The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988

 
THE GAUNTLET

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letters, opinions, editorials

re: overpopulation action

We’re encouraged to see an article such as Kathleen Parker’s “Earth Day.” I and many people I know are proponents of zero population growth because it is very obvious overpopulation is the common denominator of all our problems. We think that’s only [true] for China or India, but it is already happening here. Paul Erlich’s Population Explosion should be required reading for every citizen of our dear Earth. Economic summits which do not address this in their forums are bogus and irresponsible. But since we’re “global” anyway, why bring it up? Globalization, simply defined, is the wealthy exploiting the overpopulated masses willing to work for slave wages.

We can no longer afford Daddy’s little line item exemptions; people should be rewarded for having fewer children, not more! If we do not, Mother Nature will take care of it for us, and perhaps she’s already on it.

Thank you,

—A PLACITAS RESIDENT


re: proposed commercial development near Placitas Fire Station

On April 10, there was a public meeting at the Placitas Fire Station to announce a proposed development on one hundred acres to the east of it. This is currently undeveloped land owned by the Cashwells, on the north side of the highway between the Fire Station and Overlook Drive. The Cashwells have hired Knight Seavey of Insite Works in Albuquerque to spearhead a development project on that land.

Seavey gave a presentation that marked out seven different areas in the hundred acres. Three of them near the highway would be devoted to offices and retail businesses. A twelve-acre area would be devoted to open space. There would be two areas devoted to high-density residential units. Seavey described these as possibly being “patio” style, meaning they would not be all that different from condos. He pointed out that there is not much “residential diversity” in Placitas. He tried to sell us on the idea that Placitas would somehow benefit from having areas with high-density housing, as if the single houses on fairly large lots typical of Placitas make it a dull place. Finally, the area on top of the ridge would have some of these typical large-lot residences.

Seavey tried to soften the blow by emphasizing how everything would be “green” as can be, with xeriscaped “garden offices,” covenant-mandated rainwater collection systems, recycling of waste water, etc. There might even be an amphitheater in the open space!

This proposed development is still in preliminary planning stages. The developers have submitted an application to the County Development Division. They have not explored for water, though that specific location is known to have water quality and quantity issues. Seavey admitted that one reason for proposing commercial development there is that this uses less water than residential.

Those who spoke up at the meeting were uniformly negative towards there being commercial development in that area. Most of us assume that sooner or later there will be residential development there, hopefully similar in style to surrounding subdivisions. What was found objectionable is having office buildings, stores, and condo-like residences at that location. The traffic safety issue alone should rule out commerce there.

Seavey was asked whether he had done any survey of Placitas residents to see who, if any, were interested in this commercial intrusion. He admitted that this meeting was the first time residents had been approached about the idea. Why then go ahead with a commercial development if the community feels no need for it, and is particularly opposed to it in that area?

Seavey’s main response was that Sandoval County is coming out with a master plan that would zone areas up and down the highway for commercial development. That being so, better an ecology-friendly developer like him than less savory characters. The horrid words “strip mall” were not spoken, but they were implied.

I talked to a member of the County Development Department, who confirmed that the County is working on a master plan, and that it will address the possibility of considerably more commercial development in Placitas. He pointed out that Placitas has far less commercial development than other communities of similar size and population. (As if that is a bad thing!) He is also aware of the Cashwell proposal. The drafting of this part of the master plan will begin about June this year. The County will invite community input on the Cashwell development.

One of the attendees at the fire house meeting who has studied planning pointed out that a principle of commercial development is to put new commercial structures near where others already exist. Placitas presently has two areas with some commercial development, Homestead Shopping Center and in the village of Placitas. Also, there is interest in putting a shopping center on the east side of the freeway, technically in Bernalillo, which would provide a third area. Why have commerce in other areas, when those three areas should be more than enough to support whatever stores, office buildings, etc., that Placitas could want and use in the foreseeable future? Seavey indicated that he has philosophical differences with this point of view, though did not elaborate. I mentioned this point when talking to the Development Department member, who said that limiting the location of commercial development is certainly an important consideration.

