The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988


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letters, opinions, editorials

re: one Placitas!

The so-called Placitas Area Planning Meeting on July 17 was a sham. The planner and whoever gave him his marching orders had already made a decision to split Placitas in two and to someday rename the area from Ranchos de Placitas all the way to I-25. And Diamond Tail will just be out there, somewhere? How do you feel about the prospect of living in the Planning Department’s nameless orphanage? Our property deeds say we live in Placitas, New Mexico. The arbitrary decision to bisect Placitas “for planning purposes” is bad. Never mind what extraterritorial interests the Town of Bernalillo might possibly have. Those can be a component of a unified plan for all of Placitas. None of us had prior notification that we would be disenfranchised in this way. It’s time for those who are affected and/or offended by this treatment to unite politically, regardless of national party affiliation, so that our interests will be fairly represented in county government. If it’s bad for one part of Placitas, it’s bad for all of Placitas.




re: blind copy your bulk emails!

I recently received a politically motivated email discrediting one of the presidential candidates who recently toured in the Middle East and Europe. The bogus content of the message is not what I am upset about. My name and email address appeared in the To: line of the message, along with dozens of other names to which the message was being forwarded. In the body of the message were lists of other names to which the message had previously been forwarded. I do not like having my private email address made available to every kook and political nut job in the world. I find this very offensive, in fact. So, I offer this advice: If you must forward a message to a large group of people who may not know one another, and with whom they may not wish to share their private email address, place the list of names in the BCC: address block in your email, so only the recipient’s name appears on each message. And if you must forward a much-forwarded message in which other recipients have been listed in the body of the email, take a moment to delete these names before you forward the message.



Planning for Placitas
The need to treat the Placitas area as a whole

Sandoval County planning authorities have expressed their intention to develop a Community Area Plan for Placitas. This planning exercise could be valuable for Placitas residents and for all Sandoval County, but unfortunately, it has started off on the wrong foot in one fundamental respect. The County’s long-range planner, Mr. Moises Gonzalez, wants to create a plan that covers only a certain portion, or subarea, of Placitas, not the Placitas area as a whole. This fractional approach, if implemented, would yield a subarea plan of dubious validity and limited usefulness, needlessly throwing away most of the potential benefit of the planning activity.

Other commentators on the proposed approach have already explained that certain attributes of the Placitas area argue strongly for a plan that covers the area as a whole—e.g., that Placitas is a community with a strong identity, recognized as a well-defined entity by multiple official bodies (the Census Bureau, Post Office, Sandoval public safety authorities, etc.), and endowed with numerous institutions that serve the entire area. The following remarks address a completely different set of reasons why Placitas needs to be treated as a single unit—namely, that certain physical, technical, and economic considerations make such treatment essential for producing a coherent, sound, defensible, and useful community plan.




Transportation is one of the key topics to be addressed by any community area plan. The Placitas area, extending from I-25 to Diamond Tail, is served by a single main highway, NM Highway 165. Development anywhere along this highway will affect traffic conditions, and hence the quality of transportation, facing residents all along its length. For example, more intensive development in the eastern section of Placitas would generate increased traffic flow (perhaps with attendant congestion, noise, accidents, etc.) in the western portion, and more intensive development in the western portion would affect the duration and convenience of trips to I-25 by residents of the eastern section. For this reason, it would be unreasonable to formulate a plan for development along any one portion of the Highway 165 corridor, or along any of its side roads, without taking into account implications for traffic along the entire corridor. Likewise, an assessment of requirements for, and costs of, road maintenance and traffic regulation in Placitas would be of little value if it did not cover the full road network. The usefulness of the transportation component of a Placitas plan would depend strongly, therefore, on the plan’s being framed to cover the Placitas area as a whole.




Another major component of a community development plan would be (presumably) an assessment of future needs, if any, for further retail and commercial development and the land use (including zoning) implications thereof. The key economic consideration in defining the appropriate area for retail/commercial planning is that separate subareas of Placitas, such as those delineated by Mr. Gonzales, do not correspond to separate markets for goods and services. To estimate needs for further retail/commercial development, it would be necessary to project the potential demand for locally provided goods and services generated by the whole Placitas area population. For example, to assess the economic viability of, say, additional retail outlets in or around Placitas Village, one would have to estimate prospective demand not just from households in that immediate subarea, but also from households in the western section of Placitas and in Diamond Tail. Such an analysis would have to examine the demographic and economic characteristics of households throughout the market area and then link those characteristics to purchasing behavior. An analysis limited to only a subpart of the market area could not generate the requisite information. This, then, is a second reason why only a plan encompassing the whole area could be expected to yield meaningful results.




