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letters, opinions, editorials
re: legal boundaries of Placitas?
I just read the June 2008 Signpost concerning the commercial development
being proposed in the Placitas/Bernalillo area. I am a newcomer
to Placitas (I moved here in 2001), and I moved here for the rural
and non-city life, since I am retired. It now seems that maybe I
made a mistake, because a developer wants to build an unwanted and
unneeded shopping mall near our Placitas fire brigade, which would
only increase traffic and waste our precious and limited water supply.
This, in addition to the proposals by others that think 165 should
become a super highway, would destroy the pleasant drive to view
the Sandias on my way home.
When I moved here, I was informed that the city/township of Bernalillo
jurisdiction ended at I-25 and that anything east of I-25 was considered
Placitas. Now I keep reading about how the Bernalillo Town Council
keeps approving zoning changes about properties that are east of
I-25. Do you know, or do you know how I can find out, what the boundaries
are or what the legal jurisdiction is between Placitas and Bernalillo?
Thank you for any information you can provide.
—CAROLYN TUCKER, Placitas
[Ed. note: The unincorporated “Placitas area”
has no fixed boundaries. The Town of Bernalillo can annex land that
is contingent to its existing city limits. For information, contact
your Sandoval County Commissioner Orlando Lucero at 867-7500.]
re: why the zone change?
Greed—there is only one word to sum up why the zoning has
to be changed to S-U zoning. One word sums it up—greed, pure
and simple. Oh, and if I or anyone in my family wants to live in
a townhouse or condominium, we pledge to pick up and move to Albuquerque.
We moved to Placitas to see the stars, hear the silence, and avoid
the crowds. I think we need a Placitas Land Trust where we as citizens
here purchase and set aside land to use it as land and space—not
—KATHY JOHNSON, Placitas
re: urge Congress to extend the renewable energy tax
Solar Supporters! Your help is urgently needed in the final push
to extend renewable energy investment tax credits before they expire
in less than seven months.
In June, the U.S. Senate is set to discuss HR 6049, the Energy
Tax Extenders bill, which provides for the most important attributes
for renewable energy tax credits to be extended: solar installations,
wind farms, energy efficiency buildings, and other technologies.
Two solar items of note are that:
• The Commercial Solar Investment Tax Credit (Section 48)
would be extended to eight years (more than the six years previously
• Groups are working now to eliminate the $2,000 cap on residential
Let your members of Congress—both House and Senate—know
that you want support for domestic, renewable energy sources to
be a priority!
• Not extending solar credits is an enormous tax increase
that will cost American jobs.
• ASES reports that we can create up to forty million green-collar
jobs by 2030, but Congress must lead for this to happen.
• The eight-year extension of the Investment Tax Credit is
critical for utilities to get the financing necessary to keep pace
with rising demand for energy.
• The cap on the residential investment tax credit needs
to be removed to provide the incentives needed to properly stimulate
Congress needs to find a way to extend the renewable energy tax
credit to move us toward energy security and local green-collar
Please contact your leaders in Congress and let your voice be heard.
Find phone numbers for their district offices; then forward this
email to your colleagues, friends, and others who support solar
to urge them to do the same.
Thank you sincerely!
—BRAD COLLINS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, AMERICAN SOLAR ENERGY
re: the fiftieth cometh
Dear Friends Back East:
I enjoyed your report on your fiftieth high school class reunion
in Brooklyn, and share your joy that the number of stabbings was
greatly reduced this time and that none of them were mortal. As
you know, my own fiftieth reunion is this summer in Kansas and I’m
beginning to (uncharacteristically) suffer some apprehension.
I naturally want to be presentable to my former classmates and
their spouses, but am uncertain as to proper dress, including the
wearing of neckwear. The other day, while driving into Albuquerque,
I was pondering this question and muttered aloud, “I guess
I’ll need a tie.”
“We’re just going to Walgreen’s,” my wife
replied. “They don’t require ties there. At least not
in the laxative aisle. Not to worry.”
I calmly explained that I was referring to my upcoming class reunion,
adding the facts that all my ties are now fermented from lack of
use and have a sour odor. A capable distiller could produce fine
schnapps from my ties. I will need to purchase a new one if I decide
to include it in my reunion dress code.
My wife suggested that I wear a bolo tie or string tie now that
I’m a “…man of the West.”
I hastily pointed out that one doesn’t just wear a bolo or
string tie without proper qualifications. Can you imagine the likes
of me wearing one of those things? As far as I’m concerned,
they are analogous to Boy Scout merit badges in that one must earn
the right to wear such garb by virtue of accredited skill in horsemanship,
cowmanship, sheepmanship, goatmanship, and the like. For example,
I’d not feel comfortable wearing a bolo or string tie unless
I’d successfully completed, at a minimum, major academic work
in... say… American Ungulate Studies or a pre-approved Bovine
curriculum with a possible minor in Udders or Rustling. Such classroom
work could be supplanted and/or replaced by significant direct practical
experience with horses, cows, sheep, goats, etc. before the wearing
of bolo and string ties is socially permitted. I have similar opinions
regarding cowboy boots and hats.
