The Valencia County commission approved two zone changes that will bring a restaurant to  a community on the east side of the county and a new food truck to the valley.

At the Dec. 15 meeting, the commissioners granted a zone change from Rural Residential 1 to Commercial 1 at 496 Meadow Lake Road to allow for a restaurant on the property, as well as a conditional use permit for an RV park.

Los Lunas architect John Kirkpatrick represented property owner Gilberto Carbajal during the public hearing for the zone change request.

“The property does have precedence for commercial use. It was a barber shop and restaurant in the past,” Kirkpatrick said.

He continued, saying a restaurant and RV park at that location would fall into what’s being identified as a priority growth center in the county’s draft comprehensive plan, and continues the trend of commercial development along that part of the highway.

“There are no restaurants or RV parks in area. This change benefits the county economically by adding to the  tax base,” the architect said. “I think changing to the property to C-1 is more consistent with development in the area. This allows a buffer between residential and the highway; it’s not desirable to have residential (development) abutting a major roadway.”

Kirkpatrick said Carbajal plans to fully landscape the property and put in quality structures that will improve the quality of the neighborhood.

Commissioner Joseph Bizzell asked if there would be adequate septic on site for both businesses. Kirkpatrick said instead of installing a larger septic system than what is already there, RVs would be required to empty their tanks into a dump station, adding that Carbajal would comply fully with septic and water requirements of the New Mexico Environment Department.

Gabe Luna, the county’s land use planner, said the septic system would be reviewed during the administrative site design review.

“This is not the final step, and there are still other permits needed. Site design in still a big part of this process,” Luna said.

The man living on the adjoining property said he was concerned about the amount of water the businesses would use, possibly causing issues with neighboring wells. He also said he was concerned about the lighting at night and noise from the RV park.

Kirkpatrick said there was an existing 6-inch domestic well on the property as well as an irrigation well, both with water rights. In terms of lights, he said the property owner would comply with the Night Sky Act, which requires lights be shielded in a way to direct light down and away from neighbors and the sky.

The commissioners also granted a zone change from Rural Residential 1 to Commercial 1 at 3077 N.M. 47 in Tomé to allow for the operation of a family-owned food truck, Tomé Todo.

The location includes an outdoor eating area, with large, colorful umbrellas for shade, and parking for 12 vehicles.

Alondra Chavez said her parents live on the adjoining piece of property, directly east of the food truck’s location.

“We are trying to open a small business and we are aware of the sensitivities in the community of Tomé,” Chavez said. “We have more than 2,000 people in the community who don’t have access to a restaurant. This will add cultural value to a historic location. … The location offers a good environment for families to sit down and relax.”

She added seniors in the community would have a convenient place to pick up a hot meal to take home.

“We have invested a lot and are very adamant about creating a family-friendly area that is unique to Tomé and the broader Valencia County,” Chavez said. “There is a diversity of commercial businesses in the area — Family Dollar, Get Hooked (On Jerky), Osprey Storage, Trees That Please, Serenity Stone Monument Creations — I think we do fit in here. The development of the land is not to the level that speaks to commercialization, but rather is minimal and colorful.”

In response to questions from Bizzell, Chavez said there are two septic systems — one on each lot — with a connection for the food truck’s waste water to the one on the west lot.

She also noted there are two large entrances into the property — one 32 feet and the other 27 feet wide — which were unidirectional so traffic entered one and exited from the other on and of N.M. 47.

Commissioner Jhonathan Aragon quipped the food offered by Tomé Todo must be really good.

“When there’s proposed commercial in Tomé, we usually get all of Tomé in this room,” Aragon said with a laugh.

The room was devoid of Tomé residents opposing the zone change.

Both Aragon and Commissioner David Hyder questioned Chavez about the family’s intentions, wondering if they might consider building a permanent restaurant on the property if the business proved successful.

Chavez assured the commission she and her family were very aware of community concerns about commercial development in Tomé.

“Right now, the plan is to just sell from the truck. However, the point of what if we grow? Given the financial need to get that stood up, that’s going to be a while,” she said.

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Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.