County Development to begin Placitas
Sandoval County Development Division will begin a long-range development
planning process for the Placitas area in July or August. Planning
is scheduled to be completed in December. The plan will deal with
population growth, water issues, preservation of Placitas Village,
acequia issues, infrastructure improvement, open space, transportation,
subdivision, and proposed commercial amenities.
Community meetings will be scheduled and advertised when long-range
planner Moises Gonzales returns from sabbatical in late June. Gonzales
has been continuing his education at Harvard University.
Development Division Director Michael Springfield told the Signpost
that the new planning process is being done because all planning
issues in the area are met with contention. “We need new guidelines
for the permitting process so we can advise people how to develop
or not develop their property. It is being done to give residents
a sense of stability and give us some relief from the lawsuits and
In April, Springfield withdrew a request for approval of a resolution
to place a moratorium on land subdivisions and zone map amendments
in the eastern portion of the Placitas area. Springfield told the
Signpost that his division originally sought the moratorium because
of controversy over development of the area.
In May, the County Planning and Zoning Commission postponed a decision
on a master-planned, mixed-use 103-acre development in Placitas
until its December meeting, when the new plan is completed. Water
availability is an issue and would ultimately govern density and
build-out of the site.
The development faces intense opposition by Placitas residents,
who overflowed the Commission chambers at the May meeting. They
presented a petition containing close to four hundred signatures
and approximately forty-five letters in opposition to the rezoning
plan. Six heads of homeowners’ associations and communities
in the immediate area, and then a number of individuals, expressed
their views concerning the unsuitability of commercial and/or high-density
residential development at that particular location and the under-utilization
of present commercially-zoned property in the Village of Placitas
and especially in Homestead Village.
Placitas residents Bill Patterson and Denise Cherrington have filed
several lawsuits and appeals over the last two years. As a result,
the courts have ordered the county to revisit a subdivision plat
approval and to hear an appeal that was not handled properly.
Cherrington says, “They don’t need moratoriums or more
regulations. They just need to enforce the ones they already have.”
The initial phase of the planning process will focus on the Placitas
area east of the S-curves at mile marker three on NM 165 and extend
to all private property north to the BLM lands and south and east
to the National Forest. Land grant areas are exempt and the Diamond
Tail subdivision will not be affected because it is already a master-planned
Springfield said that major changes could result from the planning
process. After a plan is agreed upon, new zoning regulations will
govern future land-use issues, including subdivisions and commercial
development. He said that a recent similar process in Jemez Springs
resulted in the limiting of large new subdivisions and the expansion
of commercial zones.
Springfield also said that he hopes that residents with a variety
of ideas (not just those with anti-development agendas) will attend
the public meetings. “Some people might like to see more commercial
amenities—especially with the rising cost of fuel and crowded
He hopes that a consensus can be reached, but said that water supply
issues would heavily influence the final decisions. All pertinent
water studies, including the recent USGS well-level measurements,
would be considered by Interra Hydrology consultants.
A planning process for the Placitas area west of the S-curves is
being delayed until the Town of Bernalillo and county officials
complete discussions as part of the Joint Planning and Platting
Jurisdiction. Springfield said that Bernalillo Town Administrator
Stephen Jerge and Planning and Zoning director Kelly Moe have told
him that they want to be part of the process. The town is considering
the annexation of property near I-25, contingent with current town
limits. Springfield said that he doesn’t know why the town
is interested in Placitas-area zoning. Jerge did not return a Signpost
telephone call seeking clarification.
San Antonio Creek flows through 89,000 acres atop
a dormant volcano to make up the Valles Caldera National Preserve.
Valles Caldera National Preserve
a recreational gem in the Jemez Mountains
For the first two years after the federal government purchased
the eighty-nine-thousand-acre Valles Caldera National Preserve in
the year 2000, it was essentially closed to the general public.