Issues of water availability and water quality invariably come to the fore in any discussion of development in Placitas. Any change in the density or character of development, residential or nonresidential, that would increase water consumption has the potential to affect water supply not only in the immediate area of such development but throughout the Placitas corridor. The aquifers from which we extract our water do not start and stop at political boundaries, and certainly not at the arbitrary boundary between subareas shown on Mr. Gonzalez’s map. Drawing more water from wells on one side of the boundary will affect the yield from wells on the other side. Suppose, for example, that a development plan for the proposed eastern subarea were to include provisions for multiple-unit housing within the large, currently undeveloped tracts at and around the Placitas fire station and library site—that is, the Cashwell and Grevey-Lieberman properties. Obviously, the impact on water supply would not be confined to those tracts, or to the eastern planning subarea, but would also be felt in the neighboring subdivisions and water districts (most of which Mr. Gonzalez has chosen—perhaps a bit too cleverly—to exclude from the subarea containing the aforementioned properties). Given the physical realities, an assessment of water issues covering only a part of Placitas would not qualify as technically sound because it would neglect the wider impacts on water supply and the attendant costs of the development options under consideration. Thus, there is a third strong reason—the need to deal comprehensively with water issues—to produce a plan that covers the Placitas area as a whole.




Existing police, fire, and emergency medical services (EMS) for the Placitas area are designed, organized, and staffed to serve the area as a whole, and this will certainly remain true in the future. No one—certainly not the Sandoval County government—would contemplate establishing separate services for separate planning zones. The question thus arises of whether a plan covering just a fraction of Placitas territory can deal adequately with needs for, and means of, providing these vital services. There are two reasons why the answer is “no.” First, there are major economies of scale in the provision of these services. One cannot simply add up the resources that would be needed to serve each subarea separately to determine what is needed to serve the area as a whole. Second, consideration of the locational and land-use dimensions of service provision logically cannot be constrained by the boundaries of a subarea. For instance, if it were determined that additional or enlarged fire stations were needed to serve proposed new developments in the eastern subarea, it would not necessarily follow that such facilities should be located within that zone; the optimal location might be further to the west or along the road to Diamond Tail. But there would be no rational basis for selecting the best locations without enlarging the scope of planning to include all of Placitas. We have, therefore, yet another example of why a broad-area planning perspective makes more sense.

There are other elements of planning that also could be better addressed by covering all, rather than just part, of Placitas—for instance, planning for recreational, cultural, and social welfare services, for housing development, and for the location of any future public schools—but the foregoing discussion of four selected elements suffices to establish a general conclusion:

A planning exercise covering only the eastern subarea of Placitas would be unable to take adequate account of some basic factors fundamental to planning: underlying physical facts (as in the example of water supply), the capabilities and limitations of our public infrastructure (as in the example of highway transportation), the realities of the local market for goods and services (as in the example of retail/commercial development), and the logic underlying decisions about service provision (as in the example of public safety services). It is difficult to see how a planning strategy deficient in all these respects could yield a valid, useful, or even professionally respectable product. The way to make the planning process worthwhile and to achieve meaningful results is to recognize the Placitas area for what it is—a physically, geographically, and economically well-defined community that needs to be treated as whole.



re: “Drive 55” article

I’ve been getting questions on the “Drive 55” article last month [“Save money; save the planet—drive 55,” Signpost, July 2008]. Specifically, people don’t understand how you can get twenty pounds of carbon from a six-pound gallon of gasoline. Turns out, it has to do with the amount of carbon released to produce as well as burn that gallon of gas. The extra carbon is from fuel burned to drill for oil, fuel burned to ship the oil to a refiner, lots of carbon released at the refinery, more fuel burned to transport it to your local gas station, and finally, fuel you burn to go get it. So every gallon saved really does have a large carbon impact. Thanks for asking.

