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  The Gauntlet

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letters, opinions, editorials

re: planning and zoning

Now that the Cashwell rezoning application has been rejected by the County Commission, the County and the community can turn its attention to the more general issues of clustering and ridge top development, as well as less contentious zoning regulations to be introduced into the ordinance.  On September 15 there was a Work Session at El Zocalo in Bernalillo, attended by members of the Planning and Zoning Commission, the Development Department, and property owners and developers in the Placitas Area.  Progress was made on regulation of ridge top development, but there was disagreement between residents who live in the West part of Placitas and the Development Staff regarding clustering.  The residents were strongly opposed to any clustering on ridge tops, and stated that cluster lots should be a minimum of 1/2 acre.  Also the maximum number of cluster lots on a parcel should not significantly exceed how many houses would be allowed to be built there under ordinary zoning (minimum lot size 1 acre or more) after unbuildable areas such as steep slopes and arroyos are taken into consideration.

Residents also raised an important legislative issue.  To date the concept of clustering, which does not yet exist in the Sandoval County Zoning Ordinance, has been substantially discussed only with the Placitas community, during the Area Planning process.  Yet as proposed by the Development Department Staff, the amended language on clustering would appear under Special Use zoning in the ordinance, and would therefore apply to the entire county.  Certainly this would affect all parts of the County where the ordinance apply, and so before there is any move to pass these ordinances there should properly be county wide discussion of them.  Originally the zoning ordinance amendments were scheduled to be discussed at the County Planning and Zoning Commission meeting on September 24 for possible recommendation at that time, but that has now been postponed.  Hopefully this will give time to include the entire county in these discussions of important zoning and planning issues.  A predictable result of these discussions will be that different parts of the county – indeed different parts of just Placitas – will wish to impose different standards and limitations on clustering, and the zoning ordinance should reflect this variety.

There are at least 5 major issues that need to be addressed in order to arrive at adequate regulations regarding cluster housing:

1) Minimum Parcel Size: The Staff’s proposed cluster regulations are included under Special Use (SU) zoning.  There is no minimum lot size for SU, which means that in an area with 1 acre minimum lot sizes, in principle there could be clustering on a lot as small as 2 acres.  (2 houses could be clustered in a single acre, with the other acre left as “open space”.)  Many of us in Placitas feel that this is far too small a parcel to support cluster housing.

2) Minimum Lot Size: The Staff has proposed a minimum lot size of 7500 square feet.  This is the size of a small urban residential lot, which would look out of place in a semi-rural community like Placitas.

3) Ridge Top Clustering: Preservation of ridge top vistas is a major concern for many residents.  In fact the idea of clustering was first introduced into discussions of the Placitas Area Plan in reference ridge top preservation, and only secondarily to increase open space.  While some residents in the West part of Placitas feel it appropriate to have clustered housing on lower parts of some parcels, most who have expressed opinions are strongly opposed to dense development on ridge tops.

4) Maximum Housing Units: Clustering will sometimes be proposed on a parcel which if it were developed with standard zoning, such as on 1 acre minimum lots, much of the parcel would not be suitable for building due to such factors as topography, erosion and drainage.  Clustering could then be exploited as a way to erect significantly more housing units on a parcel than it would otherwise support.  This can be prevented by providing a formula or formulas in the cluster regulations that calculate Maximum Housing Units for a parcel based on subtraction of parcel acreage due to deep slopes, arroyos, rock outcroppings, and other unbuildable features.

5) Setbacks: “Clustering” is a very general planning concept, which ranges from densely packed town houses and condos to more spread out detached homes on lots smaller than standard zoning allows for.  What should the setbacks be, if any, between buildings in clustered areas?  What should the setbacks be from the clustered areas to roads and other facilities?  What setbacks should there be from the clustered areas to other areas that are not clustered?