Every year since then, the preserve has been increasing recreational
opportunities. Preserve Manager Dennis Trujillo says that the board
of directors is seeking ways to increase revenues that will meet
the federally-mandated goal of creating a self-sustaining preserve
Elk hunting and fishing continue to be the biggest money-makers,
but the preserve also offers turkey hunting, equestrian opportunities,
hiking, van tours, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, facility
rentals, and many special events.
This summer, Valles Caldera is open seven days a week for spontaneous
visitor activities. Just show up for no-fee hiking on Coyote Call
and Balle Grande trails (along Highway 4)—$5 per person unguided
hikes, $5 per person guided one-hour geology walks from the staging
area, $5 per person guided ranch history van tours at 2:00 p.m.
and 4:00 p.m.
There are also many visitor activities that require advance reservations,
including wildlife viewing van tours, unguided hiking on three scenic
trails, horseback riding (bring your own horse), mountain biking,
and fishing clinics. There are also many date-specific interpreted
programs dealing with archeology, history, botany, mycology (mushrooms),
arts, orienteering, and astronomy.
Hunting and fishing opportunities are available through a lottery
system. According to Preserve Manager Trujillo, the lottery is part
of the overall plan that focuses on offering an exclusive and high-quality
experience. Lottery winners are assigned a specific part of the
forest for elk and turkey hunts. Fishermen get exclusive access
to specific sections of the San Antonio Creek. In the near future,
the preserve plans to open the East Fork of the Jemez River to anglers
on an advance reservation basis. Specific parts of the river will
not be assigned and anglers will be permitted to hike for miles,
all the way to the headwaters.
Valles Caldera National Preserve is attracting visitors from all
over the world. With gas prices climbing over $4 per gallon, this
summer might be a good time to skip the trip to Yellowstone and
explore the natural wonders right here in Sandoval County.
For more information, call (505) 661-3333 or visit www.vallescaldera.gov.
For reservations, call (505) 382-5537.
Bernalillo passes flood control ordinance
On June 9, the Bernalillo Town Council adopted a federally-mandated
flood control ordinance. The legislature of the State of New Mexico
has delegated the responsibility of local governmental units to
adopt regulations designed to minimize flood losses.
The ordinance states that flood hazard areas of the Town of Bernalillo
are subject to periodic inundation, which results in loss of life
and property, health and safety hazards, disruption of commerce
and governmental services, and extraordinary public expenditures
for flood protection and relief, all of which adversely affect the
public health, safety, and general welfare. These flood losses are
created by the cumulative effect of obstructions in floodplains
which cause an increase in flood heights and velocities, and by
the occupancy of flood hazard areas by uses vulnerable to floods
and hazardous to other lands because they are inadequately elevated,
flood-proofed, or otherwise protected from flood damage.
The purpose of this ordinance is to promote the public health,
safety, and general welfare, and to minimize public and private
losses due to flood conditions in specific areas by provisions designed
1) Protect human life and health;
2) Minimize expenditure of public money for costly flood control
3) Minimize the need for rescue and relief efforts associated with
flooding and generally undertaken at the expense of the general
4) Minimize prolonged business interruptions;
5) Minimize damage to public facilities and utilities such as water
and gas mains, electric, telephone and sewer lines, streets, and
bridges located in floodplains;
6) Help maintain a stable tax base by providing for the sound use
and development of flood-prone areas in such a manner as to minimize
future flood blight areas; and
7) Ensure that potential buyers are notified that property is in
a flood area.
Mayor Chávez stated that this affects all property owners
within the map provided by FEMA. Because it affects the rates for
flood insurance, Councilor Jaramillo said that she could see the
premiums of homeowners in the Town of Bernalillo costing more.
Town Manager Stephen Jerge stated that Kelly Moe will be the official
administrator for flood management. Moe will need to attend classes
to be certified for the position.
George Perez, Town Attorney, stated that past administrations have
had similar ordinances. The federal government dictates to the state
rules that reduce the risk in case of flooding. The town does not
have the authority to determine what is or what is not a floodplain—FEMA
does that. Flood insurance is required if you are within the floodplain.
