Peralta Town Council upholds P & Z commission's permit decision

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Peralta town councilors unanimously upheld a planning and zoning commission decision to approve a conditional use permit for a propane business at last month's regular meeting.

Peralta residents Camille Sanchez and Victor Lopez filed an appeal to the commission's decision and residents collected signatures in opposition to Ortega's Propane Service Inc.

The business is expected to open near N.M. 47 and Sunflower Lane once a lighting plan is submitted to the town.

Laura Griego, whose parents live near the business, said the group was "in total objection" to the business in an area, which she says is "oversaturated" with propane companies.

Griego said the land has deed restrictions that don't allow for an industrial business to be located in the area.

But the town's attorney, Steven Chavez, said councilors have no authority to enforce private deed restrictions. He said land owners who have a legal matter can file a civil lawsuit to challenge the stipulations.

"(The town) cannot get involved in a private dispute, such as restrictions," Chavez said.

Griego had asked councilors to have a moratorium on the business for 60 days while town officials researched the matter.

But Randy Smith, the town's planning and zoning chairman, said he asked the L.P. Gas Bureau in Albuquerque about the requirements and said he asked a resident about a similar propane business in the area.

Smith said he asked about the potential odor that could omit from the business since residents were concerned with a gas smell.

He said the resident smelled propane "a couple of times" in several years of living at the residence.

Smith said a propane company coming to the area wouldn't pose a safety or environmental hazard.

The matter was initially taken to the town's planning and zoning department because residents said the smell of propane would be considered a nuisance and violation of town ordinances.

Michael Ortega, owner of Ortega's Propane Service Inc., told the council he has to follow specific procedures to open a new business. His company has a few locations in Albuquerque.

Ortega said his equipment isn't considered "heavy" because it's not earth-moving equipment.

"If I (don't) go through the right protocol, I can't have a propane company," Ortega said. "If I don't do it the right way, there is no propane company.

"If I don't go and do everything correctly, that's it. (The planning and zoning commission) did their homework."

Councilor Joseph Romero defended members of the planning and zoning commission who took criticism for approving the conditional use permit. Romero said some members of the commission called him to say they were losing sleep over the matter.

He said they are "honest volunteers" who have residents' best interests in mind.

During the meeting, Griego said the residents' pleas "fell on deaf ears," and that testimony from residents to the commission was ignored and disregarded.

"Don't get the impression that the planning and zoning commission doesn't care about your concerns or that they aren't concerned with your quality of life ― because they are," Romero said.

Ortega's Propane Service Inc. must submit a lighting plan to the town council by Aug. 28.


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