A commercial development in that area would considerably change the character of Placitas, which is semi-rural and historical, not suburban, however trendy. And it would start our community down a slippery slope tumbling towards heavy suburbanization. We need to voice our concerns about this at commission meetings, and wherever else our input can be effective.

—ORIN SAFIER, Ranchos de Placitas


re: the “us vs. them” stuff is getting old

I’ve lived in the Placitas area for nearly five years now and have repeatedly heard or read “us vs. them” comments about the Village of Placitas vs. “transplants” like me who live in the greater Placitas area. And, the juvenile “doings” over the road signs were enough to make one’s eyes roll! I know of no one who does not respect and appreciate the distinctiveness of the Village of Placitas. Its place in the history and culture of this area is strong and not under assault except by being bordered by something other than vast open space. Although that may be cause for distress, I see no other reason for the defensiveness and apparent drive for exclusivity among some—not all—Village residents.

Now, in last month’s Signpost, there was a letter to the editor about the placement of the new Placitas Community Library, its funding sources, and speculation about possible conspiratorial and sinister motives of the library board. As a frontline library volunteer—not a board member or a member of management—I believe that I can shed some light from both perspectives.

Regarding the placement of the library, the four acres of land was donated by Sandoval County—too good an opportunity to pass up. Indeed, it is Sandoval County and not the library board that sets the “rules” for this project. Its central location (near the newer of the two fire stations) was also appealing if one views the library as supporting the greater Placitas area and not just the Village of Placitas. I would hope that the residents of the Village of Placitas do not intend to deny use of the library to anyone who lives outside the Village. No conspiracy or sinister motivation on the part of the library board here.

Regarding funding, it is not a federal project, as last month’s letter stated. Only about one-fourth of the funds raised so far came from the federal government, and the federal government has no role whatsoever in the placement, design, construction, or operation of the facility. When the full amount is raised, the federal contribution will shrink to about one-eighth. Heather Wilson visited the library, liked what she saw, and took advantage of “earmarking” to get us some money to seed the project. After that, the state of New Mexico, Sandoval County, and private contributors added to the fund.

—JIM BRYDEN, Placitas


re: SEE Placitas

This is a follow-up to my prior letter to the editor, posted in last month’s issue. Since then, I’ve received several phone calls and collected over a hundred signatures on petitions, not including those I haven’t yet been able to pick up. There is enthusiastic public support—everyone I’ve talked to has their own personal story as to why they need public transportation. Placitas business owners all agree that in addition to being the right thing to do, a Placitas transit system would be a welcome boost for local commerce. Signed petitions have been collected from The Merc, The Piñon Cafe, La Bonne Vie, Buttons n Bows Dry Cleaning, Placitas Realty, Euro-American Antiques, Rockin’ R Studio/Gallery, and the Mini Mart.

I’m most excited about my recent contact with Bruce Rizzieri, referred by Placitas resident and Bernalillo County Planner, Becky Alter. Bruce is the Transit Manager for the Rio-Metro RTD, aka MRTD (see last month’s letter describing Regional Transit Districts). This includes Sandoval, Bernalillo, and Valencia Counties. His department’s role is to determine and generate the types of transit services needed in our transit district, necessary locations, sources of funding, and continuous improvement. Although Sandoval County (e.g., Gino Rinaldi) owned the implementation phase of the Sandoval County Easy Express, the operating bus system now falls under the management of the MRTD.

Bruce was receptive and un-begrudgingly willing to engage in public discourse. Given his influential role as MRTD Transit Manager, and the systems/tools his department has to actually see this type of change through, I suggested a community meeting. Bruce agreed to co-facilitate a meeting, and to arrange for other appropriate officials to participate.

