Los Chavez zone change has finally come to a conclusion; 10 homes

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A zone change on 40 acres in Los Chavez that has been bouncing around the system since 2008 has been granted what looks to be the last time.

Nearly six years ago, the two owners of the property — John Whisenant and Elias Barela — asked for a zone change from agricultural preserve to rural residential 2 to allow for the creation of 15 two-acre lots.

The zone change was approved on a 3-2 vote by the county commissioners, but after an appeal by the Los Chavez Community Association and 41 residents of the rural community, a district court judge remanded the matter back to the commission.

The judge ruled that former county commissioner Georgia Otero-Kirkham should not have voted on the request, since she is Barela's first cousin. Otero-Kirkham's yes vote broke what would have been a 2-2 deadlock of the commissioners.

Whisenant and Barela appealed the district court decision, but the court of appeals upheld the decision. When the matter came back to the commissioners last year, three of the five had to recuse themselves from rehearing the case because parties both for and against the zone change had called them to voice an opinion, resulting in what is called ex parte communications.

The commissioners appointed a hearing officer to hear the case in May. After hearing only arguments from the attorneys on both sides, hearing officer John Myers rendered his decision, upholding the zone change. However there were 11 conditions included in the decision.

Before the commissioners voted to uphold Myers' findings earlier this month, Los Chavez resident William Dean, a vocal opponent of the subdivision, spoke to them.

"The loss of the present agriculture in Valencia County," Dean said. "If you accept these findings, please enforce the conditions. It is very important to remember the septic system contamination in Los Chavez is very serious. Do what you have to do. I thank you for doing what you've been doing. It's unfortunate to have to lose some of our AP (land)."

Since the acreage was in his district, Commission Chairman Charles Eaton made the motion to ratify Myers' determination and the conditions. It passed unanimously.

The conditions placed on the zone change by Myers included the mandate that no lot could be smaller than two acres and no more than 15 lots total could be created. He also noted that compliance with other conditions could result in fewer than 15 lots.

The one that seems to do that is the requirement that 20 of the 40 acres be reserved for "agricultural, farming, ranching, livestock management, open space or related activity."

With half the area reserved for agricultural, and the remaining 20 acres divided into lots no smaller than two acres, the project seems to be limited to only 10 home sites, instead of the 15 originally proposed.

The agricultural properties have to be 300-feet by 300-feet, nothing can be built on them and no more than 6 percent of a lot may be improved with impervious materials.

All lots must be provided with an alternative liquid waste system acceptable to the New Mexico Environmental Department, one of the conditions read.


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