I personally feel that in some areas some cluster housing could be beneficial, if done with proper design and regulation.  But those design and regulation criteria need to be included in the zoning ordinance to protect property owners from developments that could destroy the character of their neighborhoods.  An open ended inclusion of “clustering” in the ordinance, without specified details, would mean that every detail of every application for clustering would have to be tediously and contentiously debated in both the Planning and Zoning Commission and the County Commission.  I urge residents throughout the County to get involved in working productively with County Staff and Commissions to help draft these regulations.

—Orin Safier/Ranchos de Placitas

re: in memory of Deputy Sergeant Joe Harris

I have only been a citizen of this community for two years, though I receive daily the benefit of the dedication of the men and women of the Sandoval County Sheriff’s Department. I benefit by living in a decent and peaceful society.

The men and women who wear the badge in our community have much in common with the men and women who wear the boots for our nation. Though the rest of us may speak blithely about law and order and the defense of our freedoms, it is those who wake up every morning and don the badge or the uniform that must walk the walk, sometimes to their own great peril.

It takes many elements to make a community but it is the courage, dedication, and leadership of those like Deputy Joe Harris and Deputy Theresa Moriarty that put the word civil into civilization. In the words of Steven Biko who gave his life in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, a man whose young life was also cut short in its prime, “Leadership and security are not compatible. No struggle is a struggle without casualties.“

The leadership, courage, and determination of Deputy Sergeant Joe Harris must be honored in our hearts not just by the memory we hold of him or the respects we pay his family, but by our actions as well, for he has made the ultimate sacrifice to living in a more lawful, just, and civil world.

Joe Harris is a man who shall not be forgotten. A grateful citizen bows his head as a great man passes.


Behind the mike: Be wrong so that others may be right

—Michael A. Aun

The opposite of love is not hate; it is indifference. As long as people are still throwing pots and pans at one another there is an element of love left in the relationship.

There is nothing profound about this statement, and yet I have been a witness of late to two very painful incidents that have occurred with people I know.

The first happened to a young man who is very much in love with someone he wants to make his wife. He proposed to her. She accepted. The next step was to have “the conversation” with her father. That did not go well, and he was “escorted” from the home and told not to return. I am not sure how this soap opera will end, but the beginning was certainly inauspicious.

Freeze the frame for a moment. If you are the father of this young woman, naturally you want what is best for your daughter. Instead of sitting down and having an intelligent conversation about all the issues and options, rage kicks in and you throw the man who your daughter loves out of your home… and you disown her for life. Dumb with a capital “D.”

Here are the facts:

She is still your daughter, regardless of all the disowning you do.

She may one day bear your grandchildren, whether you like it or not.

She is an adult and can make her own decisions.

You may not want to give her your blessing, but you do not need to heap forty years of bad luck on her either simply because you do not like the way her hubby-to-be parts his hair.

So get bent out of shape if you must. But for heaven’s sake, do not start banning and disowning and doing irreparable damage to your own flesh and blood. One of the most painful lessons one can learn is that you can be responsible to your children, but not for your children.

You hope that you have given them enough insight and knowledge to make good choices in life, but at some point you have to trust them to make their own decisions. Do not disown them even if they make lousy choices. Last time I checked, half the American population has been down divorce alley at least once, so folks are going to make bad choices in life.

You sort of expect this kind of thing when dealing with young people; you do not expect it among senior citizens, which is the other painful incident of which I am aware.

Once upon a time these folks were married and seemed to be happy and content. All of a sudden, there’s trouble in Camelot and things are not going as well as they once did.

Comes next the divorce, which should be the end of the issue. But no, since the pots and pans are still being hurled back and forth, there must be some element of love left in the relationship. Remember, the opposite of love is not hate; it is indifference. If you fall out of love with someone, you simply do not care. You are indifferent.

Some folks want to try to salvage a relationship when the cost of the salvage job exceeds the value of the relationship, leading one to wonder aloud what that old bumper sticker said years ago: “Why do we do the things we do when we know the things we know?” What’s the definition of insanity? Doing the same old thing and hoping for different results.

So part of the salvage job included remarrying and recommitting to something that did not work so well the first time around. No surprise here—a second divorce ensued. Now the only people winning are the lawyers, whose fees are fattened by bad decisions.

