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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.
—A PLACITAS RESIDENT
re: proposed commercial development near Placitas Fire
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
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
—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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also call me at 867-8399.
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
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
“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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
—YOUR FRIEND HERB, Placitas, New Mexico
re: if you see a chipmunk, it might just be something
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 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
On the first of April, we observed four babies foraging under the
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
—WIELAND ELSTNER, Placitas
The State of Bernalillo
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
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 email@example.com.