Sandoval Signpost


An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988
  Around Town

Placitas business, real estate trending upward

~Bill Diven

Hair stylist Dell Martinez was alerted by a friend and customer when the Placitas salon closed, but she hesitated about making the move from Albuquerque's busy Uptown.

"And then I went to a wine tasting at The Merc and met some people," she said. Judy McCallister, who with husband Orville developed the Homestead Village Shopping Plaza in the early 1990s, was making the introductions after showing her the vacant salon.

Her hesitation began to wane. So she took the plunge, leased the space, and opened Placitas del Salon in May. "It was something that would not go away and not leave me alone," Martinez said  "I'm so glad I did it. I feel at home."

Martinez isn't the only person betting on the Placitas economy as recent renovations at Homestead Village created more office space and allowed the Placitas Café to expand seating and its kitchen. Other businesses occupy the McCallister's office complex next door.

Café owner John Franklin told the Signpost that his expansion represents both business growth and a bet on the future. "As long as I can open the door, it's great," he said.

The Homestead properties on State Road 165 three miles from Interstate 25 are as close as Placitas comes to a commercial district with art galleries, café, bistro, and The Merc grocery plus services ranging from dentistry to a computer repair person who makes house calls. Even the real estate market is trending up, although not to the level preceding the 2008 recession.

Jon McCallister, general manager of The Merc, calls the New Mexico recovery sluggish and laments the closing of the U.S. Bank branch that anchored one end of the plaza earlier this year.

"We'd really love another financial institution," he said. "It's a turnkey operation for a bank."

The renovation that shrank The Merc created space for four offices, two of them now occupied. McCallister said The Merc retained 95 percent of its stock as it took over what had been underused storage space.

Still, Placitas residents seem to prefer shopping for groceries at big-box stores in Rio Rancho or Albuquerque despite The Merc's 55-and-older discount on Tuesdays, mail and email fliers with coupons, and free Wi-Fi.

"I know the people are here, but we're not getting deep market penetration," he said adding the businesses help boost residents' property values. "If you're too far from services, appraisers ding your house."

McCallister partnered with broker and Homestead tenant Dave Harper of Placitas Realty in developing the Wild Horse Mesa subdivision in northeastern Placitas. With the market in "a bit of a recovery" from the roughly twenty percent drop from pre-recession values, homes sales are up and a few builders are building spec homes, although possibly with their own money, Harper said.

"Our real estate market would turn around if we had more money from lenders," he added. Placitas is a unique market with only 75 homes currently for sale waiting for the right buyer, while potential buyers have more than 3,000 to choose from in metro Albuquerque, Harper said

By mid-August, the Greater Albuquerque Association of Realtors reported 91 home sales for the year in Placitas compared to 109 for all of 2016.

"We're going to beat that since the third quarter is historically one of our best," said Jennise Phillips, an associate broker at La Puerta Real Estate Services in Placitas. Phillips said has recently worked with buyers from California, Florida, and Albuquerque.

Phillips also heads the Placitas Chamber of Commerce, which has seen its membership grow to 94 since the chamber was revived two years ago. Those include local storefront and home-based ventures, area businesses that serve Placitas or whose owners live here, and retirees who've joined the chamber to support the community.

"Placitas is such a great community," Phillips said. "We are an actively engaged community, and people just love that."

A list of chamber members with contact information can be found on the website More about The Merc including sign-up for its e-flier is online at

End again in sight for lawsuit over horse roaming in Placitas

~Bill Diven

The lingering lawsuit over how the state livestock agency handles free-roaming horses in Placitas appears headed for dismissal for the third time.

In late July, the New Mexico Court of Appeals gave notice it planned to agree with a district judge who dismissed the suit filed by Wild Horse Observers Association (WHOA) against the New Mexico Livestock Board (NMLB). Parties to the case had twenty days to submit arguments supporting or opposing that decision.

WHOA filed the lawsuit in February, 2014, alleging the NMLB treated wandering horses as strays subject to auction under livestock law instead of testing for Spanish colonial bloodlines under a separate law protecting wild horses. District Judge Valerie Huling of Albuquerque dismissed the lawsuit in July, 2014, a decision overturned by the appellate court five months later.