Perez stated that passing this ordinance given to the town by the
federal government will put the town in compliance with federal
Flood control will be under the management of the Eastern Sandoval
County Arroyo Flood Control Authority if it is approved by voters
in the November election.
Debbie Hays outside of her Corrales home
Longtime Sandoval County Manager Hays changes paths
She may be retiring, but Debbie Hays is not giving up.
No way. After seventeen years as Sandoval County Manager, it’s
hard to imagine Hays walking away from projects that have taken
nearly two decades to begin to bear fruit.
Once you witness her passion for certain ideas and visions, it
becomes clear how this energy has communicated itself to the whole
county administration during the two decades that Sandoval leapt
from a rural outpost to an engine of growth for the entire state.
When Hays, a former Albuquerque urban planner, went back to work
in 1991 after thirteen years of being a stay-at-home mom, Sandoval
County had a $13 million budget—it is now $97 million—and
the population was 63,000, a little more than half what it is today
in New Mexico’s fastest-growing county.
Through all those years of rapid development, Hays has sat in the
hot seat, the equivalent of a county CEO, the person who executes
policy and oversees operations. As such, she answers to a board—the
elected County Commission—and ends up taking heat from all
sides when things go wrong, the most recent example being Sandoval’s
ill-fated attempt to install wireless broadband countywide.
How has Hays managed to survive seventeen years in a job most people
lose in two or three, maintaining that trademark smile through acrimonious
controversies from the arrival of Intel Corporation to the stalled
Northwest Loop Road?
“I really don’t sweat the small stuff,” she says,
flashing the smile. It comes from having five kids—that teaches
you to be flexible. When she was hired by the commission, Hays’s
husband was just starting law school and her children ranged in
age from thirteen years to eighteen months.
Seriously, though, “my philosophy of life is you really have
to take things one at a time,” she said. “I’m
not a worrier. I don’t internalize. I don’t hold grudges
or feel you have to get even.
“I feel the best government comes from having a diversity
of opinion. I think it’s important to work collaboratively,
and there’s not a lot of room for ego—that perhaps has
served me well.”
Indeed, collaboration has been Hays’s calling card, and complex
partnerships involving multiple stakeholders mark the accomplishments
of which she is most proud. Among these, she lists the Sandoval
County Courthouse complex—La Plazuela—which eventually
will encompass not only the Health Commons and judicial complex,
but a senior living community and public transportation hub.
The county was able to acquire the fifty-six-acre parcel through
an unusual agreement between a private landowner, the Bureau of
Land Management, and the congressional delegation for a paltry $1.5
million; the land was assessed recently at nearly $40 million.
It’s not that putting up buildings matters to her, Hays noted.
“What is important is [that] it’s representative of
the success of government partnerships.” The deal made it
possible for the county to offer interconnected services in the
westward-growing heart of the urban community.
Another example is the Bernalillo Soccer Complex at Santa Ana,
the result of funding agreements involving five governing boards.
The bond to finance construction of the first phase was just paid
off, Hays said, adding, “I will be satisfied when there are
lots of multiethnic children in bronze in front—it needs to
be finished right.”
Her favorite project, though, is the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National
Monument, which she shepherded into creation in nine short months,
starting with a proposal to then-Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt
and signed by Bill Clinton as his last Executive Order in January
Tent Rocks was an ideal candidate for National Monument status,
Hays said, because it is a unique geological formation that already
was being managed in partnership between Cochiti pueblo, the BLM,
and the county—a win-win situation and “a wonderful
example of those entities that don’t usually work well together,
to be in partnership.
“That’s how government should work,” she added.
“It shouldn’t take years.”
The chance to see such projects through to completion is one reason
Hays prefers working behind the scenes to the glamour of elected
office. Indeed, she is known equally for her tenacity on large-scale
visions and her mastery of minutiae—the exact dates, dollars,
and documents that she is vexed these days at not having at her
Three things loom over Debbie Hays’s final months in office
that she is loath to let lapse, issues that have haunted her for
years and grow only more pressing: transportation, water, and education.
