LOS LUNAS — Roberts Circle, in Los Lunas near the Main Street and N.M. 47 intersection, is expected to see the addition of a new multi-family apartment complex — the first of its kind east of the river.

The Los Lunas Village Council unanimously voted to rezone the property of 7 Roberts Circle NE from an R-1 zone to C-1 zone in response to the application submitted by property owners Angel and Berenice Cabrera.

According to the village’s planning and zoning code, an R-1 zone is designed to accommodate single-family detached residential uses (other than mobile home) at medium densities in areas served by public water and sewer facilities.

C-1 refers to a retail commercial district, which is designed to accommodate commercial and business activities pertaining to day-to-day needs of the residential populace.

The council also approved the owner’s designated use permit application. The permit will allow the owners to develop their vision of an eight unit apartment complex, the proposal being for two buildings each with four units. The plan is for the apartments to be two stories with two bedrooms each.

The parcel is currently vacant. To the north of the property, zoning is in the county jurisdiction, and to the south is a C-1 property containing a vacant storage facility. To the east is a C-1 property with a thrift store, and the west parcel is a C-1 zone containing an auto shop.

Angel Cabrera bought the property about six months ago with the intention of building apartments.

“We’re experienced in renting out property and we realized right now in Valencia County there is a need for homes to rent because all the interest rates in homes have gone up so much that it’s becoming a big need in the community,” Cabrera said.

While it is too early to say for certain, Cabrera said he estimates monthly rent for one of these units would be between $1,200 to $1,400. He said he would like to give the apartments a modern look and feel.

“We definitely want to give it a different look of what Los Lunas is used to,” said Cabrera. “A lot of people go to big cities and see all these cool-looking designs, so that’s kind of what we’re shooting for if possible.”

Erin Callahan, the community development director of Los Lunas, said the planning and zoning commission heard this item June 21 and recommended denial based on concerns from neighboring property owners primarily related to traffic.

A few residents from the Roberts Circle neighborhood spoke out during the public hearing at the July 6 meeting. They raised concerns about emergency service access and that the apartments would be too intense of a use for the area.

“We don’t want that kind of people in the neighborhood,” one individual told the council.

Los Lunas Mayor Charles Griego did not take kindly to this remark, and said her comment was not proper or appropriate, and labeling people who live in apartments as “those kinds of people” is offensive.

To address the issue of traffic, John Kirkpatrick, an architect agent working with the Cabreras, said he had a trip generation analysis done using the Institute of Traffic Engineers manual, which is also what the New Mexico Department of Transportation uses.

He said based on the calculations, the addition of the apartment would only be contributing a very small percentage of traffic at the busy intersection and that traffic seems to be very much related to other businesses, mainly Dion’s.

The council decided to table the zone change and designated use permit until the next council meeting so the village engineer, Molzen Corbin, could have time to review the presented trip generation analysis.

At the July 20 council meeting, Callahan said the village engineer does not believe this development will have a significant impact on traffic counts on Roberts Circle.

Cabrera said he would be open to leaving the road behind the property open to ensure emergency service access and to help alleviate some traffic.

Having this confirmation, the council unanimously voted to approve the zone change and designated use permit.

Cabrera said special build permits submitted include a condition that requires them to begin construction on the apartments within a year, or within a year and a half if they file for an extension.

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Felina Martinez was born and raised in Valencia County. She graduated from the University of New Mexico in 2021. During her time at UNM, she studied interdisciplinary film, digital media and journalism. She covers the village of Los Lunas, Los Lunas Schools, the School of Dreams Academy and the town of Peralta.