The Sandoval Signpost

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letters, opinions, editorials

Leaving Placitas

New signage in Placitas blends history with modern reality.
Welcome to Placitas signs further down the road officially bestow the coveted name upon new development that starts at I-25 and Highway 165.

re: welcome back to Placitas

I suppose that by now many of you have noticed that folks are once again welcomed to Placitas when they enter our community. Although I suspect that my previous letter to the Signpost had little to do with it, I nevertheless want to express my appreciation (and that of my neighbors in the greater Placitas community) for this act of good governance. In case you haven't noticed, as of January 29, 2007, when folks take Exit 242 and head uphill, they are quickly greeted by a green and white highway sign that says; "Welcome To Placitas." Also, a short distance beyond that is a brown and white sign that says; Historic Village of Placitas 6 (as in miles). On the other side of NM165, just opposite the welcome sign, is another sign which says: Leaving Placitas.

I have been told (but have not visually verified) that additional brown-and-white, historic-type signs have been installed at and near the Village which recognize the Las Huertas Grant and the historic Village of Placitas.

It is heartening to know that Mr. Tony Abbo and other leaders in the New Mexico Department of Transportation and elsewhere in government, recognize the value of having a united community, rather than one which is divided against itself for no good reason. It is especially pleasing that official recognition has been given to the Las Huertas Land Grant and the historic Village of Placitas.

—FLOYD COTTON, (Happy to be back in Placitas)

re: Signpost Web site easy to use

Just wanted to let you know that your Sandoval Signpost on-line Web site is really well designed and easy to use. It is actually better than some of the large dailies.


re: good coverage

Thank you for the delightful and informative features "Traveling back along El Camino Real" and "The story behind the carreta," by Gary Williams, in last month's Signpost. It is refreshing to have these wonderful historic sites shared with the public. I am deeply grateful for the coverage.

Best wishes,

re: Flying Star lands in Bernalillo

When we moved to Placitas, years before Rio Rancho wrapped around Bernalillo and butted up against Santa Ana, one of the first things which influenced our decision was the abiding sense of place. Sandoval County seemed an honest place, where the labor of generations was clear to see. A place where the resulting blend of time-honored traditions still meant something to the residents. The residents were proud people, especially in the county seat, the City of Coronado. They had many reasons to feel proud of all they had achieved, but to my mind, more for what they had retained.

In those days, the nearest grocery shopping—any shopping, to be honest—was in Bernalillo. We would weigh the small cost savings to be realized if we traveled up Tramway to Smith’s, or down Fourth to Hacienda (if we needed hardware), against the well-worn familiarity of Camino del Pueblo. Most times, Bernalillo won, hands down. We gradually became comfortable with being recognized as newcomers, and found that if you couldn’t get it at TaGrMo, to paraphrase the writer John Nichols, you probably didn’t need it. It began to feel like home at last.

In the past issue of this paper [January 2007 Signpost], the continuing and, evidently, the deciding trend for commercial development in Bernalillo alongside the Historic District made the first page. I was shocked to see the artist’s rendering of the new Flying Star development. I realize that I may be old-fashioned in my views—I actually enjoyed watching horses and mule-eared cactus raised upon the land where the development will now grow, so it was with some sadness that I recognized the inevitable, growth, was coming to Camino del Pueblo. But what I can’t understand is what happened to the pride of the old families in their community and traditions? It is certainly not evident in the decision made by the council to approve the application’s architecture as it was presented.

Now I’m pretty familiar with the loss of local architectural style. Placitas is full of the encroachment of the California and Texas-driven development featuring "Med-Mex" or "Tuscan" design. It seems to matter less here that we are neither in northern Italy or south of Monterrey. Since our area has little history of architecture beyond the few surviving examples in Placitas Village, it seems that it’s "every builder for himself" when it comes to design. I’m also familiar with how urban-inspired architectural sprawl has decimated the northeastern United States—its native Yankee architecture mostly something seen in history books, its variety and color replaced by strip-mall similarity. It just makes me sad that it could happen here.

The artist’s architectural rendering exhibits the same hard-edged, post-industrial design which has gradually made most cities appear identical throughout the country. There is very little evidence of the more than four centuries of colonial Spanish influence, even less of the older, traditional Pueblo influence in the choice of architectural design. The design is more reminiscent of loft development in parts of lower Manhattan and on the Brooklyn waterfront than it is of the pride in the home of generations of New Mexicans.

