A Valencia County developer is hoping to rezone nearly 150 acres west of Los Lunas to establish warehouses that will support a neighboring rail park.

About four miles west of Interstate 25 and the village of Los Lunas, on the south side of N.M. 6, is 146 acres that local developer Mike Mechenbier, managing member of Roy D. Mercer, LLC, the company listed as the owner of the property, would like to change from outland district zoning to light/general industrial.

The property is made up of 116.3 acres that stretches along the highway, starting east of AT&T Road and continuing west beyond Gallo Road. An additional 30 acres made up of three 10-acre lots abuts the south side of the larger property.

“We’ve been approached by companies interested in putting in warehouses to support the rail park,” Mechenbier told the Valencia County Planning and Zoning commissioners at the Jan. 24. “We would like to change from outland district to Industrial 2. Commercial doesn’t allow for an industrial type park and I-2 fits. We are not looking at manufacturing.”

Screenshot from Valencia County’s online parcel map
Local developer Mike Mechenbier has asked the county to rezone about 150 acres west of the village of Los Lunas to Industrial 2 for warehouse construction.

Mechenbier told the commission he was also involved in the development of the Central New Mexico Rail Park, which is on the north side of N.M. 6, about a mile west of the property he’s requesting be rezoned.

He is also the owner of Double M Properties and Sundance Mechanical & Utility Corp., the two companies developing the 200-acre Sierra Vista subdivision in the village of Los Lunas.

Those companies were sued last year by residents of Jubilee, an active senior development to the east of Sierra Vista, who claimed the companies hadn’t done enough to control the construction site’s dirt and dust, resulting in large amounts of sand accumulating on their properties and inside their homes.

The acreage Mechenbier wants zoned I-2 is in an unincorporated part of Valencia County, meaning it’s subject to county zoning ordinances and requirements, not the village’s.

The county zoning commissioner for District 1, Mark Aguilar, said his concern was if development began on the N.M. 6 property whether Mechenbier would “strip the entire 116 ares at once” or clear the land in phases as facilities were built.

“No,” replied Mechenbier.

Aguilar said his only concern about the zone change request was the actual working of the property.

“As you well know, we’ve had lots of complaints in the past with the subdivision you’ve been working on,” the commissioner. “I don’t want a reoccurrence of that.”

Mechenbier said he’s gotten a request for 40 acres from PNM for a warehouse.

“There’s nothing out there. The rail park is totally spoken for at this time,” he said. “The village is already coming up with utilities and would love to annex that area. I think this is an economic opportunity for the county and would like to see the south side (of N.M. 6) stay county for property taxes and (gross receipts taxes). I think it’s a very attractive development for the county on the south side like the rail park is for the north side.”

In June of 2022, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Louisville-based capital investment group Manna Capital Partners and Colorado-based Ball Corp., a business that specializes in recyclable aluminum beverage packaging, signed a letter of intent to purchase 1,300 acres for a facility in the 1,420-acre rail park.

Kristen Gamboa, senior economic development director for the village, said the Manna Capital project is still on track.

“We knew we weren’t going to see any movement until hopefully the fall of this year,” Gamboa said. “They are getting their permitting in place and it won’t be likely that they’ll start work on the site or building until permits are done.”

Aguilar made a motion to recommend approval of the zone changes on both pieces of property with the condition that there be no “blanket excavation” of the property, like what occurred with the Sierra Vista development.

“He goes in and excavates and works on property he plans on building on,” he said. “I do not want all 116 acres stripped.”

He asked Mechenbier if he would abide by those conditions, to which the developer said he would.

Both motions to recommend approval passed 4-0. The request will now go to the Valencia County Board of County Commissioners for a second public hearing and final vote on the requested change.

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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.