprehensive Land Use Plan, Village ordinances limit density to one dwelling unit per lot, with a minimum lot size of one acre in A-1 Agricultural and Rural Residential, Historical, and Neighborhood Commercial zones and two acres in A-2 Agricultural and Rural Residential zone. (Dwelling units are not a permissive use in Professional Office or Municipal zones); and
Whereas, a Dwelling Unit as defined in Village Code Sections 18-29 Definitions and Section 18-203 “means any building or part of a building intended for human occupancy and containing one or more connected rooms and a single kitchen, designed for one family for living and sleeping purposes”, and;
Whereas, a Kitchen as defined in Village Code Sections 18-29 “means any room used, intended or designed to be used for cooking or the preparation of food. The presence of a range or oven, or utility connections suitable for servicing a range or oven, shall be considered as establishing a kitchen”, and;
Whereas, in addition to a dwelling unit, the zoning ordinance allows for an “accessory structure” to be built on residentially and commercially zoned lots. An Accessory Structure as defined in Village Code Section 18-29 states “Accessory uses and structures means uses and structures which are clearly incidental and subordinate to principal uses and structures located on the same property” and;
Whereas, despite the above-mentioned regulations limiting density to one dwelling unit per lot, secondary dwelling units, sometimes known as “casitas”, have periodically been constructed in Corrales.
This occurs when an accessory structure is legally constructed on a lot already containing a dwelling unit, and the accessory structure is subsequently converted to another dwelling unit via the addition of an oven or range, and;
Whereas, the “oven/range or utility connections suitable for servicing one” is the only distinguishing feature separating an accessory structure from a dwelling unit, and;
Whereas, the Village of Corrales has no municipal water or sewer with the majority of lots nearly entirely on-site water (well) and septic, low density development is not only an aesthetic issue but a health and safety concern, and;
Now, therefore be it ordained that, the following amendments to the zoning ordinance shall be adopted to provide clarity and better implement the intended regulations of the Village of Corrales Comprehensive Plan and the zoning ordinance.
Section 18-29 Accessory uses and structures definition will be deleted in its entirety and replaced by:
Accessory Building or Structure means a building detached from and incidental and subordinate to the dwelling unit and located on the same lot, such as a detached garage, workshop, or studio. It may have a half bathroom but no shower or tub and may not contain bedrooms or a kitchen. It shall not be used as a dwelling (for human occupancy/ habitation.)
Accessory Use: A use of land or of a building or portion thereof that is incidental and subordinate to the main use of the land and building and located on the same lot with the main use.
Section 18-29 and Section 18-203 Dwelling Unit definition shall be deleted in its entirety and replaced by:
Dwelling Unit: One or more rooms and a single kitchen designed as a unit for human occupancy/ habitation by one family for living and sleeping purposes, but not including recreational vehicles, travel trailers or converted buses, whether on wheels or a permanent foundation. A dwelling unit may be a mobile home, modular home, manufactured home or site-built house. It may also be an independent unit of an apartment, townhouse or other such multiple-unit residential structure, where allowed.
Section 18-29 Kitchen definition shall be revised as follows:
Kitchen: Means any room used, intended or designed to be used for cooking or the preparation of food or containing a range or oven, or utility connections suitable for servicing a range or oven.
Last year and earlier this year, villagers protested construction of a large dwelling along side a new home on West Ella Drive which looked like a clear violation of the one-home-per-lot rule.
After receiving a letter from several villagers in August 2020 expressing concerns about the construction of casitas, the Planning and Zoning Commission began a review of existing ordinances. (See Corrales Comment’s Vol.XXXIX No.12 September 5, 2020 “West Ella ‘Casita’ Scrutinized,” )
Two P&Z subcommittees and the commission as a whole gathered information and research on the secondary dwelling units that exist here.
P&Z Administrator Laurie Stout, who has steered the project, has defined a casita as “a structure used for human habitation that is separate from the primary dwelling unit on a lot,” at least for the purposes of this exploration.
At a January 26, 2021 session, the Village Council voted five-to-one to impose a 180-day moratorium on permits to build secondary dwellings on lots and on applications to operate short-term rental. The council noted that “the size of accessory structures is virtually unregulated, sometimes resulting in what appears to be two homes on one lot,” and that such residences “are being utilized for the commercial purpose of providing short-term rental accommodations.”
It was noted that “the proliferation of loosely-regulated accessory structures being used as short- and long-term rentals has the potential for far-reaching deleterious effects on the village, including negatively impacting neighborhoods with greater numbers of vehicles and persons not previously present and increasing the effective density above that permitted or intended in the A-1 an A-2 zoning districts.”
Stout clarified March 12, 2021 that "the applications for short-term rentals that we are unable to process are those in accessory structures only. Short-term rental permit applications that are all or part of the dwelling unit on a lot may still be accepted and forwarded to the Planning and Zoning Commission for consideration.”