I do understand that improved services are part of the result of the opportunity that comes with a bigger population and increased traffic. I admit that I appreciate being able to choose from a larger number of restaurants and retail stores. However, the increasingly congested traffic which was sold to Bernalillo by the developers of the 550 corridor as added opportunity, has resulted in actually less business for Camino del Pueblo businesses. While the corridor exhibits the chain-store architecture seen everywhere you travel these days, I was sure that the Bernalillo community would at the very least protect its historic downtown from losing its sense of place. I guess traffic and sprawl won.

Traffic congestion is bad enough, but the loss of the sense of place will be hastened by constructing this decidedly urban, contemporary architecture on Camino del Pueblo. It is almost as if the town council is anxious to hasten the day when Bernalillo will be just another suburb of glittering, fast-paced Rio Rancho, its traditions and pride exchanged for sparkling glass storefronts. Instead of having the foresight to protect the architectural style of the place they represent, their decision to rush to allow whatever architecture is suggested will make the concept of preservation a travesty. Surely the Historic Route 66 signs along Camino del Pueblo mean more than just a proliferation of dealers in antiques. Where is the neighborhood, residential and business alike, that has defined the feeling of this community for hundreds of years?

It was clear that the plan’s Albuquerque architect chose to draw the conclusion from the architecture of Taos Pueblo, the Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe, and the old barn in El Zócalo, that solely by establishing variation of height of various structures would his design be in keeping with the nature of Camino del Pueblo architecture. I disagree strongly. It is true that the rooflines of New Mexican village architecture, whether residential, commercial, or public, vary widely. But in each of the above examples, the primary feeling exuded by traditional construction is that these buildings were built by hand—the hands of the people who were to use them. They were designed based on the need—form to follow the function to which they were erected, not to present some imposed view of urban style. Their use of traditional materials, based upon the collective wisdom of folks who actually lived here, as opposed to a combination of superficial schools of style, created Bernalillo’s appearance, even in the later arriving public buildings. It seems odd, then, that little effort has been made in this design to mirror the previously clear governmental commitment to local architectural style, considering the amount of visual impact it will have on the neighborhood into which it will be inserted.

Violating the natural, visible expression of community established through generations of proud New Mexicans by inserting an example of neo-urban sensibility is more than sad. It negates the hard work of generations of proud Bernalillo hands. It destroys the physical sense of place that is the expression of this pride, and in time, will reduce that pride to a memory—maybe a plaque on some neo-stuccoed, angular surface that someday will mention that once the Historic City of Coronado stood here. Can you believe it? It used to have its own traditions and values? What a quaint old notion!

I suggest that elected officials need to do a better job of considering what might be gained in the short term against what will be lost when they consider development. They should work hard to find creative ways of achieving both, as a gift to the future generations. It is possible. Santa Fe, for all its faults, had the vision to at least protect its homegrown architecture. Bernalillo could do the same.


re: Rio Rancho’s ill-advised growth

Kudos to Santa Ana Pueblo for speaking out (January 2007 Signpost) against Rio Rancho’s “solution” to traffic congestion on Highway 550. They grasp that Rio Rancho thinks everyone should subsidize its ill-advised growth. However, we must also acknowledge national policies fueling growth in a nation swept by a population tsunami.

If one visits the Rio Rancho planning office, a plat reflecting the City of Vision’s hope to sprawl nearly to Grants hangs on the wall—not a planning tool, as it should be, but something to which Rio Rancho leaders have become enslaved.

They ask us to subsidize that plan in poorly designed and poorly built streets that wash out when it rains. They, and most state leaders, ask us to subsidize growth via low wages in labor markets flooded by workers brought by too much growth. We are supposed to conserve water—not to solve the problem, but to free up water for more growth.

They ask us to subsidize growth through rapidly diminishing air quality in a state once famous for startling vistas. The metro area gains its own version of Denver’s infamous “brown cloud,” while traffic “solutions”—like that proposed for 550—are only stopgap, as leaders encourage more thousands to move here to create new gridlock problems.

But growth must be viewed in national context. In my youth, the United States was something like the thirty-fifth or thirty-seventh most populated nation; it is now the third most populated, behind only China and India, as we become one of only three nations with over three hundred million! In 1906, India reached three hundred million; in 2006 we reached three hundred million, and, like India, if the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the national media, and other business leaders have their way, we will reach one billion later this century, mostly through legal and illegal immigration meant to keep labor cheap, plentiful, and tax-subsidized.

We must do more than demand that Rio Rancho rein in growth. We must demand that local, state, and national leaders rein in out-of-control immigration and the unfettered growth it fuels, directly and indirectly, including a New Mexico growth rate of 2 to 3 percent a year, or population doubling times as slowly as every twenty-three years.


Ed. note: Kathleene Parker serves on the Board of Advisors for Washington, D.C.-based Population-Environment Balance.

re: who killed Carla?

