County commission holds hearing on Tomé property

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Once again there was much criticism of a proposed zone change for a piece of property in Tomé.

At Wednesday's public hearing before the county commissioners, with the exception of the applicants themselves and their attorney, no one spoke in favor of allowing the zoning of the property at 2975 N.M. 47 be changed from neighborhood commercial (C-1) zone to community commercial (C-2) zone.

The commissioners will take final action on the request at their 9:30 a.m., Wednesday, Aug. 15, meeting.

The controversy over the property began last year, when owners Bernardo and Patti Garcia petitioned the county for a conditional use permit to run an automotive shop. The request was denied after opposition from neighbors and nearby landowners.

In an effort to find a use that would be more in sync with the rural community, the Garcias decided to open a greenhouse/landscaping supply business, a permissive use under C-2 zoning.

That proposed use has also met with objections from the community, as well.

Patricia Sanchez, who owns property across the highway from the Garcias and lives about two miles north, said the people of Tomé are "overwhelmingly against this zone change. We have several reservations. El Cid (the previous greenhouse on the same location) resulted in water and soil contamination in the past. No one is talking about that.

"The county has ordinances to protect people's livelihoods, and here we have some change that is very drastic," Sanchez said. "Going from C-1 to C-2, I would urge you to seriously think about this. We value our culture and traditions."

The Garcia's attorney, Tony Williams, has proposed that the zone change be legally bound to the limited C-2 use of a landscaping supply business. He said both his clients and Scott Edeal, who is selling the land to the Garcias, are willing to sign a covenant that will limit the land use in perpetuity to that one use.

"A C-2, with all it's permissive and conditional uses is very broad," Williams said. "We can certainly understand why one might object to that broad zoning in their area. That is why we are proposing to enter into this recorded covenant that will limit the C-2 usage to the permissive use defined as landscaping."

However, Belen attorney Amavalise Jaramillo said the Garcias might not be able to sign such a binding contract, since his client still has financial interest in the property.

Jaramillo said he represented Chris Crespin, a man the Garcias say is their former business partner in the automotive venture.

Earlier this year, Crespin was charged with a slew of felonies including kidnapping, aggravated burglary, aggravated battery on a household member and bribery of a witness. Williams said the Garcias renegotiated the purchase agreement with Edeal, putting only their names on the property title.

Jaramillo argued that Crespin was still on the mortgage note and had filed a civil action to recover the $28,000 he paid to Stewart Title for the down payment on the property.

"You need to be aware the Garcias are not the sole owners," Jaramillo told the commissioners. "There are other parties that have an interest in this property."

Commission Chairman Donald Holliday said the commission was being asked to consider the zone change only and the "personal issue" would have to be resolved between the Garcias and Crespin.

Former Tomé resident and member of the town of Tomé Land Grant Board of Directors Rita Padilla-Gutierrez questioned the involvement of Commissioner Georgia Otero-Kirkham in the zone change request.

"I don't think she can vote. She is not here to hear the arguments, and I want to thank Mr. Jaramillo for bringing up the fact that Stewart Title had a direct part in the sale," Padilla-Gutierrez said.

Otero-Kirkham was not at the Wednesday meeting and is the president of Stewart Title in Los Lunas.

Padilla-Gutierrez called the Garcia's request "spot zoning."

"It doesn't make sense. We've been trying for centuries, literally centuries, to preserve this area," Padilla-Gutierrez said. "C-2 is dangerous and our main objection is it opens up too many other possibilities we will have to fight down the road. This is a drastic change that will change the neighborhood for a long time to come."

According to county zoning ordinances, permitted uses in a C-1 zone include restaurants, with or without a liquor license; refreshment stands, retail and convenience stores smaller than 5,000 square feet; offices, community or municipal water supply or sewer systems, public facilities, flea markets, churches and signs.

Permitted uses in a C-2 zone include all the uses in a C-1 zone, such as shopping centers, hotels or motels, tavern bars or lounges, farm equipment sales, greenhouses, plant nurseries or landscaping, indoor or recreational facilities, lumber sales, gas stations, feed stores and firewood sales.


-- Email the author at jdendinger@news-bulletin.com.