Get her talking about the prospective Northwest Loop Road, and
you will unleash a storm of caveats about government doing too little,
“I understand that there’s never going to be enough
money to go around, but you have to do some planning,” Hays
said of the underfunded goal of linking Highway 550 to I-40 as an
Albuquerque bypass. “Unless we look at problems as a region,
we’re not going to solve our transportation problems.”
Both I-40 and Coors were maxed out as soon as they were built,
she noted, and traffic is one of the main reasons people are unhappy
with government. “It’s symptomatic of the whole region,”
she said. “We wait until it’s a crisis, and then it
costs ten times as much as it should.”
Which brings her, finally, to what may be her least-favorite legacy—Sandoval
broadband. Its focus was always education, Hays noted, something
that was not widely understood when the project was challenged in
its early stages. The idea was to have multiple tie-ins to schools,
so children in outlying rural areas of the county would not be left
Today, the Internet is a form of infrastructure, “just like
Route 66 was a connector for the last century,” Hays said.
“And if we sit back and wait, it will be like the Navajo Nation
that still doesn’t have electricity” for a third of
Hays adds that the broadband project is back on track, though maybe
not on the timeline that people would like. “It takes time
to make changes, and to change people’s approach and attitudes,”
she said. It is only through continuity—thanks to many of
her staff that have been with her for more than a decade—that
so many large projects have been able to move forward in recent
Things like that don’t happen overnight, Hays noted, certainly
not in the two years most politicians have in office. And none of
her pet projects will be finished in the time that remains to her:
“I’m probably too young to totally retire,” Hays
admits, though she believes other opportunities will present themselves.
One thing she and her husband, attorney Brad Hays, have always wanted
to do is a mission trip, either to Africa or Mexico, with their
church, Destiny Center. She also remains committed to the issue
of safe drinking water.
“It’s the thing I like least about my job,” Hays
admits. She has not been inclined to run for office since her days
in student government at Highland High School. “Who in their
right mind would be?” she laughs.
First thing on her agenda is to clear away the cotton that rains
down on their two-story adobe house on Corrales Road that also serves
as her husband’s law office. “Take care of the house
and garden; spend time with my grandchildren,” she enumerates
with a look of relief. Get more exercise; take better care of herself—the
list grows from there.
Without her $130,000 yearly salary, Hays estimates that she’ll
have less money, but more time to do work around the house—or
so she thinks.
“I guess I would like to be involved with some projects underway
now that I still feel passionate about,” she concedes.
For they, too, are her grandchildren.
—JOSHUA MADALENA, CHAIRMAN, SANDOVAL COUNTY COMMISSION
Even as much of our nation’s mid-section was being
deluged by record rainfall and flooding of historic proportions,
the Sandoval County Commission and fire crews were preparing for
another kind of devastating natural disaster: wildfires.
County Fire Chief Jon Tibbetts and his exceptional staff of paid
and volunteer firefighters know full well that with warmer and drier
weather, all of us need to be extra careful near our homes or when
enjoying the varied outdoor and scenic attractions that Sandoval
County offers residents and visitors alike.
Unattended campfires, a discarded cigarette, and the American pastime
of fireworks around the July 4th holiday can touch off a devastating
blaze in our tinderbox-dry areas. Even a hot automobile motor or
muffler can ignite dry grasses, sparking a blaze that threatens
our forests and communities alike.
The County Commission took early action to enact a no-burn law
that limits open burning and fireworks in the County’s unincorporated
areas. The law took effect on June 5. It prohibits campfires, burning
of vegetation or rubbish, and use of any smoke-producing substance
or material that creates a fire hazard, unless a permit is obtained
beforehand. To apply for a permit or check on burning conditions,
contact County Fire Marshal James Maxon at 867-0245.
Some municipalities in Sandoval County have enacted or are considering
similar bans. Tribal governments within Sandoval County also are
taking steps to protect their sovereign pueblo and tribal lands.