—LINDA HEATH, Placitas



re: in defense of Placitas’s history and future

In the past few months, three things have given me the will for defending the history and future of historic Placitas. Most of us in Placitas rely on the Signpost for all information, due to not having an incorporated town or a county board.

First I read “Around Town” in the May issue, where Vivian B. DeLara wrote “When and how the acequias of Las Placitas were constructed.” Acequias are the first form of government in New Mexico and I earn one water right each year in May when I help clean the ditches held since San Antonio de Las Huertas Land Grant took possession of a Spanish Land Grant in 1768. Vivian’s article touched my heart, since I have always had a passion for history and preservation.

The second thing that happened was that on July 16, I was asked by my land grant heir neighbor to defend our historic acequias from a development that is under appeal from the land grant which now can become a New Mexico Political Subdivision under state statute preserving New Mexico Land Grants. I testified in favor of this appeal before my many friends of Corrales before I sold myself out of Corrales ten years ago to live in Lincoln, New Mexico. See, I prefer to live in beautiful places that never change, and many Placitas folks feel that way, but we have to work very hard to assure that dream stays true. As I spoke to the Sandoval County Commission, I was wondering how many Placitas residents live in Placitas and, more importantly, how many P&Z board members live in Placitas. After all, the historic village of Placitas is the most important heritage site in all of Sandoval County, along with the oldest Sandia cave and the first American pueblos.

The third thing that happened that made my fingers do the walking was reading the Signpost July issue and coming upon “The Gauntlet” section where the question was, ‘why the zone change?’ Bernalillo is going through an incredible infill development to accommodate the greatest infrastructure project of all time in New Mexico—the Rail Runner. Kathy Johnson asked the question of S-U zoning, and her answer was greed, like in the movie “Wall Street.” I am like Kathy. Placitas has no business with town homes and condos. We should be able to walk out our driveways every night and see the black skies with stars.

The most important thought that triggered me was, “I think we need a Placitas Land Trust.” When I lived in Corrales for fourteen years, I considered the same idea to save the orchards, many of which are now gone. We have orchards in historic Placitas that can be saved if we have the will to make that change and make decisions before Sandoval County and the Town of Bernalillo do it for us. It can start with a Placitas Preservation Board appointed by the Sandoval County Commission. This has been successful for years in the City of Santa Fe and historic Lincoln where I was chairman and board member for eight years. The review process should start in Placitas where recommendations and decisions can be sent to the County with the assistance of Sandoval County Development Division and Legal Division. Now is the time to ask for this.

I ask the residents of Placitas if you have the will to help me establish a board of directors. With every resident as a member of the Placitas Heritage Trust, we could make an immediate difference, as I become the founding member of this Community-Based Land Conservation Non-greed Organization. Its mission will address public access to scenic lands and water, preservation, education, youth, recreational trails, farmland, and wildlife habitat through the trust of easements on private land, land owned by Placitas Land Trust, and conservation easements owned through leaving a lasting legacy naming the trust in your will.

I just returned from Quebec City, which was celebrating its 400th anniversary—the most beautiful and oldest city in North America (just behind Santa Fe, which will celebrate its 400th in 2009). Let’s take ownership of our historic Placitas by celebrating our heritage in our little slice of heaven surrounded and protected by Cibola Forest, BLM, and I-25.

—TT HAGAMAN, Placitas



State of Bernalillo
Annexing Placitas


Greetings from West Bernalillo!

More and more people are starting to catch on. This little problem in Bernalillo that yours truly has been ranting on and on about ain’t so little after all. A town government running amok down here in the valley can also affect the folks in Placitas—big time!

While we fight our battles against poorly designed developments that are clearly outside the law, our neighbors up the hill are having the war taken to them.

Our mayor isn’t satisfied with overdeveloping Bernalillo. This town just isn’t big enough to suit her agenda, so she looks to the east. State law allows the legal taking of territories up to three miles from town limits. Look at the dollar signs and the direction is obvious.

The fact that town government has trouble taking care of what we have today doesn’t inhibit her need for more and more.