So, I’ll doubtlessly purchase a conventional eastern style
tie, i.e. one with taupe and mauve regimental stripes.
I’ve also noticed an interesting phenomenon among old friends
who haven’t seen one another for many years: they immediately
recall their last memorable sightings as a first topic of conversation—for
better or worse.
For example, at my forty-fifth reunion, a classmate loudly greeted
me with, “Hey Herb! Great to see you. Say, did you ever finish
that third pitcher of beer you were struggling with down at the
Wagon Wheel back in ’58? Was that Coors or Pabst? You couldn’t
even make it to the john… how’d you ever make it home,
I just looked over my high school yearbook, reading all the handwritten
inscriptions. In doing so, I was reminded of many, many behaviors
I should never have exhibited and which I do not want discussed.
My most regrettable actions total fifty-two. (It would have been
fifty-three, but that incident involving the copperheads and stool
samples was largely an accident and not entirely my fault.) Anyway,
I dearly hope none of these items surface at this reunion, as my
wife and I want to enjoy the experience sans fisticuffs.
On a different note, it’s rather sad to realize that Be-Bop-A-Lula,
Tammy, Long Tall Sally, and a fully-awakened Little Susie now reside
so far in my past. But, on the other hand, I can now look forward
to Twilight Time and Mr. Sandman. And, in all likelihood, Great
Balls of Fire.
Thanks for writing.
—Your Friend, HERB, Placitas, New Mexico
A flood of confusion: FEMA, LOMAs, CRS, and my
Last week, the nation watched in morbid fascination as
the disaster video coverage of the flooding in Wisconsin Dells,
Wisconsin was aired repeatedly, on every major network news program.
A substantial shingled dream home, all three stories of it, had
gently eased itself into the swirling flood waters almost as if
it had decided to go for a swim, then slowly sank. We listened as
the family, who had lost everything, recounted how their community
had in previous years approached their local government and FEMA
(remember Katrina?) about getting flood insurance. Sadly, their
elected representatives and FEMA could not come to terms, so flood
insurance was unavailable for the entire community that had grown
around a river/lake shoreline.
The inequity of their situation was heightened for my family. Just
three weeks earlier, we had been notified by our mortgage bank that
our home and property, high in the Placitas foothills in semi-arid,
high-desert New Mexico, would be required to obtain FEMA flood insurance!
We were dumbstruck! Flood insurance in New Mexico? Surely someone
must have made a mistake!
After speaking to our mortgage bank’s representative, we
learned, as they understood it, that we (or a portion of our property,
at least) were in a federally-designated flood hazard zone, as indicated
on the FEMA Flood Management Map, and we would have until early
July to secure the appropriate flood insurance. The representative
also was only able to tell me that “it can be expensive—it
may be as much as your current homeowner’s insurance.”
She added that we would have to speak with our homeowner’s
insurance agency to determine cost. Since this has not been a banner
year financially for most of us, the news brought an additional
jolt of stress we didn’t need on our plate. I wondered how
this had happened, and how we would pay for this huge expense. I
was also convinced that there had to be a misreading or misconception
at the root of this, so armed with a blazing sense of injustice,
the motivation that only fear can provide, and a computer keyboard,
I began to research the situation, realizing that there must be
many other New Mexicans also facing this test.
The 2006 summer flooding along the Las Huertas Creek bed sprang
to mind, with its resulting road damage, and I wondered if that
had triggered this sudden panic among mortgage lenders. I also remembered
having read that the Rio Grande was known to have flooded the valley,
at times so severely that Isleta Pueblo would live up to its name
as an isolated island! A series of floods in the 1940s had destroyed
all the cottonwood bosques—wiped the banks clean, so to speak,
but remembering all the money poured into diversion canals, flood
gates, and levees, I reasoned the problem had been probably eliminated,
at least for Bernalillo County. Still, maybe floods—aside
from local flash flooding in thunderstorms and runoff from heavy
snowfalls—actually had happened in sunny New Mexico!
My first official stop was FEMA itself, via toll-free telephone.