A key point to consider here is that we wouldn’t be passing the ball to the MRTD—we’d be playing ball together. The MRTD is the vehicle through which we can process our community needs to get the necessary outcome. A core group of members who are willing to represent the public voice, organize, and facilitate what we own in this effort is necessary. If you’re interested in joining a core group, please call or email me so we can keep the ball rolling.

Even if you don’t have the interest or availability to form a core group, please call/email me with your input and contact information. Whatever ideas you have for Placitas public transit are needed. What’s your ultimate destination? What days and what times? Weekend/late night? Connecting to the Rail Runner? This effort is not limited to adding an Easy Express bus route for Placitas, although it seems that initially would be easy “low-hanging fruit” to go after. If you care to describe your particular transportation needs, it would help create a demographic overview that we can share with the MRTD. A distribution list can be created so that progress and plans can be communicated in a more “real-time” fashion beyond the monthly Signpost. I hope to summarize inputs, share them with Bruce, co-create an agenda, and set a meeting time and location that can be communicated in the June Signpost.

This is time sensitive—the quicker we kick off the effort with this meeting, the quicker we are to respond to the exponentially increasing cost of gas, in addition to the multiple other reasons prompting our action.

Once we gain momentum, a public email or web system designated for creating Placitas public transit should be created. This way, all community input can be gathered and processed, especially given the small percentage of the public who can actually attend community meetings. Status and accrued input can be globally viewed by both the MRTD and the Placitas (I should also say Sandoval County) community, rather than managed through an individual’s personal account. In the meantime, as I’ve offered, please send your input to me at mandolinsun@comcast.net. You can also call me at 867-8399. Thanks!

I’d like to acknowledge Dan Gips, the gentleman who initially posted a similar letter to the editor in the December 2007 issue, for his input to this letter and proposed future course of action.

—STEFF CHANAT, Placitas


Governor seeks to safeguard New Mexico headwaters

—WWW.ENS-NEWSWIRE.COM

Governor Bill Richardson marked Earth Day by moving to protect all surface waters within national forest wilderness and inventoried roadless areas in New Mexico—amounting to more than 5,300 miles of headwater streams that flow from mountain forests.

Designation of these waters as Outstanding National Resource Waters (ONRW) under the Federal Clean Water Act will ensure these headwater streams remain pristine and protected far into the future, the governor said.

“This initiative will provide the highest level of water quality protection possible for more than five thousand miles of beautiful rivers and streams,” Governor Richardson said. “This ensures that these pristine waters—including world-class trout fishing areas and vital drinking water supplies—will remain clean for the next generation to enjoy.”

The designations also will help counter efforts by the Bush administration to weaken protections in inventoried roadless areas, said the governor, a Democrat who served as Secretary of Energy in the Clinton administration.

Governor Richardson is a proponent of the Clinton administration roadless rule that protected 58.5 million acres of inventoried roadless areas across the country. He has worked to counter the Bush administration’s attempts to weaken that rule, which have been turned back by the courts. The designations must be approved by the New Mexico Water Quality Control Commission.

The Governor’s plan was applauded by environmental and faith-based groups. “Today, Governor Richardson has sealed his water protection legacy; with the outstanding title, these waters will remain pristine for wildlife and downstream users forever,” said Bryan Bird of WildEarth Guardians.

“We are thankful for the Governor’s leadership and believe that this initiative helps meet our collective moral obligation to ensure that future generations inherit a better planet and a better New Mexico than the one that we inherited from our parents,” said Reverend Dr. Barbara Dua, executive director of the New Mexico Conference of Churches.

“We will use the designation as a tool to maintain the quality of the water and to protect the integrity of the waters,” said New Mexico Environment Department Secretary Ron Curry.

Waters eligible for ONRW designation include those that are part of a national or state park, wildlife refuge, or wilderness area; special trout waters; waters with exceptional recreational or ecological significance; and high-quality waters that have not been significantly modified by human activities.

