A portrait of George Silva has hung on the walls
Saloon for most of the 74 years since his murder in 1932.
Read about El Corrido de George
Silva in Community Profile..
More gravel mining in Placitas?
On Sunday, October 8, local residents overflowed the pews of the
Placitas Presbyterian Church to express their concerns on the proposed
mine-expansion request of Lafarge's gravel-mining operations on
BLM land in Placitas. Carol Parker, Kate Nelson, and Judy Hendry,
of Las Placitas Association, pointed out some drawbacks to the pit
expansion at the meeting.
The mining proposal is in its earliest phase of study under BLM's
land-use process. The 1986 BLM Resource Management Plan still allows
mining despite residential development in the vicinity. Lafarge,
a French-owned corporation, is already operating two strip mines
in the area. The first is the Placitas mine, and the second is the
Santa Ana and BLM mine, north of Placitas. There is also the privately
owned Baca mine near the Algodones exit. The Lafarge expansion would
cover the space that lies between the currently operating mines,
leaving a strip less than a mile wide in several places. The expansion
would cover three half-sections, or roughly one and a half square
miles close to several new subdivisions in Placitas. Residents are
concerned that the mining will reduce property values in the area.
BLM is required by law to conform with local land-use regulations.
Officials and LPA members have met with BLM representatives on land-use
issues in the past months. The surrounding area is zoned residential
and many consider mining an incompatible use for the land. There
are alternatives to strip-mining, such as open space to ride off-road
vehicles and horses, or residential development.
“We must do more than just convince BLM that it must rewrite
its land-use policies for this area and similar areas. The plan
must be compatible with local culture and environment,” said
Sandoval County Commissioner Bill Sapien.
Members of Congress Heather Wilson, Tom Udall, Pete Domenici,
and Jeff Bingaman have in the past been supportive of updating the
BLM plan. “BLM told the community as well as a Federal Judge
that it would not accept any more mining applications until the
Resource Management Plan is updated. BLM should live up to its promises,”
states an LPA fact sheet. Additionally, sand and gravel mining is
not even considered mining under the New Mexico Mining Act.
“The National Environmental Policy Act studies are naturally
biased toward the corporations who are required to pay for them.
Once the process is that far along, it's pretty much a done deal,”
said Carol Parker.
The proposed site encompasses Las Huertas Creek watershed, which
is home to threatened species of plants, birds, and animals that
would be catastrophically impacted by the heavy machinery. The BLM
report says Las Huertas is not a creek, but a “dry wash.”
“This summer all of us who live next to it know it's not a
creek,” Parker said, “it's a river.” Erosion from
the site will add to the pollution of the Rio Grande by mud and
tailings. Dust plumes and erosion really stem from the same problem:
New Mexico leads the nation in airborne particulate pollution.
This is because of the dry windy weather when smoke and dust are
stirred up. These particulates are a health problem, according to
the New Mexico Department of Health. Clean air is one of the joys
of Placitas. “We have to arrest the momentum of environmental
damage to the area.” Kate Nelson of LPA said. The proposed
expansion would make dust pollution much worse for the area.
In addition, Lafarge is not required to restore the land when
they are finished mining, and that will mean a lot of erosion. Cultural
sites in the area would be threatened as well. Several studies have
been done in past years and have found numerous sites throughout
Placitas which would be affected.
Gravel trucks are another problem for residents, and a portion of
the meeting was spent discussing the dangerous driving habits and
the cracked windshields caused by the trucks. There is heavy congestion
at Exit 242 in the morning. Mr. Cotton, a Placitas resident of three
years, suggests that people send copies of their mine-related repairs
to LPA as evidence. Sheriff J.P. Trujillo commented that the intersection
is the most dangerous in the county, and that law enforcement monitors
it every day. If it were not for this consistent diligence, more
accidents would happen.
“What has been done to alleviate the problem?” Commissioner
Sapien asked, “maybe a Band-Aid, a little cosmetic.”
If there is no mine, there are no trucks to worry about, and the
area would be converted into residential traffic alone.