In my anxious mental state, the agency already loomed as dark and
ominous as an approaching hurricane. The Federal Emergency Management
Administration is part of the Department of Homeland Security, with
all the cumbersome levels you can well imagine, so my approach was
tentative. After speaking with two time-constrained FEMA flood insurance
people and then two flood-mapping specialists, I began to understand
that, yes, there was a Sandoval County Federal Flood Zone Map, and,
yes, Placitas had sections that lay in fifty-year and one-hundred-year
rated flood hazard zones. Searching through a large-scale map of
Sandoval County available on the FEMA Map Center website, I discovered
that a tiny corner of our property—at the bottom of an arroyo,
of course, was in a “zone” of some kind. The FEMA reps
told me that it all boiled down to whether Placitas had a “CRS”
rating as to how hard we would be hit for flood insurance. I also
asked if anything could be done to remove a property from the hazard
zone, if it had been, say, added by mistake. They told me to get
a “LOMA” or a “LOMR” and send it to my mortgagor,
who may or may not choose to waive the insurance requirement—since
the decision as to whether they needed flood insurance on the property
was not made by FEMA—it was made by a special paid committee,
hired by the lender, and comprised of flood insurance specialists.
I asked who these specialists were, and if they could be spoken
to, and was told that they vary, but are usually from the insurance
In addition, I remembered we only had forty-five days to secure
the insurance, and whether or not we applied for the LOMA/Rs, we
had to prove the insurance had been obtained, or the bank would
secure its own—at a rate up to three times the cost, which
would be deducted from our escrow balance. Talk about having a large-caliber
put to our heads!
Now my mind was swimming! LOMAs and LOMRs! Banks being told whether
to require insurance by insiders from the insurance industry! It
felt like the weight of the mighty had fallen upon us. Later, as
I browsed the FEMA Map Service Center website (http://www.msc.fema.gov),
I figured out that what I needed was a “Letter of Map Amendment”
or a “Letter of Map Removal” for our property. The application
forms are easily downloaded as pdf files, with copious instructions
that vary depending upon whether the applicant is a single property
owner, a developer, or a local government. I could see that making
this application was not going to be a fast or an inexpensive process,
as I would need an official topographic survey map of my property,
and surveys don’t cost pocket change.
My earlier call to our insurance agent finally was returned and
I spoke to my agent, who had heard from some other Placitas residents,
and was generally supportive. Unfortunately, she had no idea what
the insurance would cost, and told me unequivocally that once it
was obtained, it could never be cancelled! I told her about the
LOMA/R application, and she reminded me that no matter what FEMA
might do, how its maps may be drawn or re-drawn, a bank would still
make their “independent” decision regarding coverage
anyway, despite any FEMA letters.
I tried to gather my resources, and sent a frantic email to the
governor’s office in the hopes of securing some help. The
next day, I woke up late, having ridden the stress roller coaster
all night long. When I got to work, I answered a call from Senator
Jeff Bingaman’s office in Albuquerque! The governor’s
office, having no jurisdiction in FEMA Flood Insurance matters,
had contacted them for me. A very able, helpful staffer tried to
answer my questions and suggested I speak to the office’s
specialist in FEMA matters, but he mentioned that I should also
speak to my local government development department, as they would
have the most up-to-date information regarding my community as far
as Flood Zone Mapping.
After having spent the better part of two days wading through the
bureaucracy, pedantic prose, and myriad jargon of federal websites
and voice-messaging systems, a simple call to my local government
official had escaped me. A quick call to Bernalillo and a transfer
to the Development Department put me in touch with Kelly Romero,
who cheerfully answered my concerns. Yes, in fact, after the flooding
last year, FEMA and Sandoval County had overseen the redrawing of
the FEMA Flood Maps and were engaged in creating the “CRS”
for our area. FEMA normally redraws maps every seven years or so,
and the local maps needed revision. In addition, there were development
plans in the works that would need to be in compliance with the
zones they may lie near or in. She didn’t think the local
CRS plan would be ready for some months, but gave me reason to be
She explained further that the Community Rating System implemented
by FEMA encourages the efforts made by participating communities
in mitigating the severity of flooding, when and if it happens.
Community expenditures, engineering, and programs are weighed in
along with area topography, resulting in a credit system of points—the
higher the score a community receives, the greater the discounts
on flood insurance rates. We discussed how the burden of obtaining
flood insurance could be difficult for many folks to bear, and that
she would undertake any procedure available to get the best deal
for the community. Ms. Romero, having also heard my fears about
permanent insurance that couldn’t be canceled, corrected my
insurance agent’s perception. A flood policy could indeed
be canceled, and in fact, FEMA has a specific procedure in place
to ensure a full refund of the unused portion of a policy remaining
as long as no claim has been processed during the period.
Finally, she mentioned that there were quite a few homes in the
Placitas area for which she had already begun a group application
to obtain LOMA/Rs! She would check to see if we qualified, and took
our lot information.