Developer Tom Ashe presented his plans for Petroglyph Trails—located north and west of Placitas Trails—to the P&Z Commission in early June. It will feature a light industrial area (M-1), and some commercial (C-1) along I-25; to the east, different types of housing including high-density townhouses (R-2). The plan requires eventually giving the responsibility for maintenance of the public infrastructure, fire, police, ambulance, etc. to Bernalillo. Bad idea!

When Mr. Ashe and the Gudeljs let Bernalillo take over, we all lose—all of us except the ACC (the “Architectural Control Committee” to us peons). No, the ACC will do just fine. They have set themselves up to be the Petroglyph Trails’ version of Town Council and Planning and Zoning Commission rolled into one. They will rule the $350 million development and Bernalillo will just let them do it!

And how can this happen, you may wonder? Sorry, you’ll have to ask the good Mayor and her P&Z director why she needs to overdevelop Bernalillo.

But if you want to know what procedure employed by our elected officials facilitates this absence of good intentions toward our town and Placitas, it’s simple. They’ll use their old friend, Special Use (SU) zoning.

If you’re new to my rantings, using SU zoning takes the approval procedures in a development and gives them to the P&Z officer. In this case, he then gives administrative and planning and zoning control to his good buddies in the ACC.

The proper zoning technique would be to use the R-1, R-2, C-1, C-R, M-1, and the Bernalillo Subdivision Regulations. But then the ACC wouldn’t be able to do whatever they want. The SU gives them free reign!

Another surprise—among many waiting in the wings—is called One Placitas Center. The odds are pretty good that this business park—complete with bank, supermarket, restaurants, offices and retail, etc.—will also be zoned outside the law. Anytime a property is subdivided, it must follow Bernalillo Subdivision Regulations. Unless every business leases from the development owner—not likely—the land under them will be subdivided. The zoning? SU!

If the town annexes this area, located right below Piedra Lisa Dam, the resources of Bernalillo will once again be stretched. The extra congestion around the NM 550/I-25/NM 165 interchange will also add to commuters’ misery.

So, my friends, when Bernalillo gobbles up what they can of Placitas, remember this day—the day you were warned of the impending rape of your neighbors’ lands, and the day you could have taken action to fight for your rights.

For those of you who have the guts to join the battle, while there is still time, let’s get it on! The best way to fight this is in the courts. You’ve got to lawyer up and make a stand.

When a town government acts outside the law, look to the courts to defend the law. This is America!

TBB (Take Back Bernalillo) is for Placitans, too. We all want to keep the rural flavor. So, call them at 867-3362 or email Max at Maybe a bi-community meeting should be held to discuss the annexation problem?

This just in: Town staff has passed the news to some locals that the use of eminent domain is beginning in the Transit-oriented-development area. First on the chopping block is ex-Commissioner Sapien’s five-acre field in the Mountain View area of Bernalillo. This, after they promised an angry group of citizens that condemning property wouldn’t be done. Who is next?

The Signpost does not necessarily agree or take responsibility for the content of this editorial.


re: Las Huertas Creek RIP

Many Placitans who live along Las Huertas Creek have noticed that there has been no spring run-off this year, even though we had a good snowpack last winter. After some research, we found that all the surface water in the creek is being diverted at the north end of the National Forest. A call to the Forest Service office informed us that the Las Placitas Association had water rights to the creek and was behind the diversion, but members of the association say that the entire creek is now being used for irrigation in the village by the Las Huertas Ditch Association.

Additionally, there are a couple of individuals downstream from the seep springs north of the village who have nominated themselves ‘majordomos’ of long-defunct irrigation systems to capture all the water that flows from the springs. They have been digging new ditches on neighboring properties to take this last bit of the creek for their own uses.

It’s sad, but it seems that Las Huertas Creek is a creek no more, just another dry arroyo to carry rainwater down to the Rio Grande.

—A RESIDENT, Placitas


re: the sun

Last winter I spent three months house-sitting here in Placitas at the far end of Cedar Creek. The house was outfitted to produce electricity from the sun, with most of the solar panels on the roof. Because the owners knew they were going to need a long-term house-sitter, they ran power to the house and wired the place so that with the flip of a switch, I could step away from solar and get onto the PNM electrical grid.

