Commission OKs dollar store in LC

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A requested zone change for a Dollar General in Los Chavez got the green light from county commissioners on a 4-0 vote last week, but there were a few stipulations.

Commissioners mandated that the project must obtain driveway permits from the New Mexico Department of Transportation, since the entry is off N.M. 314, a state highway, as well as meet all county requirements, receive a favorable site design review and environmental assessment and replat the property to allow for additional right-of-way for the entrance.

Commissioner Donald Holliday was not at the May 15 meeting.

The requested zone change is for a parcel just more than two acres, north of the Los Chavez Fire Station at 1972 N.M. 314. The property is zoned C-1, but because of the proposed building's size, the zoning must be changed to C-2.

In March, the planning and zoning commission recommended denying the zone change on a 4-1 vote.

Katherine Davis, representing Huntsville, Ala., developer The Broadway Group, argued that the commission's recommendation was incorrect because development of a retail space at that location was in keeping with the county's comprehensive plan and appropriate, considering the surrounding land use.

"Planning and zoning said this would alter the character of the surrounding area," Davis said at a May 8 public meeting. "If we were asking to change this from residential to commercial, it would. But there is a distinctive identity along 314, and that is commercial."

Davis said many of the nearby properties are already zoned commercial, but are undeveloped or being used residentially.

There are other traffic generators and commercial operations in the area, she said, naming Allsup's, Sears, John Deere, Toby's Doors and Damacio's Chile.

A traffic impact analysis has been completed and given to the NMDOT, Davis said. The only commentary so far from DOT was the project may need a north-bound turn lane, she said. The developer's traffic engineer recommended a south-bound deceleration lane and that is part of the current site plan.

Commissioners expressed concerns about access, easements, retention of runoff, pre-existing covenants filed when the land was subdivided and the impact of an additional well and septic system in the area.

Davis said those issues would be addressed during the site plan review with the county's planning and zoning department.

"The zone change is based on whether it meets the requirements of the comprehensive plan," she said. "We may get the zone change and not be able to get the site plan approval. All these criteria are things we have to meet under the site plan, not the zone change."

Richard Herrera lives and operates Damacio's Chile across the highway from the proposed Dollar General location

Herrera said the property was previously a service station, and he was concerned that disturbing the site could contaminate nearby wells.

"My biggest concern is this is public property, a public parking lot. We know what kind of drug problem we have here," Herrera said. "I know they said the store manager won't let anyone loiter, but all they have to do is buy a Coke every 30 minutes and they aren't loitering."

The store is open to the public, Davis said, but "you can tell people they are not allowed to be at your establishment. If someone is sitting there dealing drugs, you call the police."

As for possible contamination, Davis said her client had no evidence of environmental contamination on the site and, if there was, the developer would clean it up.

Dr. Teresa Smith de Cherif said even though the developer held a neighborhood meeting in April to discuss the project, she questioned if residents were adequately notified.

"There are two neighborhood associations. I would ask if either were notified. In most matters of community interest, a legal notice is given and people turn out and their opinions are heard," de Cherif said.

Commissioners are well aware of the consequences of overturning a "well considered recommendation by planning and zoning," she said. "That action has been rife with litigation at least three times."

Raymond Baca has lived in Los Chavez for almost 50 years and said the traffic is always heavy in the area, but it's already there.

"I think it's a really convenient and good location," Baca said. "I think you can turn in and out without a problem."


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