Sandoval Signpost


An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988

Placitas bank to close in February

Signpost Staff

Customers of the only bank in Placitas will soon have to do their banking online or in Bernalillo.

In mid-November, U.S. Bank notified customers that its branch in the Homestead Village Shopping Plaza would be closing at 2:00 p.m. on February 24. The automatic teller machine outside The Merc has already disappeared since the remodeling of that part of the center.

The closure stems from ongoing reviews of the branch network, traffic patterns, and customer habits, according to the company.

"We determined that the demand for services at the Placitas location has changed, and have communicated to customers that our Placitas office will close," Jennifer Fredrick, a U.S. Bank Community Banking spokesperson, said in response to a query from the Signpost. "This was a difficult decision and one we take seriously… We understand that closing a branch can be inconvenient to customers who use that branch. We are working to make the transition as smooth as possible for all involved."

In addition to online banking and a mobile app, U.S. Bank maintains a branch with an ATM in Bernalillo on U.S. Highway 550 at Camino Don Tomas, plus 11 branches in Albuquerque and two in Rio Rancho.

Cohousing project pulls back to look for new site

—Bill Diven

After hours of public hearings and months of delay, the end came quickly for the proposed Placitas Sage Cohousing project.

On November 30, the Sandoval County Planning and Zoning Commission listened to brief staff and legal reports, plus a few minutes of comments from the Sage project's attorney. Commissioners then voted 3-1 to recommend a requested zone change be denied by the Sandoval County Commission.

The proposed master-plan zoning would have allowed a community building and 18 modest residences divided among duplexes and triplexes to be built on six acres in Placitas West. The area, bounded by Forest Lane and Ridge, currently contains separate parcels zoned for single-family homes on large lots.

The zone-change process began with a partial public hearing in May. It then stalled over lack of a quorum on the zoning panel caused by a death, two resignations, absences, and one commissioner, a homebuilder, recusing himself because he's working with Placitas Sage.

Among the developers were older Placitas residents and owners of the properties intending to downsize from their current homes without leaving the community. Leaders of the effort withdrew the zoning application in a December 12 letter to the county.

"We're looking for another site," Joyce Thompson, president of Placitas Sage Cohousing LLC, told the Signpost. "We're not going to stop building co-housing, just not in Placitas… We'll go somewhere where we're welcomed and valued."

The prospect of expending more time and money for a court fight if the project were approved weighed heavily in the decision to move on, Thompson said.

The project would be the first of its kind in Sandoval County. The Cohousing Association of the United States lists five already established in Santa Fe, Taos, and Albuquerque, with two in development in addition to Placitas Sage.

More than 160 such projects are finished or under construction across the country, according to the association.

Opponents in the neighborhood in southwestern Placitas argued that the project, while worthy by itself, wasn't appropriate for their area. With other land already zoned for such projects in Placitas, they also questioned whether having a community building qualified as “mixed use,” which is needed for master-plan zoning.

"It was a fairly unusual type of zoning to apply for," said Larry Kepley, a Placitas West resident who spent hours researching the zoning code and existing area plans before testifying against the project. "In the end that was the undoing of the application and the reason the Planning and Zoning Commission voted to recommend denial to the County Commission.

"It came down to: would it be good to have a condominium project in our little neighborhood?"

Rio Rancho Mayor Hull Show now airing

The latest episode of The Mayor Hull Show is now available—

Rio Rancho Mayor Gregg Hull interviews Connie Peterson, Director of Parks, Recreation, and Community Services, and Lynette Schurdevin, Director of Library and Information Services, about upcoming events and programs. The Mayor Hull Show can be seen at:

  • youtube:
  • City website:

Daily at 7:00 a.m., 5:30 p.m., and 9:30 p.m. on Rio Vision (government cable channel 56), which is available to Rio Rancho residents who are Cable One subscribers.

(l. to r.) Orville McCallister and Jon McCallister give the ‘thumbs up’ to their renovation project at Homestead Village in Placitas.
Photo credit: —Ty Belknap

The Merc gets a makeover

—Ty Belknap

Many shoppers have been mystified by the ongoing construction project that started last March at Homesteads Village shopping center in Placitas. Entire aisles of produce, dairy, and wine were moved around during the consolidation of the Merc. It hasn’t been easy for the staff or customers, but the grocery stayed open throughout the entire process. All twenty employees kept their jobs, while manager Jon McCallister added carpenter and cleanup crew to his job description. The Friday wine tasting continued without interruption.

Things are finally getting back to normal in December as the final steps of the project are completed. Jon said, “We kept 95 percent of the same inventory we had before in less than half the space. Customers are welcome to make suggestions about products they would like to see in the store. We expect the smaller size to be easier to operate. Most departments, particularly produce, will be fresher and more efficient.”

They still have a large pet section. The deli still makes soups, sandwiches, salsa, and guacamole. Fresh meats are still prepared on site. They have expanded wine, beer, and liquor sales. Coming soon are growler fills of local brews.

Orville McCallister said that it was ill-advised to build such a large grocery in the first place, when Homestead Village was built in 1994. “We had two thousand square feet of wasted space in the back that was unsuitable rental property. The Merc was bigger than needed. Thus the radical makeover.

The McCallisters said that construction would probably have been completed in half the time if they had temporarily closed the Merc, but they felt obligated to continue to provide groceries to the community and jobs for the staff.

There are now three new spaces available for rental as offices, retail stores, restaurants, or anything suitable for the shopping center—the largest space measures 1,867 square feet. Unfortunately, the unexpected announcement that U.S. Bank was closing its Placitas Branch added to vacant space at Homestead Village and leaves the community in February without so much as an ATM. The McCallisters are actively searching for a local credit union or small bank to occupy the space, which is well-equipped and conveniently located for a bank.

The Placitas Salon is also leaving. Mary Gray announced that because of family issues, she has chosen to close the business and move to Michigan at the end of December. Mary said, “I wanted to sell the business, but just didn’t have time. This is a great place for a hair salon and day spa, with all the plumbing in place for shampoo bowls and a shower. The McCallisters have been good landlords.”

Homestead Village is still home to the Diamond Tail Ranch sales office, Hoot Gallery, Placitas Computers, and two popular restaurants—Blade’s Bistro and Placitas Café. The renovation will soon provide the Placitas Café with another 550 square feet of much-needed kitchen and dining space.

The management remains confident that they’ll be able to fill the available rentals in the near future. Meanwhile they will concentrate on fulfilling the needs of the community at the Merc. For more information, stop by, or call 867-8661.

New jobs coming to Peña Blanca.  

—Ernie Watson

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 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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