Over three winter months, I was on the PNM grid for a grand total of two hours. I don’t believe that America’s best days are over. I do believe that almost all of our politicians have betrayed us.




Re: Placitas Area Planning

In the mid-1990s, Diamond Tail requested and Sandoval County agreed to modify the Placitas Area definition to exempt Diamond Tail from the more stringent Placitas Appendix of the Subdivision Ordinance.

I was disappointed during the recent July 17 Public Planning Session to see that the County again exempted Diamond Tail from Placitas Area planning. The rationale given this time was that Diamond Tail already has an approved “Master Plan”. This rationale/excuse is nonsense:

1. The so-called “Master Plan” addresses less than 10% of the Diamond Tail Ranch.

2. The County is allowing Diamond Tail to ignore the terms of the so-called “Master Plan”:

(a)The Phase II Subdivision, about to be approved by the County, is more than twice the size that the so-called “Master Plan” specifies (142 vs. 60 lots).

(b)The County has failed to have Diamond Tail revise the so-called “Master Plan” to exclude land they do not own.

Diamond Tail growth now, and even more in the future, imposes an impact upon the rest of the Placitas Area (schools, traffic, water, taxes, etc.). Unless the County can provide a good reason why Diamond Tail should be granted yet another special exemption from County planning, this cycle of Placitas Area planning should include Diamond Tail.

—BOB WESSELY, Placitas


re: Patrick Lives

Dear Friends Back East,

Thanks for inquiring about Patrick’s health following his multiple tooth extractions. I’m glad to report that this fine old Maine Coon cat and retired serial killer is progressing nicely. As we speak, he is laying in the middle of the bed, flat on his back, with his rear pantaloon-like legs extending up and outwards. Except for the snoring, he resembles an otter poised to smash open a clam shell on his belly.

I doubt that he is aware he has feline acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), which has reduced his ability to fight off infections (e.g., dental-related), and he continues to move gracefully forward in this particular life.

Patrick almost didn’t make it to this point, however. Last week, a day before his dental surgery and while loitering in his fenced-in patio, he suddenly embarked on a friendly approach towards a coyote he saw casually loping along outside the wire barrier. Trickster Coyote could scarcely believe his luck, i.e. a sizable, savory delicacy, albeit quite furry, approaching with large, yellow-eyed innocence just wanting to be friends. Perhaps he could entice this gastronomical miracle into touching noses through the wire fence. So Coyote stopped and waited, with a big, big smile on his handsome features.

Fortunately, I happened to look up from my bowl of generic Cheerios (with sliced bananas and a few blueberries, but no sugar) in time to fling open the patio door and intercede in this impending tragedy. Noting my heroic and life-saving presence, Trickster Coyote delayed an instant before retreating, flashing me a very toothy grin that said, “Now I know where he lives. Happy trails, bro.”

Later that afternoon, sipping a few fingers of uncommonly corrosive, but cheap vodka, I wondered if Patrick hadn’t intuitively become aware of his appointment with a dental surgeon and decided upon committing suicide-by-coyote rather than face the coming ordeal. But I came to realize that Patrick was just behaving the way he always had, i.e., seldom if ever fearing “dogs,” always considering the possibility he was one himself. For example, in his Rhode Island years, he became fast friends with two marvelous Golden Retrievers (Darby and Celli) who lived across the street. Patrick risked cars, trucks, and more motorcycles per square inch than any place on the planet, to cross the street and hang out with them. Occasionally, he joined them on their neighborhood walks, doggedly trotting along between them. He closely resembled his mates in color if not size. Patrick was, of course, forced to execute far more footfalls per minute than his canine friends and usually abandoned his physical commitment after a couple of blocks. He was also disgusted by all that stopping and sniffing by his companions of extraordinarily loathsome puddles and stuff en route.

As he sleeps, I wonder if he dreams of his previous lives. Perhaps he vaguely recalls his days as a Rhode Island vagrant before we encountered him that cold winter day. When we found him in the frozen garden behind our house, staring at the door, the area behind each ear was a red, gory mash from his futile attempts to dig out the tormenting mites that lived within. Clumps of dried blood decorated his chest fur. He was cold, filthy, and starving. His silent, determined wait outside our back door that frigid December morning seemed to indicate a final and forlorn hope and that his perseverance was at an end.

