A county ordinance limiting the weight of vehicles traveling on Don Felipe Road was repealed by the Valencia County Commission after business owners along the street argued it was detrimental to their livelihoods.
At the March 17 commission meeting, commissioners voted 4-1 to repeal the ordinance, which prohibited vehicles weighing more than five tons on the road without a permit from the county, with Commissioner David Hyder voting no.
The ordinance authorizing the repeal of the old law will go into effect 30 days after it’s approval.
The ordinance was originally passed in March 2020 after then-commissioner Charles Eaton said residents along the road expressed concerns about the newly-paved road being damaged by heavy truck traffic.
During the public hearing on the ordinance a year ago, no one from the public spoke in favor of or against the ordinance, which was approved unanimously by the commission.
Last month, Los Lunas attorney Josh Jimenez said several business owners on the road were being affected by the weight limit and permitting process, and asked the commissioners to consider a repeal of the ordinance.
Jimenez argued the county didn’t present any evidence of damage to the road during the original public hearing for the weight limit and has not shown it has been damaged in the year since the repaving.
The commission passed the ordinance shortly after it spent $308,718 in capital outlay funding to repave about 1.5 miles of the road.
Don Felipe Road runs south off the I-25 Bypass in Belen, the first portion of which is in the unincorporated county while the rest is in the city of Belen.
Latisha Garcia, co-owner of Pete’s Pro Truck and Auto Repair with her husband, Pete, said the business has several contracts to service fleet vehicles for local businesses, such as BNSF, and cannot predict when customers will bring heavy vehicles in for repair in order to get a permit from the county.
The owners of Barela Farms, Karen and Walter Barela, said they have been at their current location for 20 years and the type of vehicles on the road haven’t changed.
“The current location of Spartan Towing was previously where the Schwan’s was. There were a lot of heavy trucks in and out, and that use has not changed in 20 years,” Walter Barela said.
As a 24-hour operation, Spartan Towing owner Jesse Gonzales said his business has no way of knowing when it would need a permit to exceed the weight limit.
“We never know when we’ll be pulling out a truck,” Gonzales said.
Richard Finley, manager at Castillo Prestress, said he had no idea the ordinance existed until a New Mexico State Police officer came to the plant and told him he couldn’t send out a planned shipment of concrete beams without a permit.
Finley said while the permitting process has improved since last year, it’s still burdensome.
“We have to gather up the serial numbers for the trucks and trailers, fill out paperwork at the county. It’s a huge extra effort that is totally unnecessary,” he said. “It’s a hardship to continue getting the permits. The trucking company we use out of Denver won’t mobilize its equipment to drive 9/10s of a mile down Don Felipe … It’s up to us to get (the permits).”
Valencia County Public Works director Lina Benavidez said the county knew Castillo specifically would be impacted by the ordinance and the company was notified in 2020.
“After it passed, we sent them a packet with the new ordinance, we put up signs on Don Felipe,” Benavidez said.
She said all residents living on Don Felipe were notified of the March 17 public hearing to repeal the ordinance, noting one person expressed interest in the meeting but didn’t communicate further with her.
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.