Jemez Pueblo, for instance, has restricted use of legal fireworks
to the hours of 8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. on the evening of July 4th.
The County ordinance is being enforced by the staff of both the
Sheriff’s Office and the Fire Marshal. Violations are punishable
by fines of up to $300 and jail time of up to ninety days, or both.
The County law limits the use of “safe and sane” fireworks
to areas that are paved or barren of vegetation, or that have a
readily accessible water supply available for home owners or the
general public. The use of fireworks, however, is not allowed in
the wild lands of the County’s unincorporated areas.
The Commission’s action banned both the sale and use of the
more dangerous types of fireworks in the County’s unincorporated
areas. Specifically prohibited under the ordinance are the sales
or use of stick-type or bottle rockets, helicopters and aerial spinners,
missile-type rockets, ground audible devices, firecrackers, and
Fire levels are so elevated across our County and throughout New
Mexico that the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management may
impose similar bans on fires or close access in many areas of New
Mexico. The Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, too, is being
especially vigilant across the four-county area of the Rio Grande
bosque. Chief Tibbetts, his staff, and volunteers in the County’s
nine fire districts, meanwhile, are bracing for what could be a
very long fire season.
Yet, it is the responsibility of all of us to exercise caution
in order to protect lives and property, as well as the scenic wonders
that make Sandoval County unique.
Call 911 if you see a fire that appears to be out of control or
know someone who may be violating the County’s no-burn ordinance.
For information on how to become a valuable member of one of the
County’s volunteer fire departments, visit the Fire Department’s
website at www.sandovalfire.org.
Questions or comments for Commissioner Madalena can be mailed to
him in care of Sandoval County Administrative Offices, PO Box 40,
Bernalillo Farmers’ Market opens
The management team for the Bernalillo Farmers’ Market
has announced that the first market day is scheduled this year for
Friday, July 11. The Market will be held at the same site it has
occupied for the past two years: on the west side of Camino del
Pueblo, just south of Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Bernalillo and
a half block south of the intersection of Highways 550 and 313.
The Market site has parking for customers inside the gates, but
customers can also park on the street, if they wish. Vendors begin
selling at 4:00 p.m. and continue until 7:00 p.m., or until they
Products that will be available include an assortment of fruits
and vegetables—all of which must be produced by the vendors
themselves (resale of commercially-produced items is not permitted)—as
well as baked goods, jams and jellies, honey, eggs, goat cheese,
and usually a few items that can be consumed on the spot. Often
hand-crafted wooden items and decorative wreaths and ristras appear,
though this is more likely to happen later in the season. In past
years, there have also been decorative gourds, plant items (especially
natives), cut flowers, cards, cider and barbecues sauces, fruit
wood for grilling, and decorative yard items. There will also be
an opportunity for persons who wish to register to vote to do so.
In short, if you make a regular habit of stopping at the market,
you will find something different most weeks. Of course, part of
the reason for this is that not all the items that are grown are
ready at the same time. The Market also offers an opportunity for
customers to “interview” the sellers and become acquainted
with items they may not be familiar with, as well as tips for growing
and preparation of various foods.
The Market Team has announced that persons who want to sell at
the Market should contact Ann at 867-2485 or Bonnie at 867-9054.
Applications for former vendors were mailed out at the end of May.
New vendors are encouraged to attend and enjoy the events. The Market
will again accept WIC 2008 vouchers that are issued for fresh food
items. The Market will continue to operate on Fridays through the
summer and fall months until October 24.
The Bernalillo Farmers’ Market is affiliated with the statewide
New Mexico Farmers’ Marketing Association, which operates
under the auspices of the New Mexico Department of Agriculture.
Sandoval County also has markets located at San Felipe Pueblo and
Corrales and there are several more in the Albuquerque area. A complete
listing of markets may be obtained by calling the New Mexico Farmers’
Marketing Association in Santa Fe at (505) 983-4010.
See you at the Market!