A comprehensive report was produced that includes the following executive summary.
“For this review the commission identified the following essential question:
What requirements, if any, should the Village of Corrales place on the construction and use of casitas?
Two committees of P&Z commissioners were formed in September 2020, one to review the existing ordinances related to casitas as well as relevant ordinances from surrounding communities and the other to gather information regarding the environmental impacts of increased population density, primarily regarding water and wastewater. What follows is an attempt to frame the issue and share the findings of the commission to date.
Our Rural Atmosphere. There has been a long-standing desire of Corraleños to maintain a rural agricultural atmosphere in the village. The most recent Comprehensive Land Use Plan for the Village of Corrales (2009) states that “The Village requirement that single residential units be located on one- or two-acre lots was established just after incorporation in 1971 with the purpose of maintaining Corrales’ rural atmosphere (p. 24).”
The ordinance language governing permissive uses in Zone A-1 Rural Agricultural and A-2 supports this goal:
• Section 18-28 (a) states “Any use not classified as a permissive use or a use by review within a particular zone is hereby prohibited from that zone.”
• Section 18-33(1) Purposes and intents. The purpose of this zone is to maintain a rural and open space character of lands within the Village with low density residential and agricultural development.
• Section 18-33(2) Permissive uses. (a/b/c) One single-family dwelling unit/manufactured house/mobile home unit per lot.
• Section 18-33(2) Permissive uses. (f) Accessory uses and structures. (According to the definition of accessory uses and structures (18-29), this “means uses and structures which are clearly incidental and subordinate to principal uses and structures located on the same property.”)
• Section 18-33(3) Density. The maximum density shall be limited to one dwelling unit per net acre.
(Note that these regulations are for Zone A-1 but they are similar in most regards to the regulations for Zone A-2.)
However, casitas existed in Corrales prior to incorporation of the Village in 1971. Since incorporation, some accessory structures, e.g. studios or stables, have been converted to casitas and casitas have at times been built without the knowledge or permission of the P&Z Department. There may have been uneven enforcement of the ordinances. On top of that, some ordinance language seems to muddy the waters, creating a challenge for our Planning & Zoning Department.
A Lack of Clarity. There is no mention of casitas in our ordinances. In Section 18-29 a dwelling unit is defined as “… any building or part of a building intended for human occupancy and containing one or more connected rooms and a single kitchen, designed for one family for living and sleeping purposes.”
The conjunction, and, is a concern; an accessory structure with connecting rooms and no kitchen is technically and legally not a dwelling unit. The definition of a kitchen states “The presence of a range or oven, or utility connections suitable for servicing a range or oven, shall be considered as establishing a kitchen.” Thus an accessory structure with no plumbing or wiring for a range or oven is, technically and legally, not a dwelling unit and so is allowed as an accessory structure. Thus it appears there is a lack of clarity in the language of the permissive uses.
Is There A Problem with Casitas? There are several reasons why property owners might want to build a casita. They might want a place for elderly parents or other family members to live. They might want a place for a personal assistant or other employee to live; this could be important for elderly or disabled residents. They might want a place for guests to stay. They might want to generate short-term rental income.
But there are downsides that arise when residents build and occupy accessory dwellings. These are primarily related to increased population density. First, there is the matter of the rural agricultural environment that Corraleños desire. More buildings mean less open land, plain and simple. There is also the matter of traffic —greater density means more people driving on roads, many of which are unpaved, contributing to wear and tear, increased maintenance and increased dust and noise. And then there is the matter of our water.
“Drinking your neighbors’ sewage.” While Corrales is blessed with a robust aquifer, it does not have a municipal water system or wastewater treatment facility. We all have domestic wells and nearly all of us have septic systems. In places the water table is very shallow, necessitating the use of mounded septic systems and advanced treatment systems. This is a matter of serious concern. As noted by Dennis McQuillan, Liquid Waste Program Manager of the New Mexico Environmental Department (NMED) in the report, Groundwater Contamination by Septic Tank Effluents (2006), people living in areas with domestic wells and a high density of septic systems risk “Drinking your neighbors’ sewage.”
This is not really news for Corrales. In 2005 McQuillan prepared a report, Groundwater Quality in Corrales. He noted —and this was 15 years ago— that “Corrales was selected for a hydrogeologic investigation because of the large number of small lots (less than 3/4 acre) developed with on-site wells and septic systems.” The first line of the abstract reads, “Septic tank effluents have adversely impacted ground-water quality in the Village of Corrales.”