“The only way to make a difference is to present unified public
support against the pit.” Parker said. “The most important
thing is for people to come to the meetings and write letters. Membership
is vital; the more people we represent, the more weight we have
when we lobby. Volunteers are always needed because of a high burnout
rate. Nothing runs without a cost, so we need money for the fight
Amongst the many people in attendance were state Representative
Kathy McCoy, democratic challenger Janice Saxton, county commissioners
Don Leonard and Bill Sapien, county commission candidates Orlando
Lucero and Pete David Salazar, and a representative from Patricia
Madrid's office, Jacque Belding. Representatives from BLM, Lafarge,
the Department of Interior, the Land Use Board, Senator Pete Domenici,
and Congresswoman Heather Wilson did not attend the meeting and
have yet to comment.
Letters can be written to your representatives and senators about
concerns regarding the pit expansion. LPA asks for a copy of these
letters so they can keep a running tab of the number sent. Addresses
can be found at www.lasplacitas.org or by writing to Las Placitas
Association, P. O. Box 888, Placitas, NM 87043.
To find out more about Las Placitas Association, log onto www.lasplacitas.org.
Notes from Bernalillo Town Council Meetings
In its meeting on Tuesday, October 10, the Bernalillo Town Council
approved measures to accept $1,085,000 in funds from the New Mexico
Environment Department for improvements to the town's waste-water-treatment
plant. Town manager Stephen Jerge also proposed that the town purchase
2.075 acres of land adjacent to the plant for outbuildings, vehicle
storage, and other future use.
Planning and Zoning director Kelly Moe presented for discussion
an ordinance that would prohibit the parking of commercial vehicles
on residential streets or on private property zoned residential.
Mayor Patricia A. Chávez suggested that a special work session
between the Planning and Zoning Commission and town councilors Ronnie
Sisneros and Marian Jaramillo convene and report back to the full
council within forty-five days. Consideration and public discussion
of this possibly controversial ordinance would come after the council
would approve such discussion.
Santiago Chavez, town treasurer, has taken over the job of public-housing
director on an interim basis. Former director Duc Germain was taken
to task for sloppy and tardy work in the town's proposal for HUD
moneys at the September 25 town council meeting. Chavez re-presented
a resolution for adopting a corrected Management Assessment Sub
System for public housing forms. The resolution passed unanimously.
While the town stood to lose approximately $57,000 in HUD funding
for submitting the form late, Chavez said that the HUD officials
have accepted the resubmitted form without monetary sanctions. At
the October 23 meeting, Councilor Jaramillo commended Chavez for
his “diligent and clear” service.
Newly hired IT (information technology) administrator Jon Guenther,
offered a PowerPoint presentation concerning the “out of control”
state of the town's current computer system and his proposal for
its efficient update. He plans to put in place a central network
server for the town's sixty-five-plus computers and reduce the paperwork
for town forms by January 12, 2007. He reported that these and other
measures would save the town a considerable amount of money and
make communication between employees more secure and efficient.
By the second quarter of 2007, he plans to redesign the town Web
site and include a page where citizens can pay their water bill
In his miscellaneous updates at the October 23 meeting, Jerge
indicated that the town was pursuing the possibility of constructing
four dams on the face and foothills of Sandia Mountain in order
to protect the south end of the town from flash floods. The estimated
cost of the dams is $32 million, or $8 million each. Jerge plans
to approach the Army Corps of Engineers for consultation and funding.
County commission embraces development
Imagine a new city of eighty thousand residents in Sandoval County.
Then imagine the master plan for this planned community gaining
unanimous approval from the Sandoval County Commission with no public
comment whatsoever. Things have sure changed since the nineties,
when rowdy crowds protesting new Placitas subdivisions prompted
heavy use of the gavel and forced the commission meetings to a larger
venue. County staff and elected officials cohesively make big decisions
for our booming county.
The only excitement at the October 5 commission meeting was Commissioner
Sapien’s birthday cake (Happy seventieth, Bill!) County development
director Michael Springfield presented the master plan of Rio West,
a community planned by Scottsdale-based Recorp Partners Inc. that
Commissioner Bency described as “another Rio Rancho.”
It consists of 11,676 acres.
Springfield described this “soft zoning” as an indication
to Recorp that the county is interested in the plan and a green
light to go ahead with further planning. He said that Recorp would
be required to prove water resources, meet other zoning regulations.
and gain subdivision approval before any building permits are issued.
Springfield attributed the absence of drama at the meeting to
the fact that this project has been in the works since the year
2000 with the involvement of his office, in conformance with the
Mid-regions Council of Governments Focus 2050 Regional Plan, which
identifies western Sandoval County as an anticipated location for
planned community development.
