Sandoval Signpost
An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988
  The Gauntlet
c. Rudi Klimpert

Click Here To submit a letter or a response to the Gauntlet.

Letters are subject to editing for length, clarity, libel, and other considerations. Please limit your letter to approximately four hundred words. Letter submissions are due by the twentieth of the month prior. Please see the Contact Us page for submission options (e-mail, web, fax, mail).

By submitting your comments to the Sandoval Signpost you are granting us permission to reprint all or an edited portion of your message.

letters, opinions, editorials

re: mountain lion sighting

Glad to see a familiar name publishing the Signpost, welcome back.

Sure liked the story about the mountain lion. So sad for the lion and the riders. We have mountain lions right here in Placitas. This spring, a beautiful specimen of a mountain lion was acquiring dinner about 5:00 p.m. in front of the La Puerta building. Everyone had left for home and the area was empty. I just happened up our street and was able to watch the kill of bunny à la carte for dinner. No camera at hand, of course.

Again welcome back.

—Marlene Walker, Placitas

re: Cashwell

You just ran a story on this proposed new development on the Cashwell Property. I went to the meeting yesterday and the developer, speaking for Placitas Ventures, admitted they hadn’t drilled any test wells, which means they never drilled any test wells the first time Cashwell proposed developing this tract commercially. Well, Peggy Johnson, Senior Hydrologist form the New Mexico Bureau of Hydrogeology and Mineral Resources did— back when she did her study of the entire water system of Placitas—a dry hole down to seven hundred feet. Her study of the poor quality and lack of sustainable water particular to the Cashwell Tract that I requested, shows the Cashwell tract on the geological map and cross sections underground that shows how any recharge is blocked by the rock formations from thousands of years ago. In no way does this benefit the community and Cashwell should just admit he bought a non-sustainable, arid piece of land, donate it to charity, and take the tax write-off. If the County Commission were to approve this revised plan, I’ll be the next one taking him, and the Commission, to court over this absurd idea.

—Kevin Quail, Placitas

re: Cashwell hearing

Letter to the editor:

On Thursday evening, August 25, the Sandoval County Planning and Zoning Commission (PZC) began a hearing on the Cashwell family’s latest application for rezoning of its property along highway NM 165 in the heart of Placitas.  The requested zoning change would allow construction of 65 clustered homes, 17 of which would form a closely spaced row along the ridge top, and 14 of which would be attached housing units. The proposed development would be incompatible with its surroundings, would destroy views and detract from the area’s character, and would adversely affect neighboring communities and property values. The PZC’s approval would set a negative precedent, inviting others to propose similarly intrusive (but lucrative) developments, not just in Placitas but throughout the county. Placitas residents overwhelmingly oppose the Cashwell plan, but the County Development Department is supporting it, as it did the previous Cashwell request in 2009.

Despite objections, the PZC insisted that it would conduct the August 25 hearing according to the standard one-sided procedure it has long been accustomed to using in zoning matters. Accordingly, the Cashwell representatives were allowed an uninterrupted hour and a half to present their plan and their case for approval, in addition to which County Development staff spoke in their favor; but citizens opposed to the application were required to limit their remarks to two minutes, or five minutes if they were representatives of groups. On top of that, the PZC chairman agreed to the Cashwells’ request that they be allowed to rebut anything members of the public had to say, and thus that they have the last word as well as the first. 

When the Cashwell matter came up in 2009, we Placitas residents did not know our procedural rights, and so we acquiesced in the kind of unfair process just described. But this time we are better informed. In a landmark 2008 decision in a case known as Albuquerque Commons, the New Mexico Supreme Court defined the proper quasi-judicial procedures to be followed by a public authority in dealing with a rezoning request. What the process requires, the Court said, is that interested parties—opponents as well as proponents—be allowed to present and rebut evidence (meaning, among other things, to be able to call witnesses and to cross-examine); that the case be heard by an impartial tribunal that has had no ex parte contacts regarding the question at issue; and that the public authority’s decision be supported by findings of fact based on evidence entered into the record. The governing principles, the Court further said, are to be fairness, justice, and due process. The PZC’s one-sided hearing format falls far short of meeting any of these criteria. 

The Cashwell hearing is not finished; time ran out, and the matter is to be held over until October. Between now and then, concerned Placitas residents, determined to avert the damage the Cashwell project would do to our community, will be taking steps to secure the full due-process rights the law provides. But the significance of this issue extends far beyond Cashwell. The time has come to level the playing field, to rewrite the rules, and to change permanently the way in which land-use issues are decided in Sandoval County.

