LOS LUNAS—The end to a long, dusty road is in sight after hundreds of acres of land for a new subdivision development was cleared and leveled, causing the Jubilee senior community to be regularly covered in fine sand.

Jubilee is located south of N.M. 6 at the base of El Cerro de Los Lunas Hill.

After a two-hour hearing wedged in the middle of a Los Lunas Village Council meeting on April 22, the council decided to conditionally approve the Vista Manzano subdivision preliminary plat, within the larger Sierra Vista development, if the buffer area between the subdivision and Jubilee community be developed, and the mound of dust be graded to meet village ordinance.

The plans for the land consist of six different residential subdivisions, a tract zoned for commercial properties and a tract for high-density housing. The developers received preliminary approval for one of the six residential subdivisions — Vista Manzano.

Makayla Grijalva | News-Bulletin photo
Jubilee resident Christopher Yates stands in his dust blown front yard in Los Lunas. A large swell of fine sand sits behind his home, just feet away from his backyard fence. Yates said his home has depreciated in value since nearly 280 acres of land adjacent to Jubilee was graded to make way for a new subdivision, resulting in the swell.

If the developer fails to meet the conditions by the end of August, then another hearing for preliminary plat approval will be held during the first Los Lunas Village Council meeting in September.

The preliminary approval was denied by the Los Lunas Planning and Zoning Commission on March 17, “in light of considerable public opposition to the nature of the Sierra Vista development because of the problems that Jubilee has been experiencing,” said Los Lunas Community Development Director Erin Callahan.

The developer appealed the decision leading the village council to hold last week’s hearing.

The developer initially graded nearly 300 acres of land to the west of the Jubilee community in the summer of 2020, eliminating all vegetation, which held down the fine sand that laid beneath in the process.

While a perimeter border was constructed around the graded area, a large mound of fine sand began to grow just feet away from the backyards of several Jubilee residents.

According to Callahan, the developers have all the correct permits they need from the state environmental department in order to have moved the dirt that now sits adjacent to several properties on Promenade Trail Avenue SW.

The exact height of the mound is disputed by the developers and Jubilee residents.

“They are required to take soil stabilization measures,” Callahan said to the News-Bulletin. “There are a number of measures that they are taking, however as evidenced by Jubilee and as you can probably see and if you drive in the area during a windstorm, they aren’t always effective and they haven’t been 100 percent effective.”

In addition to the developers regularly spraying the berm down with water, the village is also sending water trucks out to the area to attempt to mitigate the blowing dust. However, this method has not been effective, according to some residents.

“They’ve got guys coming around watering all the time, but it’s just pointless,” Christopher Yates, a Jubilee resident of six years, said while he watched the wind blow the water from the watering truck anywhere but the mound of dirt for which it was intended.

Yates, who is acting as the Jubilee community representative for this dust issue, lives in a home whose property backs up directly to the large berm. The mound of sand can be seen peeking over the rock wall fence lining his backyard with the spring winds blowing it onto his property and into his home.

Makayla Grijalva | News-Bulletin photo
Inside the home of Christopher Yates, fine, flour-like sand gathers along the window sill in his guest room. Since the dust made its way inside his home and the homes of other Jubilee residents, he said he has concerns for his health and the health of others.

“Every time the wind blows, I’ve counted 22 windstorms this year of varying degrees, at least six of those this year have been where you can’t even walk outside your house without a mask on, goggles,” Yates said. “The damage it’s done to our yards, my yard in the back looks like a sand pit.”

He said despite cleaning his yard regularly, the wind still continues to blow sand. In addition to creating a mess and depreciating values of the homes along Promenade Trail, Yates said he and other residents are also concerned for their health since the flour-like sand even makes its way into their homes.

During the April 22 public hearing, the developers and other supporters of the development boasted about the benefit the new subdivision would bring to the community, including the bump for the economy that could come as they supply jobs to build the subdivision and encourage more people to move to Los Lunas.

“We are doing what we’ve promised,” said Bob Trewitt with Sierra Vista LLC, the developer for the project. “At this launch point, there are now, literally hundreds of jobs and people whose livelihood and integral to the development of Sierra Vista. We’re not Facebook. We’re not Niagara. We don’t have Wall Street money. We’re local guys.”

They also spoke about current dust mitigation efforts, including five water trucks on site, installation of 2-foot high wind fencing and additional 4-foot high wind fencing. They also established rock piles to help block the blowing dust and prohibit vehicular traffic in the area.

Callahan said when the village began to receive “serious concerns” from Jubilee residents about the dust, they asked the developer to present plans for Vista Manzano, a tract adjacent to the proposed subdivision and the buffer zone adjacent to Jubilee where the mound of dirt sits.

“They do not have a subdivision proposed for tract E, however the only way that the village has a mechanism to require them to submit grading and drainage plans is if they are compliant,” Callahan said. “We can approve them and they can move forward with the regrading of the mound of dirt next to Jubilee and the final landscaping of that buffer.”

By requiring the buffer, the village can ensure the problematic mound of dirt will be addressed by the developers in a timely manner, rather than after they finish building the Vista Manzano subdivision.

Despite the expedited development process, several Jubilee residents expressed their dismay with the council decision to allow the developer until the end of August to regrade the swell of fine sand in the comments of the virtual council meeting.

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Makayla Grijalva was born and raised in Las Cruces. She is a 2020 graduate of The University of New Mexico, where she studied multimedia journalism, political science and history. She covers the village of Los Lunas, Los Lunas Schools, SODA and the town of Peralta.