The Valencia County Commission will consider repealing an ordinance that put a weight limit on vehicles using Don Felipe Road.
At the Feb. 17 commission meeting, Los Lunas attorney Josh Jimenez said he and the businesses he represents were asking the commission to take the extraordinary step of repealing the ordinances because so many are businesses affected.
“Each of them is affected by the ordinance — meaning they would be forced to comply with the ordinance — and it would negatively impact each of the businesses,” Jimenez said.
At issue for the businesses, such as Castillo Prestress, Spartan Towing, Pete’s Pro Truck and Auto Repair and Barela Farms, is the restriction of trucks weighing five tons or more from using Don Felipe Road.
The commission enacted the ordinance a year ago 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.
Former county commissioner Charles Eaton said residents had come to him after the paving was done, concerned heavy truck traffic would break down the road. The area the road runs through is somewhat of a marsh, with water often standing in the fields and ditches along the road.
Jimenez said the commissioners approved the ordinance in March 2020 because it felt trucks heavier than 5 tons caused vibrations, dust and damage to the road.
“They didn’t have evidence of this. There were no calls about damage to the road after it was paved,” he said. “There was … about damage before the paving but no one mentioned the road had been damaged after the paving of road.”
Commissioner Joseph Bizzell said while the state and county does a lot in terms of things like tax breaks to bring in new businesses, they needed to “take a step back and take care of businesses in Valencia County.”
Bizzell said in looking at the ordinance, ordinary passenger vehicles might accidentally go over the 5 ton weight limit.
“I looked up a Ford F350, which is what I drive, and it’s 8,500 pounds with nothing on it and no fuel. With a 10,000 pound weight limit, a lot of residents could be over the weight limit, too,” Bizzell said. “We need to take care of our businesses.”
Commissioner David Hyder asked Jimenez why he and the businesses owners were coming to the commission a year after the ordinance was passed. The attorney said it was difficult to gather information and come before the commission last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Castillo found out about the ordinance in April (2020) after the commission passed it. Some of the other businesses didn’t find out until much later,” he said. “We tried to find if there was any evidence or information we could give to the commission to see if it was willing to repeal.”
Director of Public Works Lina Benavidez said to date, she wasn’t aware of any damage to the road by heavy trucks. She said the county’s permitting process for use of the road by vehicles more than 5 tons has helped preserve the road.
She said if vehicles heavier than that regularly used the road, the two inches of asphalt couldn’t sustain the wear, estimating that weight on a daily basis would deteriorate the road in three to four years.
After discussing the matter in executive session, the commissioners voted unanimously to consider repealing the ordinance. Because it is an ordinance, there will be a public hearing held at 5 p.m., Wednesday, March 17, to allow for public input and testimony on the issue before the commission considers a vote on the repeal.
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.