Now, years later in a beautiful land far away, he frequently sits with me as I read outside. Smelling of Friskies salmon dinner and purring with such force that his body jerks, he relaxes on an adjoining table. Occasionally, he looks up and provides me with a soft penetrating stare that seems to say, “Thanks for everything, Boss. For me, it’s all gravy the rest of the way.” Thanks for writing. Patrick sends his love.

Your Friend,

—HERB, Placitas



re: Signpost sale

Wowie, wowie, this is big news! Not even a hint of this in the last issue we received! Tell us more. Did you just get an offer you couldn’t refuse, or have you been contemplating selling for some time? Will Lalo still have a column? Will you still write some articles, or are you on the complete retirement track? I’m guessing you will be getting back to your art, among other things, and Ty will continue to pursue every outdoor sport known to man! By the way, I loved his “stay-cation” article [Signpost, July 2008].We’re finding more and more things to do locally and enjoying it, too. You don’t plan to leave Placitas, do you? Well, whatever your plans are, congratulations on the amazing job you have done over the years to take the Signpost from mimeographed sheets to what it is today—an informative and entertaining local newspaper. We love reading it, and we don’t even live there! I do hope the new owners will keep the quality up to the standards you developed over the years. It does sound like this couple has the right kind of young enthusiastic blood and the news experience to do a good job.




re: OHV use and “nature-based recreation”

I don’t know which is worse, being gerrymandered into Bernalillo or tom-thumbed by the Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF) Service Proposed Action for Managing Motorized Travel.

The day the proposal was released, I heard on KUNM radio that the SFNF proposal was expanding the Off-Highway Vehicles (OHV) trails in the Santa Fe Forest! The SFNF actually has only five miles of designated OHV trail in the entire forest! So any designation over five miles is expanding? Foul! This is deceptive! The Blackfeathers Trail Preservation Alliance submitted a Citizens’ Alternative to include the traditional user-created trail routes, all in the Jemez Mountains, that have been in use for thirty years. Within the Citizens’ Alternative was 510 miles of GPS single-track trails. The SFNF proposal allows only 140 miles of single-track trails! Expanded? Motorcycle trail riding requires many more miles of trail than hikers require. One hundred and forty miles of trail would be about three days riding… over and over again. Surely a smaller number of trails will result in the overuse that the SFNF claims they want to avoid!

After asking for and getting our input at many meetings all over the state, the SFNF ignored what we had to say. Several SFNF personnel admitted they never read our Citizens’ Alternative! We asked for loops like most national forests have designated, and what we got was a series of widely-disconnected single-track segments. The trail segments are connected by way too many miles of road segments which are generally boring. The recreational experience of single-track riding is essentially lost. The thirty-year existing trail network has evolved to meet the needs of the current riding community and is regularly ridden. A tremendous amount of volunteer work (one-hundred-plus man days, typically) goes into maintaining the trail network each year. All the trails requested are regularly maintained by volunteers. Many GPS trails were omitted from the proposal, which is not in the spirit of the process and is improper. We will protest all of the omitted trails and request that they be put in the proposal to be analyzed by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. That is how the Travel Management Rule is meant to be implemented. The scope of this proposal is very narrow and does not meet the intent of the Travel Management Rule. The intent of the Travel Management Rule is “revising regulations regarding travel management on National Forest System lands to clarify policy related to motor vehicle use, including the use of off-highway vehicles.” It is not intended to be a means to eliminate or even drastically reduce motorized recreation on National Forests.

The facts are that OHV use in New Mexico has been on the increase over the past twenty years and “nature-based recreation” has been declining at a rate of one percent a year (Pergams and Zaradic). I believe the SFNF is stuck in the past and does not recognize a “fundamental and pervasive shift” since the 1980s away from Thoreau’s “walk in the woods” to OHV use as a “nature-based recreation.”

Again, the scope of this proposal is far too narrow and needs to be widened to include the present-day users. New trails will be required to meet expected future expansion of the OHV community. If this proposal is implemented, it will result in a significant reduction in the trail riding community, which will in turn result in fewer visits to the SFNF, and have negative economic effects on the community.





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