Dear Placitas Community,
Please help!
My husband and I have tried very hard to maintain the signs we make in regard to the murder of my best friend, Carla Salinas Simmons. On January 13, we replaced four signs, as they were tattered by the elements. On January 25, while driving home, I noticed our sign at the cemetery near the old post office had been removed. I understand the signs are not easy to view, due to the references to murder, but Carla’s killer is still among us, and it’s necessary to remind people of this.

If the sign was to your disliking, we would gladly place it elsewhere. We have had a sign there since Carla’s murder, and there’s been no problem until now. Emotionally speaking, I would like to feel it was someone who disliked the sign at that location; instead it grows deep in my heart that her killer took the sign as a trophy.

We have sought and received the help of our community, and we appreciate the majority of the people here who understand that we need to continue to do so. If you removed the sign due to dislike, you can put it under the sign at the Placitas Mini Mart with no questions asked.

Remember, the only way to catch a killer is to keep the public informed. We try to maintain the signs and this is money out of our pockets, but to me, My Best Friend Carla is well worth my time and money. Please help me find who killed Carla.


re: give credit where credit is due

If the first storm was practice for the second, the road crews got it right. In Placitas—Ranchos de Placitas in particular—road clearing and sanding after the practice storm before Christmas was tentative at best.

Practice paid off, though. After an unprecedented drop of close to twenty inches of snow (global warming, you think?), the crews did a very good job of clearing the roads in a timely manner.

We’re always quick to complain, but I think we should give credit where due ... plus there will probably be more storms.


re: county doesn’t maintain developer’s dirt roads

Hubby and I moved from Oregon to New Mexico back in 1995. We were warned to look out for shady real-estate deals, and we did get taken in a variety of ways. However, that’s really not the point of my writing.

I’d like to make a point about road maintenance in Sandoval County. During this last snowstorm I learned that developers cannot donate their dirt roads to the county and thus have them be maintained by the county. When a prospective home buyer looks at a property on a private dirt road, they consider that they will have to grade it from time to time, but they really don’t think about what will happen if the road is washed out or snowed in. I think we all know that happened to quite a few roads this year.

We were snowed in last week for a whole week. I pleaded with the county to come grade our half-mile of private road, but to no avail. They actually did promise to do it, but they failed to show up. (Gee, what a surprise!) They were obviously just telling me what I wanted to hear, with no intention of doing it. The only way we got out of our home at all was Hubby borrowed a neighbor’s snowblower, and he drove it up and down the drive four times. Now that’s a full two miles of blowing snow on a steep and rocky road. Needless to say, he was exhausted. We would still be stuck there if he had not done it.

It began to slowly dawn on me that the county road department has a pretty sweet deal going here. Developers are putting in tons of new houses on dirt roads. I can only presume that they are private roads, as the county won’t take a dirt road. So, the tax base just grows and grows, but the county washes its hands of the road maintenance for all those new taxpayers.

What’s wrong with this picture? Sandoval County will become awash in dirt roads, and the road department will just be getting richer and richer.

In Oregon, a developer is required to install paved roads, curbs, fire hydrants, and sewers, so new residents will have a civilized (and public-maintained) environment. Maybe it’s time for Sandoval County to start stemming the tide of developments that don’t have the necessary infrastructure? That starts at the point of origin: the issuing of building permits.

—SUSAN LUCAS, Placitas

re: Christmas Chia

Dear Friends Back East,
Thank you for your kind Christmas remembrances. Each of you has again blessed me with a new supply of unique Chia Pets to water and display. These little clay figurines, with seeds embedded in their surface, waiting to produce herbal foliage when watered, always amaze me. I hadn’t realized that these wonderful collectibles now come in the form of historical figures as well as human body parts. Wow! Thanks!

I am anxious to see my new Lady Godiva Chia Pet begin to bloom lifelike and am enjoying watering her. My new John Wilkes Booth Chia Pet also looks promising, as do Lizzie Borden and Aaron Burr. Thanks for this wonderful selection.
In the human-anatomy Chia Pet assortment, I am particularly taken with the nose-and-nostrils figurine and expect it will, when in bloom, produce a striking display likely reminiscent of my grandfather. While I’ll not display the lower-abdomen Chia Pets too publicly, I expect they will dazzle some visitors. There is also a figurine that is not labeled but resembles the wonderful campanile on the University of Kansas campus. I shall treasure it.

I respectfully ask, however, that you refrain from sending me anymore Chia Pets, as my Placitas neighbors have tracked the rapidly lowering water table to my large collection and its attendant demands for care. Inexpensive vodka is, of course, always welcome.