—Stephen M. Barro, Placitas

re: Cashwell development in Placitas

Some months ago, many Placitas residents spent many hours in many meetings under the auspices of the Sandoval County Planning Department in an attempt to clarify our boundaries and expectations for our community. At that time, a similar request from the Cashwell interests was formally, definitely, and loudly rejected. The reasons for that rejection were made very clear.

We would like to reiterate our thinking and discussion in this matter as follows:

1) The parcel in question is located in an area that is traditionally part of the historic Placitas community. It is, in fact, immediately adjacent to the San Antonio de las Huertas Land Grant cemetery and the access to the cemetery.

Placitas residents have been very proactive in supporting and sustaining the institutions that are usually considered part of a long-established community: school, post office, churches, cemeteries, central child care facility, food bank, to name a few. This is evidenced by our support of the original meetings to define our zoning.

2) This year in particular demonstrates again the water issues that have been a constant in Placitas, as well as in New Mexico regionally.

3) There are lots of places to live in Placitas—both for rent and for sale. Permitting another 65 is not making a contribution to our community many of the presently available houses are also “spec houses,” usually sold glowingly to folks from elsewhere. The community will, after all, bear the responsibility for educating the newcomers about our issues.

4) As is typical in Placitas, much of the land in question is borderline vertical (otherwise it would have been occupied sooner, as close as it is to the center of action?) Putting arroyos and hillsides into something you call “trails” and “open space” is a dodge, not a constructive use. Likewise, nibbling away at the previously defined zoning is not conducive to maintaining our character as a community. The only thing “special” about this application for a change to “Special Use’ is the benefits it will bestow on the present owners, not on our community

We hope the Planning & Zoning Commission will respect the efforts we have invested in our community.

—Ann Rustebakke, and endorsed by (officers and members) Jean Eichberger, Maureen Hightower, Nancy Skeens, and Robert Wessely—Friends of Placitas, a 501 C-3 entity

re: water shortage

Dear Placitans,

It has been dry for a long time. I’ve seen things dry up worse, but soon we will be breaking some records. The outlook, through the winter is a probable unprecedented double dip La Niña through at least the coming winter. 2000-year tree ring studies within our area show super drought periods of 80 to 100 years in duration and more, so if this dry time continues indefinitely, it’s completely normal. Many of us have or will soon run out of water. Wells are going dry. Harvested storage is literally at the bottom of the barrel. If we don’t get some major downpours, apoplectic real estate agents will have to pass the National Guard water truck on their way to the latest open house, not something that instills confidence in potential buyers. I don’t have a well and depend on the acequia for my domestic water, and it looks like soon this will be the fourth time I’ve had to haul water from the spring, which has not dried up completely ever, so far. We all suffer a lot in such times. Running out of water is traumatic, with a hush-hush response, so most don’t know what’s really going on out there. What is to be done?; as they say in Russia. Looking at Russian history, it’s clear they haven’t found the answer. Can we? Well, I don’t think there is a specific answer, but there are places we can be that will help us deal with whatever comes over the hill. We have to start real thinking and discourse again, some of us not having much experience or memory of such things. I’m not so interested in dealing with the Water Assembly folks, I’m interested in dealing with you, my neighbors and community members. In the end, that’s what’s going to count. If what I mentioned at the top of this happens, most of us will move on, just like they did at Chaco. But, if things aren’t so bad and the snow and rains return some, we need to start to protect our resources better, which means hanging together without control freaks upsetting everything with their egos. Sorry, but that’s the way it is. We need to stop thinking we need to absolutely love someone before we have neighborly relations. Good neighbors often abhor each other. So, lets get over this, start coming together, forget the rest of the world for once, and stop trying to “grow” our cancerous economy. As things get water tight, some will try and fight over it. I’ll quote a Spanish dicho, in English: “If we fight over the water, we won’t have any.”

—Lynn Montgomery, Placitas

re: a serpentine bonding

Dear Friends Back East,

May this note find you all well and un-mugged in your big baked apple of a metropolis.

I am herewith reporting a reptilian adventure. A neighbor lady friend recently called, asking if I could help remove a snake entangled in plastic netting in her decorative outdoor pond—netting designed to keep things out of the small water body. She didn’t know the type of snake but thought it was a rattler. Not knowing if it was alive or dead, she was hesitant to take a pulse. 