Now, if you are a teenager and you make these kinds of decisions, at least you can chalk it up to inexperience and stupidity. If you’re a senior citizen and you have traveled this path before, shame on you for replicating your past.

Painful as it may seem, sometimes it might just be better to be friends than to be married. Marriage is difficult on a good day and it requires a lot of patience, forgiveness, love, and care. Imagine how it is on a bad day. None of those ingredients are anywhere to be found.

Adopt this philosophy: “Be wrong so that others may be right.” Life will be much less miserable.

Managing Bernalillo’s growth

—Town of Bernalillo

Recent U.S. Census figures indicate Bernalillo was the fastest growing town in New Mexico. Our town grew by 17.16% from 2007 to 2008 (pop. 9,237). It was not a big surprise to Bernalillo’s Planning & Zoning Department (P&Z) who has dealt with construction permits that went from 41 in 2003; to a peak of 390 in 2006 before a decline to 165 in 2008. More recently we see a strong trend for 2009. Based on anecdotal lot sales, P&Z conservatively estimates end of year 2009 permit numbers at between 125 and 150. It is vitally important that we anticipate and continue to step up to the planning and management of this growth.

We work hard to preserve the quality of life we currently enjoy while effectively managing the inevitable growth within and around us. Along with an investment in personnel, financial management and geographically information systems we are poised to more effectively deal with this growth and make better management decisions. Revenues from housing construction, and increased revenues from commercial development and sales are all necessary to aid in the replacement of our aging infrastructure and address associated manpower needs.

We have procured outside funding and together with increased Town of Bernalillo gross receipts dollars have launched several new infrastructure projects. Construction of the Rotary Park bathroom structure is now underway. The letting of the Camino del Pueblo enhancement and Camino don Tomas improvement projects is initiated now in October with construction anticipated starting in early November 2009. Bid opening for the Westside Public Safety Station is scheduled for September 29, 2009.

When you read about Town public hearings and debates on growth issues and concerns, keep in mind that this is a necessary democratic, albeit sometimes, difficult process. These are important forums. Working together, we can manage this growth and still help Bernalillo maintain a healthy, prosperous, vibrant community with all its legacy, history and quality of life.

re: Robert Redford

At times you have to travel great distances and, for us, spend significant sums of money to be with people whom you respect. It is also true that people of common interests often show up in common places. In the case of Robert Redford, both proverbs came true for us.

We have always admired Robert’s genius as an actor and more recently as a producer. We respect and honor his commitment to Native American culture. In 2004 we traveled, along with forty thousand Native Americans and friends, to the District of Columbia for the grand opening gala of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. Leading the processional along with Senators Ben Night Horse Campbell and Daniel Inouye was Robert Redford. It was a great privilege to be with these people and to be a part of the grand processional.

Since that warm September Washington D.C. day, we have not seen Robert Redford until a recent visit to Santa Fe and the opera. On this occasion, we stayed at the Encantado Resort, the newest Auberge property. It is without exception the most wonderfully serene and best-managed accommodation we have every booked. It is also within a five-minute chauffeured drive to the Santa Fe Opera.

Wanting to experience as much of the resort’s hospitality as we could budget into our one-night stay, our first stop was the pool and spa area. Not much activity going on except a heated pool and Jacuzzi. At the north end, a gentleman in a robe was seated reading. Shortly, a woman who had just left the spa area walked over to the gentleman at poolside. He stood, gave her a loving hug and kiss, then unrobed and jumped feet first into the pool. As he swam towards us, Vicki said, “He looks like Robert Redford.” In fact, it was Robert. They were visiting the Encantado while reportedly waiting for their Santa Fe home to be built.

Not being much of paparazzi, we ordered a glass of sauvignon blanc, toweled off, and prepared ourselves for what turned out be a fabulous night at the opera. Once again, we left Robert and his companion, this time at poolside and undisturbed.

—Ron Sullivan, Placitas






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