Reid Bandeen is president of the Las Placitas Watershed Association, one of the groups funded through the federal Clean Water Act Section 319(h) watershed restoration funding program. “Given recent predictions by climatologists and the ever-increasing pressure on limited high-quality fresh water supplies in New Mexico,” he said, “protection of pristine wilderness waterways is crucial to the long-term quality of life in our state.”

The ONRW designation, if successful, will be the third for New Mexico, all under the Richardson administration, which pursued that designation for the Valle Vidal in 2006 and supported the efforts of Amigos Bravos to gain the designation for the Rio Santa Barbara in 2005.

Dr. Ron Loehman, New Mexico Trout Conservation chairman, said, “Our more than four hundred volunteer members are deeply concerned about the health of streams and riparian areas in the state. This proposal recognizes the importance of the headwater streams to all of New Mexico and, once enacted, it will ensure they remain as resources for clean water, recreation, and wildlife habitat.”


Dear Signpost readers, especially my customers at Chile Hill:

Two years ago this month, the building that housed my store in Bernalillo burned to the ground. (See the Signpost article “Rising from the ashes,” August 2006.) I lost not only the building, but years of memories, all of my stock, and fixtures. The property was at that time leased to Jackalope, or more accurately, to the separate entity MBVentures that the principals at Jackalope had set up to hold the lease. This entity then released the property to Jackalope.

My original intent was to rebuild my store; however, the amount of insurance provided on the building by MBVentures/Jackalope was one-third the cost of replacement. This estimate was made by the adjuster sent by the insurance company. There is still a viable lease on the property, and Jackalope is using the property. It has become necessary for me to file a lawsuit because at this point I have received nothing to compensate me for the loss [and rebuilding] of my property. Two years times zero is still zero.

However, I still own the property, including 680 feet of frontage on Highway 550 and various other improvements on that property. The lease fees I have received for the first two quarters of 2008 barely cover my legal fees for 2007. I had operated a successful business for seventeen years before Jackalope arrived. We were the first business west of the Rio Grande except for Mike’s “Tin Bar,” which predates us by many years.

My current solution to providing chile for my customers is to place my new stock with The Corner Store in “downtown” Bernalillo. If you are in need of our high quality product, drop in to meet Ed and Antoinette Trujillo, who own that business on the east side of Camino del Pueblo near both the Bernalillo City Hall and the Range.

And thank you all for asking about the status of the “late Chile Hill!” We have already contracted for our chile supply from the current year’s crop. Our motto is still “As New Mexican as You Can Get.”

—ANN RUSTEBAKKE, CHILE HILL EMPORIUM


re: the pet rocks of Placitas

Dear Friends Back East:

I appreciated—although just barely—your recent letter complaining about your emerging lawns and the anticipated high costs of summer maintenance. It’s increasingly difficult for me to identify with such challenges as green, grassy lawns aren’t particularly prevalent in Placitas, due to our less than verdant environment.

You see, we use crushed rock in our yards—so-called “aggregate” that comes in various colors and sizes—to beautify our properties. Furthermore, these products have been sanctified over the years with very cool names.

For example, one can acquire an attractive 7/8” crushed stone called Purple Haze, named for a very well-known tequila hangover. It sells for a little over $50/ton and can look quite nice.

The fellow across the road applied some stone of a similar color to set off his plantings—it is simply called Plum. But he posted signs at various points reading, “Do not walk on my 1” Plum” which tends to spoil the effect.

In fact, signs reading “Please keep off the rocks” and “These rocks protected by Smith and Wesson” are commonplace here.

I wasn’t aware of this cultural phenomenon until I had my septic tank pumped. The gentleman in charge of the process, while chatting with me, remarked that he really liked Sedona Red. I responded by saying that I was sorry, I only had Coors Light in the house, but would he like one? Of course, he was talking about the 7/16” reddish stone that surrounded three sides of my house—now I know. I’ve since posted my own sign reading, “Please don’t tread on my Sedona Red.” It’s been fairly effective.