He notes that “… there have been many historic reports by well users in the area of water quality problems such as high iron and the presence of hydrogen sulfide gas.” While some of these pollutants occur naturally in the inner Rio Grande Valley, much of it can be attributed to bacteria that are feeding on organic waste and using oxygen from naturally-occurring iron and sulfur oxides due to low free oxygen levels in the soil. This results in rusty toilet bowls and a rotten egg smell, not to mention possible negative effects on our health. Nitrate levels are also high, particularly in the areas west of the main canal. As our population grows and the population density increases, the pollutant load in our groundwater can only increase.
Corrales is currently the only local municipality that relies primarily on septic systems for liquid waste disposal.
All of the others (Albuquerque, Los Ranchos, Rio Rancho, Bernalillo) have wastewater treatment systems. The Village has taken some measures to address the wastewater issue by installing a liquids-only wastewater effluent pipeline that accepts effluent from individual septic tanks located along Corrales Road and conveys it to a treatment plant in Albuquerque. There are plans to expand this pipeline to other areas, but this is a limited solution.
What Are the Options? Any potential regulations regarding casitas must hinge on the protection of groundwater quality. Given the importance of limiting groundwater contamination, the P&Z has identified three options for Corraleños to consider regarding casitas.
• We could ban future construction of casitas.
• We could allow the future construction of casitas subject to limitations imposed by state or local environmental law. By state statute §18.104.22.1681(E) NMAC a one-acre lot, for example, is allowed a septic system design flow rate of not more than 500 gallons per day. This correlates with a design flow rate for a five-bedroom dwelling or a two-bedroom primary dwelling with a one-bedroom casita (§22.214.171.124(P)(1) NMAC). Larger lots are allowed more bedrooms in accordance with the statutes.
• We could allow the future construction of casitas only if they are connected to an off-site wastewater treatment system.
It is important to note that only the third option addresses the ongoing contamination of our groundwater. The other two have the potential to reduce but not eliminate future increases in groundwater pollution.
The commission sought input from Corraleños via a survey and public meetingswhich was to be used to develop recommendations to the Village Council for possible changes to the ordinances to best reflect community’s needs and desires.
We encourage members of the community to review the supporting documents compiled by the commission. These can be found on the Village website, corrales-nm.org, then ‘I’m Looking For,’ then Key Documents Directory, then Casitas Executive Summary and Supporting Documents. It also is available on the website home page, Latest News tab, same link title.
We look forward to your input and a robust discussion.”
Among the questions in a P&Z commission survey earlier this year were those seeking attitudes about casitas are around the following topics:
• Should the Village limit the size of new casitas to a certain percentage of the size of the primary residence?
• Should the Village limit te total number of bedrooms in all dwellings on a lot, including casitas?
• Should the Village allow new casitas only on lots that are one acre or larger?
Respondents were asked to indicate the degree to which they agree or disagree. In another section of the survey, respondents were asked how concerned they are about topics such as groundwater quality, population density and noise that might be associated with casitas.
In Mayor Jo Anne Roake’s weekly message May 28, she stated the intention of revisions to Chapter 18 of the Village’s Code of Ordinances is “to make our land use regulations more uniform, easier to follow and to enforce.
“The completed product is due at the end of 2021. This regulatory clean-up is not intended to change policy. Review and possible changes to Village land use policy is best achieved with a new Comprehensive Plan, after extensive public participation and study.
“With council approval, work on a new Comprehensive Plan could start in 2022,” the mayor wrote.
For a section at a time, traffic along Corrales Road will be constricted to just one lane as the roadway is being re-paved this month and probably next.
Initially the project was estimated to take two months from the start date at the south end, at Alameda Boulevard, to completion at the north end, at Highway 528 in Rio Rancho.
Village Administrator Ron Curry reported at the May 25 council meeting that the paving project would start Wednesday, June 2 and might take only 25 working days. Work would begin around 9 a.m. and conclude each day at 3 p.m., he indicated.
And the paving technique apparently has changed since the project was announced last month when it was described as accomplished in one pass, with the old asphalt being ripped up and mixed inside the same machine with fresh material laid down at the back end.
The revised plan, Curry said, is that the existing asphalt would be torn up and hauled away. That would be followed by re-paving with new asphalt. The Village Administrator was asked where the old asphalt would be dumped; relevant for some villagers because they have opposed the use of recycled asphalt on roadways here, especially along side irrigation ditches.
Curry said the old asphalt would be hauled to an area near the Balloon Fiesta Park in Albuquerque.
The highway department and the paving company have been cautioned to minimize disruptions to Corrales businesses. Corrales MainStreet’s Jim Kruger said it is “working very hard with local businesses to promote the village, and to make sure everyone knows that we will be open for business during the repaving project.”
Kruger advised villagers to watch for special promotions through BlueMail for Android.
The re-paving project has implications for the ongoing proposal to repaint crosswalks on Corrales Road. Now that will not be attempted until the new asphalt is in place. Earlier this year, the N.M. Transportation Department urged Village officials to reduce the number of sites along Corrales Road where crosswalks would be painted.
