Commission approves a six-month moratorium in Tomé-Adelino

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On a 4-0 vote last week, Valencia County commissioners enacted an immediate six-month moratorium on commercial development along a 4.5 mile stretch through the heart of the Tomé-Adelino area.

The moratorium provides that there will be no building permits for any new or expanded construction of any commercial buildings, no zone changes, no commercial site design approvals and no subdivisions shall be issued or approved for the area.

The moratorium will not halt projects that are already considered legally vested, county attorneys said. A vested project has already completed a zone change, subdivision or been issued a building permit.

"Because a final determination has been made by the county commission (on some projects) this moratorium would not impact them," said county attorney Dave Pato.

The moratorium was enacted to give the commissioners and people of the Tomé-Adelino areas the opportunity to develop a historic overlay and greenbelt designation for the area.

The boundaries of the area under the moratorium start at Edeal and Rector roads to the north, come down the La Constancia ditch and around the eastern side of Tomé Hill. It then goes south down La Entrada to what is anecdotally called the water fall at N.M. 47, then to the lower Peralta riverside drain on the west side. The Rio Grande is the western-most boundary.

Close to 20 people testified about the moratorium, with the majority favoring the temporary halt to commercial development in the area.

Adelino resident Lawrence Sanchez said the reason people wanted the moratorium was to preserve the area's culture, history and agricultural nature.

"People are moving here because of the surroundings. We have a lot of history and would like to preserve it," Sanchez said. "If we don't preserve our agriculture, everything will crumble in. We are tired of everyone trying to come in and do their thing and destroy our culture."

Del Chavez, a Tomé resident who lives directly across the street from a piece of property that developers wanted to build a Family Dollar on, encouraged the commissioners to consider the possibility of bringing eco tourism to the area, instead of retail development.

"Designating Tomé as a historic district will help Tomé get a piece of the pie of eco tourism," Chavez said. "This is a national and international travel destination. You can bring in the right kind of economic development that is compatible with historic preservation."

Other residents, such as local historian Matt Baca, emphasized the historic value Tomé had to Valencia County and the state.

Commissioner Mary Andersen wanted to know how the county planned to notify all the property owners in the moratorium area about what was happening.

Commissioner Donald Holliday said he shared Andersen's concerns about notification.

"There are about 30 people here and there must be 30,000 people out there," Holliday said.

Holliday also urged those in favor of the moratorium to be careful.

"At what price? You say you want people to come and check out the area, and eventually they are going to want in. You are saying, 'You are welcome to come and visit, spend money, but get the hell out,'" he said.

"It is beautiful. I grew up there, but you can't lock the doors. We need to be careful. We might damage ourselves in the long run. I know what you're doing and I appreciate it. Just be careful."

Rita Padilla-Gutierrez, now a Bosque resident, but born and raised in Tomé, called the moratorium "the first monumental step in getting a historic special district. You are right Commissioner Holliday, we need to be careful what we wish for.

"We have thought about what we are going to be. Do we want to become a Santa Fe, where only certain people can afford to live here? We have history to preserve and we will do whatever we can to preserve that — that little stretch, that little area. Tomé has never really asked anything of this county, but it has given a lot."

On the other side of the argument, Bob Gostischa, a resident of Meadow Lake, said if the people of Tomé want things done their own way, they should consider incorporating.

He went on to say that encouraging eco tourism in the area would only increase traffic and the need for commercial development.

James Crawford, a Tomé resident for more than 30 years, said he treasures the attributes of his community that people are trying to preserve, but didn't think a moratorium was needed or the right thing to do.

Crawford said granting the moratorium would set a precedent and only lead to more requests for the same.

"Pretty soon you have a blanket moratorium and are crying the blues about lack of revenue," he said.

He also emphasized the need for a notice and outreach to people living inside the moratorium area.

"I live on property in the middle of the affected area. If I had not attended the March 20 meeting and caught a glimpse of a map only (the commissioners) were privy to, I wouldn't have realized that," Crawford said.

Commissioner Andersen said what Crawford said was what the commissioners were going to hear "from hundreds of people unless we make the effort to notify people. We need to tell people what we planing and what people would like to have, this special historic district."

Donna Crawford, the wife of Jim Crawford, also emphasized the need for openness and notification to property owners about the coming process.

"All property owners should be notified about this special district, green zone. What are the boundaries?" Donna Crawford asked. "No doubt many landowners in the Tomé-Adelino area are still in the dark about this."

County attorney Adren Nance said in this situation, the county should make the extra effort to give more notice.

Commissioner Alicia Aguilar asked if the special district process included public hearings and commission action.

Both attorneys indicated that it did.

"We have to start somewhere to arrive at something the whole community can embrace and that is what we're doing," Aguilar said. "So I would move approval of this moratorium."

While she was in full accord with preserving the area, Andersen was concerned what the moratorium would do to personal property rights, asking that the proposed one year moratorium be shortened to six months.

Aguilar modified her motion to limit the moratorium to six months and Commission Chairman Charles Eaton seconded the motion.

The final vote was four in favor of the moratorium, with Holliday abstaining. He objected to the vote because of the abrupt transition from the public hearing portion of the meeting into action items.

"When did we get off discussion and onto action items? I think we need to have a motion to get out of discussion and into action," Holliday said. "This is not a no vote or a yes vote. I'm just abstaining."

After Aguilar made a motion to adopt the ordinance at the end of the public hearing, Holliday began discussing why the residents wanted the moratorium.

Eaton cut in, making a second for the purposes of discussion under Robert's Rules of Order. Holliday took offense at the interruption, saying he had the floor and said, "I don't know Robert."

As the meeting adjourned, a man from the audience shouted, "Holliday, you need to resign. Resign or grow up."

The commissioner responded that the man was more than welcome to come sit in his chair — all he had to do was run for office.

On Wednesday morning, about 20 people attended a meeting at the Thome Dominguez Community Center to discussion how to proceed with a possible historic overlay zone and greenbelt for the Tomé-Adelino area.

At the meeting, eight people volunteered to serve on an 11 person community advisory committee, that will meet at 6:30 p.m., every Tuesday, starting on April 23, at the community center.

The committee members so far are Andrea Padilla, June Jaramillo, Rita Padilla-Gutierrez, Jim Crawford, Linda Guenley, Peter Lupsha, Andrew Barreras and Dennis Gast.


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