One has to exercise some caution in crushed rock discourse. Once, as I was walking down to our little shopping center, I passed a woman working in her yard. Just to be friendly, I told her how much I loved her Santa Ana Tan, and received a withering look in response. Fortunately, her husband didn’t hear me. Well… live and learn.

Do you fellows recall that tantalizing Jersey City stripper we admired back in the 70s? Well, appropriately enough, there are crushed rocks named for her as well. Mountain Rose sells for about $52/ton in a 7/8” size and is quite attractive.

The aggregate known as Santa Fe Brown was apparently given its name during the days of the old trail when that town was made and paved with nothing but mud. Santa Fe Brown was named by Kit Carson, and is naturally more expensive.

Dear old Patrick, our fine Maine Coon cat, prefers rolling and lying on the sandy, dusty earth rather than on crushed rock, as he can track the soil into the house more readily. By seeing his dusty leavings on the tile and furniture, Patrick can better recall where he’s been and also, at his advanced age, avoid getting lost. Apparently, seeing such evidence of his meanderings also helps him confirm that his ninth life yet endures.

Well… thanks again for your note. Happy mowing. Watch for the stones.

—YOUR FRIEND HERB, Placitas, New Mexico


re: if you see a chipmunk, it might just be something else

Not too long ago, my wife and I sat in a sunny corner of our living room, drinking coffee and snacking on a scone. We were solving all the problems of our beautiful world.

Suddenly, there was movement outside. Patiently we sat and watched. I suspected we had caught a fleeting glimpse of a packrat and was about to give up. My wife said, “Hang on, dear,” and I sat back down and looked.

There it was again. It ran across the decorative rocks. This time, we had enough time to see it before it vanished again.

Not a rat. A chipmunk. Aha! We added it to our list of unusual species. It was the fourth after the bobcat, the roadrunner, and the chukar.

The little munk did several disappearing acts. Then it sat still for a while on a rock.

“Sunbathing,” I said.

“Resting,” my wife disagreed.

Now that it was sitting still, something didn’t look right. It must have broken its tail, because the tail lay flat across the top of its back. But that couldn’t be right. Every so often, it twitched. Only a healthy tail could twitch like that. Then the little creature climbed up into a juniper, out to the end of a branch, and ate the blue berries.

Do chipmunks do that?

Out came the Encyclopedia of Mammals.

Bingo! There was a picture of our little critter, identifying it as Geoffrey’s or Western Ground Squirrel. No chipmunk.

The ground squirrel features a white stripe from shoulder to hip on both sides. It has no facial markings. The tail is flat with a light gray underside and is usually held up over the back. A Google search yielded more information. This little animal also goes by the name Texas Antelope Squirrel. And it is only found east of the Rio Grande.

On the first of April, we observed four babies foraging under the bird feeder.

I don’t know why I thought we were the only hosts to this mammal. On a recent walk, I spotted one at the northern end of Tierra Madre Road. How many other Placitas homes are visited by this charming creature?

—WIELAND ELSTNER, Placitas


Editorial

The State of Bernalillo

—MAX SMELLING

Greetings from West Bernalillo! With all due respect to man’s best friend, Bernalillo is going to the dogs. Sure, progress is supposed to be good, and development here is inevitable, but since when does the majority here favor high-density townhouse developments? Residents want the character, the tranquil lifestyle, and traditional single family residences in Bernalillo to continue to be the norm.

In fact, during a recent public hearing, an amazing number of Bernalilloans got up to speak against a poorly designed, high-density development between El Zócalo and Carroll Elementary. Of the twenty or so irate citizens pleading with the Council, not one speaker supported this degradation of our Town.

The result? They were belittled by Councilor Montoya, who stated that they didn’t know what real heavy traffic is like. They were ignored by Councilor Torres and Mayor Chávez.