The Village has asked its Bicycle, Pedestrian Advisory Commission and its Equestrian Advisory Commission where crosswalks should go. The highway department apparently has resisted creating more of them, and asked that they be “consolidated.”
While discussing future crosswalks at the May 25 meeting councillors urged that the Village insist on having NMDOT install flashing lights at certain future crosswalks, such as those at Corrales Elementary and Cottonwood Montessori Schools.
As of May 31, the department had not committed to any additional infrastructure as part of the re-paving project —particularly no pathways or bike lanes in the road shoulder. As currently designed, the project would simply rip out and haul away the old asphalt and lay new material in the same location.
Early on, the estimate for re-paving, as opposed to re-construction, was $1.8 million.That hefty price tag was one reason the mayor and council have been reluctant to take ownership of State Road 448, as NMDOT has persistently urged for decades.
Last month, on short notice to Village officials, the state highway department said the re-paving would begin more or less right away. “This was quite a surprise to us, since there had been no talk about that at all,” Curry said.” We’re kind of baffled.”
The immediacy of the repaving project only came to light when the out-of-state paving company, Cutler Re-Paving, Inc., contacted Corrales Planning and Zoning Administrator Laurie Stout asking where it could park its equipment at night.
On May 13, N.M. Department of Transportation engineer Jill Mosher responded to Mayor Jo Anne Roake’s perplexed inquiry by explaining that the decision to start the project was tied to ongoing discussions about the Village perhaps taking ownership of Corrales Road.
The abrupt start-up was also based on the impending end of the fiscal year; the highway department had unspent funds that needed to be encumbered (or would be lost) by the end of June.
According to Mosher’s email to Mayor Roake, “I knew we were getting the funds encumbered, I did not know they were starting so quickly. I thought the conversations were basing around July, so I thought we had an opportunity to discuss this at the upcoming bimonthly meeting next week.
“We ended up being able to get some funds out of this fiscal year’s budget to help, and those have to be spent by the end of June,” Mosher explained.
“Yes, we are proceeding with paving the road as we had discussed previously. We have been trying to keep up with addressing potholes, but since we were planning on postponing/delaying other projects to help with the investment for a potential exchange, we decided to keep that plan regardless if the road is transferred [to Corrales] or not.
“In discussions with others involved in past projects in the area, the last time this project received this kind of maintenance treatment was over 20 years ago, which shows the life cycle of the roadway and overall condition that if the Village decides to proceed with transfer they would be receiving a maintained asset. As we discussed previously, there are many other benefits to a transfer, not just getting new pavement. I hope we can discuss more in the future since I was able to hear some of the concerns from the council.”
That email from Mosher to Roake apparently was triggered by an email from Corrales PZA Stout to Village Administrator Ron Curry at 1:02 p.m. Thursday, May, 13, headed “ Subject: Paving of Corrales Road
“I was just approached by a paving company hired by NMDOT to pave the entirety of Corrales Road. (They are wanting to park the equipment overnights and need to find a suitable place.)
“They will begin work at Alameda and move north, they said, and have Corrales Road down to one lane. Work begins May 24th and will last two months.
“In case you weren’t aware…”
The start date was revised to June 2.
Ongoing discussion about the possibility that the Village would take over Corrales Road and transform it into a municipal street intensified earlier this year. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXX No.4 April 10, 2021 “Take-Over of Corrales Road Presented at April 20 Council” and No.5 April 24 “Possible Take-Over of Corrales Road Unresolved.”)
For decades, Corrales Road was an unpaved dirt or gravel road that connected Corrales to Albuquerque, a typical farm-to-market route.
It finally became what is now State Highway 448 largely by prescriptive easement and was paved in 1946. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXVI No.3 April 8, 2017 “After 71 Years, Time to Re-Build Corrales Road.”)
Over more than a decade, NMDOT has urged the Village to take responsibility for Corrales Road on the grounds that it doesn’t really fit within the state highway system any longer. Each time the matter has come up, Village officials have resisted for a variety of reasons.
One of those is the high cost of maintaining the road. So in preliminary talks, Village officials insisted that NMDOT would have to transfer ownership only after the road was throughly updated and improved.
(See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXIX No.17 November 21, 2020 “Finally Time Now To Take Over Corrales Road?”)
For years, the prospect was clouded by NMDOT’s uncertainty over what it actually owned along Corrales Road. For decades, highway officials had said the department generally did not claim any right-of-way in Corrales beyond the edge of the pavement. That might have been true for much of the distance, since it was basically a common-use route which at some point the highway department agreed to pave and maintain —without formally acquiring right-of-way.
Finally about ten years ago, NMDOT contracted for a definitive property line survey along the entire length of Corrales Road and concluded that it did, indeed, own varying widths of road shoulder along most of it.