I hope you like the CDs I sent each of you. I know that recordings of musical belching are somewhat unusual and not for everybody, but give them a close listen. The Moscow Rhythmical Belching Society Does Broadway CD contains a terrific version of “Old Man River,” if you haven’t already discovered it. Same with “Oklahoma” and “Some Enchanted Evening”.

You probably wonder why I sent you the Traffic Noises of Eastern Cities CD. Obviously, you’d not play it often while at home in your metropolitan areas, but when you take your trips to national parks or drive into rural New England or upstate New York, this CD will make you feel at home and ease boredom. I absolutely loved the Hackensack traffic sounds. The large numbers of small cars with their tenor-sax-like horns harmonize beautifully with police sirens and the deep rumbling sounds of huge trucks. Baltimore’s sounds are also entertaining, with frequent small-arms fire in the background. Each of your cities is featured. Enjoy! And your Valentine gifts are in the mail!


re: proposed ban on cockfighting

“You start doing away with cockfighting, then they’re going to start doing away with rodeos … and then they’re going to start doing away with hunting and fishing.”


Let Representative McCoy hear from Placitas

As the legislative session gets geared up this winter, there have been some capital outlay requests made to Placitas’s Representative Kathy McCoy. Several area residents have been working on a multi-generational recreation and community center that can provide children’s programs, distance education, and public-meeting space, as well as a variety of active senior services. It is important that Placitans communicate with McCoy if they support this project. McCoy can be reached at the legislature, at (505) 986-4214, or by e-mail, at

Groundwork for this project was started in 2005, when Sandoval County Commissioner Bill Sapien sponsored a comprehensive survey of property owners in the Placitas area with a variety of questions relating to services Sandoval County does not typically provide. Commissioner Sapien had been hearing from many constituents and took action to document the community’s wishes. The Placitas Property Survey results are available at (On the main page, scroll down to the bottom.)

Additional requests for the Placitas area include a complement to the Placitas Elementary School fire-suppression system by installing a water tank to supply adequate pressure for the system being installed. CME, Inc., of Albuquerque, has estimated the design and installation of a fire-protection water tank and fire pump to be $250,000.

Another capital request is to facilitate an organic-food program supported by the USDA, and locally by Hub RC&D, to bring fresh organic food to children. The request will provide for a space to house the program with a food-preparation area, training chef’s office, a procurement officer, and a life-skills cooking classroom. These spaces will allow the organic-food program to integrate into the daily lives of all children in the district. The supported organic program request is for $200,000.

There has also been a capital request for upgrading the playground, especially the playing field, incorporating water harvesting and erosion control measures around the entire school site. Yet another request is for assistance to the Village Academy Charter School to purchase portable buildings; since the school is currently located in a rented facility, the portables would allow the school to operate in its own space.

Group arrested at Lee’s Ferry

Five members of a non-commercial river trip were arrested at Lee’s Ferry, Arizona, on Saturday, January 27, 2007, for possession of controlled substances. The five were part of a group of 14 preparing to launch a 30-day trip rafting through Grand Canyon.

The group was breaking down their camp and awaiting final trip orientation when they were approached by a National Park Ranger at the arrival of Coconino County Sheriff and Arizona Department of Public Safety officers.

The law enforcement personnel subsequently arrested the five following a search of the group’s tents and watercraft with a drug-sniffing dog based on a citizen’s tip of drug use. The dog detected a small amount of drugs. According to one of the trip participants, 3 ounces of marijuana were seized.

The five people were then taken into custody and appeared before a Page, Arizona, judge in separate hearings. It was determined that misdemeanor charges would be brought in all cases and they were released on their own recognizance pending a future court date.

Since National Park Service policy allows any individual who has registered to call in and claim any available trip opening, a remaining member of the group, Mike Grijalva, immediately requested to claim the aborted trip launch. Mr. Grijalva registered to be considered for the lotteries held in the fall of 2006. He was advised by the National Park Ranger on duty that there were no available cancellation dates. The group then re-packed all their gear onto trailers, and returned to Flagstaff in an attempt to salvage the trip.

As of Monday, January 29, 2007, employees at the River Permits office at Grand Canyon National Park confirmed that there were indeed unclaimed river trips on Feb 1, 2 and 4, but Mr. Grijalva was informed by Park officials that none of the trip participants could claim any of the available dates, because of their association with the five individuals who were arrested and later released.

“It appears the Park overreacted,” notes Jo Johnson of River Runners for Wilderness “and is penalizing people who were not involved in any wrongdoing. Those folks have the same right to a permit as any one else, the launch is available, and they are ready to go. It is hard to see the Park’s justification for denying them a coveted opportunity to launch based on their association with individuals who may never be convicted of any crime.”




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