Although I respect and admire snakes, I also have an aversion to their close proximity. But, wishing to avoid any suspicion that I lacked derring-do, I brought thick gloves, and a long rake, and strode to her house pretending to ooze true grit and large measures of spunk and pluck.

My testosterone-laden performance was greatly simplified upon discovering the reptile to be a non-venomous bull snake which, badly entangled, had apparently drowned. Using her garden shears to cut the netting, we were gradually able to free the three-foot serpent’s corpse.

For the very first time, I handled a real snake, albeit one whose soul was now in herpetological heaven. Offering to remove the snake from the premises, I headed home, supporting him by his mid-section. He swayed gently, to and fro, as I bore him along. He had struggled mightily to become free with portions of the netting deeply imbedded in his ornately patterned skin.

I had planned to place the dead animal in a remote spot—perhaps providing an avian predator with a meal. But as I walked, deepening my focus on the poor lifeless creature and his sad fate, my childish aversion to his presence in my gloved hand fell away. Oddly enough, I began to develop empathy for the young bull snake and engaged a current of thought that most would find quite peculiar, which recognized our sharing of the same universal lifeforce, at the same time, on the same planet, in the same environment, our shared appreciation for food and drink, our common hopes for survival and pain avoidance, and related philosophical musings. Alas, I could not offer up the dead creature as a meal for others, despite the naturalism of doing so.

Please keep this under your hat, as I feel a tad self-conscious to admit giving the snake a burial under a juniper near my house. Aging Coon Cat Patrick was a witness, posting himself next to the still creature, occasionally giving it a sniff as I shoveled. He quietly watched as I coiled the snake’s body and placed it on smooth stones I’d arranged in the bottom of the little grave. Patrick silently watched me replace the soil.

Customarily, Patrick fixes me with a quizzical, penetrating stare when seeing me engaged in puzzling behavior. If he knew how to roll his yellow eyes and shake his furry head at me, he’d do so frequently.

But on this occasion, the old fellow merely cast a final look at the turned earth and strolled towards the front door, turning once to see if I was following. I don’t know what primitive workings were occupying his little feline mind, but I sensed his understanding of the event surpassed my own.  

Your Friend,


re: regarding Samantha’s outing

On July 22, 2011, “Samantha,” my 31-year-old (not a mistake) palomino mare was missing from her very nice home in Homesteads when I went to feed her around 4:15 p.m. Kyle Linzer and his girlfriend drove up about that time and started helping me look for her. To give you the end of the story before I tell you the story is to be merciful, in that she was taken in by strangers and old friends and was back home the same day. She traveled about a mile from her stable, but being the sassy blond that she is, I later said it looked like she was making a bee-line due west to go dancing in Bernalillo. She has been ridden all over the area except due west, so I wasn’t sure what she would do. This is a letter of thank you to all of those who helped in getting her back to me and to all those who help others who need a rattler or tarantula removed or help reunite a dog or cat with its owner or take in a stray horse as was my case. Without Bob Alexander who came over and helped me track her, I might have lost heart, as it was very hot and humid that afternoon. We actually did a very good job of tracking her to Tierra Madre Road, where the tracks just stopped. A big thank you to the couple who drove by in a white SUV on T.M. Rd. and stopped and asked what had happened. She took my phone number and ultimately called me back to tell me that Dave Harper had my horse, according to what someone at the Merc told her when she asked about putting a “Missing Palomino” sign up at the Merc. Thanks to that someone, I knew to call Dave (who is my new hero), and Dave told me that Holly Mitchell had her. I called Holly and her husband Ron had her home by 6:15 p.m. or so. He told me the rest of the story, which is that someone (I would love to thank them, too, if I knew who they were) had taken her in, and, I guess, called Dave, and Dave called Holly around 3:00 p.m. Ron told me that he picked her up around 4:00 p.m. and took her up to their place where Samantha lived for a year at one time. I also had Christy Pickett, a friend in La Mesa drive up to the Merc from her home to see if she could spot her. So, to all you animal rescuers and animal lovers and people who were so helpful in getting Samantha back to me, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You are a great bunch of people.

—Jan Kerr, Placitas





Ad Rates  Back Issues  Contact Us  Front Page  Up Front  Animal News   Around Town  Arts   Business Classifieds  Calendar   Community Bits  Community Center  Eco-Beat  Featured Artist  The Gauntlet Health  Community Links  Night Sky  My Wife and Times  Public Safety  Real  People  Stereogram  Time Off  Youth