The plan “envisions a mix of commercial, industrial, residential,
and institutional uses ... with the ultimate goal being the eventual
development of a sustainable community with a stable employment
base and enough services to support its residents.” The plan
proposes between 23,352 and 29,434 new dwelling units, with high-density
units centered around neighborhood and commercial centers and moving
out toward medium- then to low-density residential lots, schools,
and parks. Extensive planning is designed to avoid a “haphazard”
appearance. It is even planned to avoid the “cookie-cutter”
appearance of planning.
The first of four phases is the largest, including the airport,
industrial, warehousing, and higher-density housing to support these
employment areas. The concept is driven by the eventual Northwest
Loop Road, from US 550 to I-40. Springfield says that roads will
be extended to meet Northern Boulevard and Southern Boulevard in
Rio Rancho, but that these roads will bring traffic out to the employment
and commercial centers in Rio West as much as increase traffic in
Rio Rancho. He said that Phase One could stand alone, but expressed
confidence that the community will fill in as planned over a thirty-year
time frame. He said that places like this actually exist in Arizona,
and “If we build it, they will come.” Construction is
projected to begin in three years.
The bottom line is, of course, water availability. Developers
plan either to purchase water rights and draw from the Santa Fe
group aquifer that supplies the surrounding area, or drill deep
wells into brackish water that would require desalination. The state
engineer is charged with the responsibility of protecting existing
water supplies that might be impacted by new development. Springfield
said that exploratory wells are being drilled to depths down to
seven thousand feet to confirm huge aquifers that are thought to
lie below the Rio Puerco. He also said that hydrologists think that
there is a geological barrier that would prevent depletion of the
Santa Fe aquifer.
Other than the impacts of another eighty thousand people on life
around the Albuquerque area, the plan is not all bad. Rio West would
be located in the beautiful high desert of the Rio Puerco Valley,
preserve 17 percent of the land for open space, be bicycle- and
pedestrian-friendly, and create a “sustainable community where
dwellings, shops, parks, and employment areas are located within
close proximity to one another.” They plan to look into wind
generators, utilizing gas from the landfill, preserving dark skies,
and irrigating the golf course with treated waste water. It sounds
almost too good to be true.
The final item on the agenda was approval of the relatively tiny
forty-one-lot Wild Horse Mesa subdivision in Placitas. Attorney
Tim VanValin protested that the subdivision did not meet country
specifications requiring a fifty-foot access road. Economist Bill
Patterson asked the commission to deny approval because, he said,
the subdivision was the result of an illegal common promotional
plan that abused county subdivision regulations. County attorney
David Matthews assured the commission that everything was legal,
and approval was unanimous.
Albuquerque may buy canyon land
A corridor that is being called "critical" to wildlife
crossing between the Sandia and Manzano mountains is for sale, and
an Albuquerque city councilor wants the Duke City to buy it.
Councilor Martin Heinrich introduced a resolution at a recent council
meeting to spend up to $650,000 to purchase the 67-acre property
north and west of Dead Man's Curve on Route 66 and preserve it as
open space. The bill was referred to the council's Finance and Government
Heinrich said he sponsored the resolution at the request of the
Tijeras Safe Passage Coalition and the New Mexico Land Conservancy.
"They were very concerned that if developed, it would cut
off one of the last places where wildlife can cross between the
Sandias and Manzanos," Heinrich said. "This is very important."
Coalition steering committee member Jeannie Wagner-Greven agreed:
"I think this is very critical because it's one of the few
available undeveloped pieces to enable this crossing."
As part of the current reconstruction of I-40 through Tijeras Canyon,
the state Department of Transportation will install fencing to keep
wildlife off the freeway and redirect it to culverts and highway
underpasses. Wagner-Greven said the land immediately west of Dead
Man's Curve is needed to provide wildlife with access to potential
underpass crossing points in Carnuel.
"None of the areas east of it works because of the interstate,"
she added "There are only going to be some small culverts that
predators like mountain lions or bears might use, but deer won't
use those. This is a key passageway."
Hawkwatch International, a non-profit that operates raptor monitoring
sites in the Sandias and Manzanos, owns the property. Executive
director Thom Benedict said his preference is to sell to someone
who will keep the land undeveloped. "Our priority is to see
the property maintained as a wildlife crossing." Benedict said.
He added, however, "Depending on what happens with the city,
our board of trustees will look at other options if this doesn't
Reprinted from The Independent, October 4-10,