Sandoval Signpost


An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988

Not yet upgraded cellular equipment owned by T-Mobile and AT&T are in place next to Ranchos de Placitas’s water tank.

Mobile phone customers await T-Mobile improvements

—Bill Diven

Customers of T-Mobile hoping for better cell-phone connections will have to wait a while as issues over degraded service are worked out. T-Mobile has not responded to inquiries from the Signpost at the local or corporate level, nor to residents’ complaints, which began this summer. What is known is that the company’s plan to upgrade cell equipment attached to a water tank in Rancho de Placitas is currently caught up in the back-and-forth of negotiations.

In the meantime, one resident has filed a complaint with the Federal Communication Commission and another with the state Public Regulation Commission. In a September 5 response to the FCC, a T-Mobile official in Albuquerque said the company doesn’t guarantee coverage, that they were already working to enhance coverage in the area, and thanked the customer for his patience.

According to one report, T-Mobile was also using a tower in the Placitas village but then took the equipment out of service possibly with the hope that the new equipment three miles away in Ranchos would cover the area.

The hilltop Ranchos site is under control of the Ranchos de Placitas Sanitation District whose storage tank is painted dark green as are the several cells owned by T-Mobile and AT&T arrayed around its exterior.

“We have a lease agreement with them to use our water tank as you could call an antenna,” district board member Sam Wasson told the Signpost. “Our system is in the middle of a neighborhood, so there are some neighbors we have to consider… We don’t want it to be viewed as an industrial site in peoples’ backyards.”

The leases date to 1999. Neither Wasson nor John Appel, the district’s attorney, would discuss details of the negotiations, which Wasson said are in the early stages. Appel did say T-Mobile made a proposal and that the board requested additional information in a letter he mailed to the company on November 12.

Co-housing project still undecided; new subdivision Vistas Sandia’s preliminary plan approved

—Bill Diven

Developers of Placitas Sage Co-Housing got their long-awaited quorum but not a decision on whether the Sandoval County Planning and Zoning Commission thinks the controversial project is a good idea.

Instead, on October 26, the P&Z commissioners completed the public hearing begun in May, but stalled since then, and asked county planning staff to clarify several issues. The next P&Z meeting was set for November 30 after the deadline for the December Signpost.

One issue is whether the proposal to build 18 homes clustered as duplexes and triplexes plus a community building with kitchen, gallery, and meeting space on 6.2 acres in Placitas West qualifies for the rezoning being sought. The developers, mostly Placitas residents, are promoting co-housing as a way for over-55 people to downsize from large homes without leaving the community.

They applied for master-plan zoning as a mixed-use project allowing more dwellings per acre than the existing zoning. Opponents contend Sage is a straightforward residential project subject to conditional-use rules that limit dwelling density to the existing rural-residential/agricultural zone, in this case one home on a minimum of one acre.

Placitas West, also known as Placitas Small Tracts, is in southwestern Placitas and was platted decades ago as five-acre lots.

The planning staff in its report, which recommends approval of the project, states Sage qualifies as mixed use since the community building is not residential.

Opponents also invoked a state Supreme Court decision that stopped the city of Albuquerque from changing the underlying zoning in a 1973 rezoning case. P&Z commissioners asked County Attorney Natalia Sanchez Downey to research the case and report on whether it applies to the Sage application.

The P&Z Commission can recommend approval or denial of the project to the Sandoval County Commission, which has the final say pending a court challenge. Opponents have threatened to appeal to District Court if the project is approved.

Turnover among P&Z commissioners helped to stall the Sage application as one member died and two more resigned for jobs or for other personal reasons. Another commissioner, a Placitas homebuilder, is involved in the project and withdrew from the case due to the conflict of interest.

Three new commissioners including Bobby Greene of Rio Rancho, appointed on November 3, have filled the vacancies, leaving the seven-person board still short one member.

In an unrelated action, last month the county commission approved the preliminary plan developers of the 11-acre Vistas Sandia subdivision need to move onto its final platting and approval. The project located in northeastern Placitas near Camino de las Huertas and Palomino Road involves 11 homes, a through street, and one cul-de-sac on 11 acres.

The through street—Camino de la Questa Aire—was a point of contention for neighbors who thought that it appeared to be a cul-de-sac blocking the main access to their homes and for emergency services. Planning Director Mike Springfield told commissioners the road has no dedicated or court-ordered easement, so residents have, in effect, been trespassing when they drive through the property.

Jim Strozier of Consensus Planning representing the developer said that even if the road remains shaped like a cul-de-sac in the final plat, there will be no curb denying access to homes to the west.

“We’ll go out and figure out the right way to do it,” Strozier said. “My client has been willing to grant an easement. What this plat does is it actually fixes the issue… Putting a curb at end would be disingenuous on our part. I promise you we won’t do that.”

New jobs coming to Peña Blanca

—Ernie Watson, New Mexico State Office of Rural Development

USDA Rural Development State Director Terry Brunner traveled to Peña Blanca, New Mexico, to present a certificate of obligation to help fund the creation of a restaurant and gift shop in that small northern New Mexico town.

During the presentation, Brunner said, "This announcement is an exciting development for the people of Peña Blanca… The planned restaurant and shop will provide a community gathering place, an attraction for tourists, and much-needed job opportunities for women hoping to lift themselves up and out of substance abuse.”

The funding is being made by USDA Rural Development’s Rural Business Development Grant (RBDG) to Interfaith Leap an organization dedicated to the creation of economic development opportunities in Peña Blanca. This will be done when a new restaurant and gift shop/art gallery is opened in a remodeled historic building in the middle of Peña Blanca.

The $48,000 grant provided by USDA Rural Development will be used to purchase property to be used as a parking lot next to the building that will be the home to the new restaurant and gift shop.

The funding to purchase and remodel the building that will be house the restaurant and gift shop is being made by various other organizations including the state of New Mexico, the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, the Catholic Foundation, and Home Depot.

When in operation, the two businesses will create twelve full- and part-time jobs. The restaurant will hire its employees from a drug-and-alcohol residential treatment facility for women located in Peña Blanca. The intent is to give the employees real-time experience that will benefit them once their rehabilitation program is completed.

The two businesses are expected to open in the beginning of 2017.

President Obama’s plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities

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