The appeals court, however, moved beyond simply sending the case back to the lower court when it added its interpretation of the livestock and wild-horse laws. In essence the court created a new category of "unowned, unclaimed, and undomesticated free-roaming horses" that, after NMLB inspection, could become the property of landowners who corralled them on private property.

With the wild-horse law covering only horses captured on public land, that added a new argument about what constituted public land in Placitas. But with the law excluding federal and tribal land, that appeared to leave only the Placitas Open Space now fenced to keep horses out.

In September, 2016, Huling ruled the appellate decision resolved the case and dismissed it for the second time. She found NMLB was complying with the new interpretation of the laws and rejected an attempt by WHOA to broaden the case statewide and to reopen discovery—the process of finding facts—on the new question of whether other land in Placitas is public.

WHOA appealed again, but the appeals court signaled it is ready to rule that WHOA's lawsuit only pertained to Placitas and failed to raise the issues of public lands.

"Moreover, it does not appear that WHOA filed an amended complaint to add such claims," appellate Judge Jonathan Sutin wrote in the July 18 notice proposing to uphold Huling's decision. "Thus, we are not persuaded that WHOA is entitled to discovery that it sought in its motion to open discovery… Accordingly, we propose to conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying WHOA's motion to open discovery."

By Signpost deadline, the Court of Appeals had not issued its final ruling and sent the case back to Huling to dismiss for a third time.

Meanwhile, WHOA has a similar lawsuit pending in Lincoln County, filed a year ago after the NMLB impounded free-roaming horses allegedly lured onto private land and corralled. District Judge Daniel Bryant, noting the appellate ruling that such horses aren't livestock, ordered NMLB not to dispose of the 12 horses while the lawsuit proceeds.

Gilman Tunnels open

The Santa Fe National Forest has reopened the Gilman Tunnels in the Jemez Ranger District after stabilizing cliff faces and removing dangerous rocks. The closure came in mid-June after several near misses and rocks and boulders tumbled onto Forest Road 376 about six miles northwest of Jemez Pueblo. Roadside parking remains prohibited in the narrowest part of the canyon, although there is a designated parking area north of the tunnels blasted from the rock by a logging railroad in the 1920s.

"Keep in mind that although these measures have helped stabilize the canyon’s walls, weather events and natural erosion processes will continue to cause falling rocks to land on FR 376 at times," a notice on the forest website states. "Situational awareness is always necessary while driving through this area, considering the unstable nature of these sheer walls."

Folds of Honor Patriot Gala offers scholarships

~Pat Quick

The nonprofit Folds of Honor Foundation was established nine years ago by Major Dan Rooney of the Tulsa Air National Guard, himself a veteran of three combat tours in Afghanistan. Its mission is to provide educational scholarships to children and spouses of servicemen killed or severely injured since the 9-11 terrorism attack.

Jim Quick of Placitas, a retired US Air Force Colonel, along with the Rio Grande Patriot team have organized the third annual Folds of Honor Patriot Gala—the 2017 winner of the Albuquerque Journal’s Reader’s Choice Award for best Charity Gala. Jim said that Federal Educational Benefits are available to only about 13 percent of those in need of assistance. The Rio Grande Patriots primary purpose is to raise funds for the Folds of Honor Foundation which has already provided over $150,000 in scholarships to New Mexico recipients

This year’s Patriot Gala will have their honored guest Mr. Hiroshi Miyamura, Medal of Honor Recipient from Gallup along with Governor Suzanna Martinez. Also speaking will be Major Ed Pulido, Executive Vice President of The Folds of Honor and a severely injured survivor of an IED attack in Iraq along with two local scholarship recipients and their families.

The gala will pay special tribute to the 87 New Mexicans that have paid the ultimate sacrifice since 9-11 and will honor civilian and military individuals who go above and beyond to help our local servicemen and women. A local scholarship will be presented.

The Folds of Honor Patriot Gala will be held at Sandia Resort/Casino on September 23. Reservations and additional information are available at

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