My insurance agent’s next call that luckily, our policy was
considered low-risk (I could have told them that!) and would cost
less than $400 made what had been a very bitter pill a lot easier
Through my little self-induced ordeal, I did learn that there are
lots of channels available for help. If you can tolerate the delay
of email responses, being left on hold, and translating the jargon-riddled
speech of many agency personnel, you can actually get what you need.
The information is out there. Just take a deep breath, roll up your
sleeves and use patience, patience, patience. Another tip: Don’t
be afraid to call upon your local and state governmental agencies.
It turned out that I was glad to find out I didn’t have to
“Fight City Hall,” and it felt good to still be on my
feet at the end of the day. As for my wallet, I’ve had truck
repairs easily hurt much worse, and I still have the opportunity
to get that LOMA!
The following are some suggested resources for others in a similar
• FEMA Map Center Website (secured, with a map reader to
research your property): https://hazards.fema.gov/femaportal/wps/portal
• FEMA Flood and Insurance Information: www.fema.gov/plan/prevent/fhm/hm_help.shtm
• FEMA Flood Insurance Premium Tables: www.floodsmart.gov
State of Bernalillo
Greetings from West Bernalillo. It’s been quiet around here
lately. Too quiet. Something is about to happen; I can just feel
The stillness is eerie. It’s like the calm at dawn as the
infantry girds for battle.
Silence. They still haven’t torn down that beautiful home
behind the Zócalo. Another sixteen (or thirty-two?) townhouses
squeezing their way into that subdivision called Campo Escondido.
Too bad the trees will have to come down, but they say we’ll
all be so much better off after the developers have made their money
and moved on.
The echoes of the two dozen concerned citizens protesting Escondido
have faded away, their arguments having fallen on three sets of
But now some good news: the Town Hall information window is apparently
available for local business advertising. The ground-breaking first
ad was a typewritten description of the wonders of the new Flying
Star restaurant. I imagine the other window on the left side of
the entrance will have to be used too when businesses around town
get their ads written up.
Also posted in the window is the agenda for the next P&Z Commission
meeting on June 10. For the first time in many years, the proper
fifteen-day notice required to inform citizens of a subdivision
pre-plat was attempted. But in what more and more seems to be the
norm for the P&Z office, this was also bungled.
They just can’t seem to get it right. The Subdivision Regulations
call for the subdivider to give notice of a public hearing in a
newspaper fifteen days prior to the meeting. Not only was the notice
inadequate, the agenda calling for action on the “Preliminary/Final
Plat—Campo Escondido” is also in violation. Why can’t
they get it through their heads that you can’t do a “pre”
and a “final” in the same meeting? See the Subdivision
Regulations online at http://www.townofbernalillo.org/pzords/S35C-106110310570.pdf.
Again, this is evidence of the continuing agendas of the P&Z
office to “interpret” our ordinances. They claim they
can interpret the regulations of Bernalillo any way they want. If
the Commission doesn’t like it, they’ll be bypassed,
and the issue will be decided by the Town Council. And we’ve
seen that movie already.
Our elected officials have gone along their merry way for too long,
voting for big city, high-density infill in this rural town that
wants to stay rural. Their policy is to enrich developers who subvert
our ordinances at the cost of blighting Bernalillo with poorly planned
Single-family-home subdivisions are not immune to P&Z office
ineptitude either. Look at how they have to park on sidewalks in
Cottonwood. And now there is a road into the Vineyard, but no way
How much longer do we have to put up with this type of development,
disregarding the long-term effects on Bernalillo? For as long as
we allow developers to pursue their never-ending quest to maximize
profits at the town’s expense. Or the easy answer I hear is,
“less than two years from now at election time.” But
what further damage will be done to our town in the meantime?
Take back Bernalillo. It is time for the people to convince the
Council—i.e. Torres III, Montoya, and Mayor Chávez—that
the best interests of the town are not to change it into something
unrecognizable. Development happens, but why can’t it be done
using our regulations and with planning resulting in well-designed
You can fight City Hall! Support Councilors and Commissioners who
care about preserving Bernalillo. And help convince the high-density
supporters that we don’t want to lose the rural feel in our
town. Attend the Council and Commission meetings and be involved.
The pressure is building. The contest of wills between the Commission
and the P&Z officer (with his developers) is worth watching.
Some issues to consider:
• Will the Commission enforce regulations or will the town
continue to be subjected to its interpretations of our ordinances?
• How do annexations of huge developments benefit Bernalillo?
• How much do they actually cost Bernalillo?
• Aren’t they just another form of sprawl, congesting
550 even more?
One last thought: Would the Town please install a decent PA system
in the Council Chambers? Not allowing people in the back to hear
is not part of keeping the public informed.
You can comment on this editorial by emailing email@example.com
or calling 867-3362.