Increased traffic in the area increases the risk of death or injury to the ones we must watch out for the most. In that vein, Superintendant Barbara Vigil-Lowder warned that the numbers of young children in the area would be increasing shortly due to changes at the school.

Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Director Kelly Moe indicated that whether a townhouse development of sixteen units went in on the two acres, or single family residences went in, the resulting impact would be almost the same. When the Mayor asked how many separate houses could be built on the property, Mr. Moe did the math and came up with—amazingly— the same figure he previously gave to the P&Z Commission, i.e. 14.5 units. With each lot requiring six thousand square feet minimum, that’s 87,000 square feet on an 87,000-square-foot chunk of land. Where are the roads, public easements, drainage ponds, and sidewalks?

Sixteen townhouses or 14.5 homes—not much difference. Right? When a P&Z Commissioner was asked how many single-family residences would fit, the answer was dramatically different. Under the Subdivision Requirements for the Town of Bernalillo Ordinance 155, the permissible number would be several less than 14.5. It would appear that the Council and Mayor based their vote on false information.

Later when asked how he determines housing densities, Mr. Moe informed the Council that gross density—“the perceived density”—was most appropriate. Horse Hockey! Only someone wanting to skew numbers to support an agenda would use gross density. We have been misled for years. The only appropriate way to derive the number of dwelling units per acre is by using net density. To determine net density, you start with gross density and subtract roads, sidewalks, paths, drainage areas, public easements, and parks, just to name a few things. People don’t live on any of these areas, and for their lots to include them is deceptive. But of course this is all about deception, agendas, and as always—money.

Mayor Chávez, Councilors Montoya and Torres, we have a question. Why do you favor poorly planned townhouse development in Bernalillo? The people of our town do not want high-density development. Single family homes—preferably with a yard for the kids and parking for visitors—are what we envision when we consider the inevitable growth here.

In columns last fall, I warned that the abominable TOD plan would be used throughout Bernalillo—not just in the described sixty-two acres. The writers assured us that TOD only applied to that area. Well, this pathetic development is not in the TOD area. And here you are, blowing off concerned residents, using misinformation from Mr. Moe to make decisions that our Town will have to deal with for generations. And now the whole town is vulnerable.

Besides being dense about density, Town Hall is also having trouble understanding the Open Meetings Act (OMA). A couple of weeks ago, the Council and P&Z commission got together in a public meeting to discuss another lousy townhouse development, called Piedra Lisa. There would be no official recording, nor any minutes taken, so anything said would only be retained in the computer-like memories of the participants. Come on, no one can remember all that information. Yes, it was ridiculous. A meeting of this importance should be recorded for posterity, if nothing else.

Feeling the need to rely on something other than memory, Margie Amiot placed a concerned citizen’s recorder in front of the Mayor to record the work session. Within minutes of the scheduled start of the meeting, Town Administrator Steven Jerge hurried into the room loudly demanding that Ms. Amiot take the recorder off the table, because only the Town Clerk could record this type of meeting. She complied and asked, “Can I have that in writing?” “Yes,” said Jerge. “You’ll have it tomorrow.”

In case you haven’t guessed, there will be no letter from Mr. Jerge, as the actual law states that “recorders must be accommodated.” However, the Town Administrator did receive a letter from the New Mexico Federation of Open Government (FOG) notifying him that he was in violation of OMA.

And that ain’t all. The OMA also requires the Town to be specific when describing what is to be discussed on posted agendas. The agenda for this workshop was “Bernalillo TOD Plan.” TOD was not discussed at all. What in the world are they trying to do here? This totally inaccurate description indicates either an abysmal level of incompetency or a high level of deception. Madam Mayor, the buck stops with you. When are you going to take control of your staff?

A group of residents are forming a community action committee called Take Back Bernalillo. Anyone interested in working to bring better government to Bernalillo, call Steve and Margie at 867-3362 and leave a message, or e-mail Max at maxsmelling@q.com.

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