Los Lunas

The Village of Los Lunas has filed a petition for condemnation of approximately 17 acres of farmland on South Los Lentes Road for expansion of the village’s wastewater treatment plant.

The property belongs to Raymond and Fenella Jarratt, who were notified last year of the village’s intent to use a portion of their land for the expansion of the wastewater treatment plant.

The couple owns and operates Shady Dale Farm, the home of the largest Ayrshire-breed herd in the country. Since 1960, the Jarratts have made a living from their farm, just south of Los Lunas on NM 314.

Last spring, District Court Judge John Pope ruled that the village could survey and appraise the property and ordered the Jarratts and the village to go into mediation before any condemnation process started.

According to the petition, the village and the Jarratts have been unable to reach an agreement as to a “just compensation” for the land. They claim the Jarratts failed to validly choose the appraisal method provided by state statute.

The village offered the Jarratts $351,000 – approximately $20,000 an acre.

According to an application for immediate possession of the land, the village claims to need the land now in order to meet discharge standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency. The new regulations reflect the current population of Los Lunas and “the proposed expansion of the sewer system within current subdivisions of Los Lunas.”

The EPA standards require the current wastewater treatment plant to perform at a level that exceeds its current design capacity. If the village fails to meet these standards, it could face severe fines by the federal government, the application said.

In the past, the Jarratts have fought the village’s attempts to acquire their land. “It just came as a shock to us,” Raymond Jarratt said last March. “All those years, we’ve lived here, and, without any conversation or personal contact, they tell us they will condemn our land.”

The couple’s daughter, Janet, has also been involved in working to help her parents. “My father is 80 years old. He puts in 12-hour work days. This is their life’s work. Some people have retirement funds and retention plans; my parents have the farm. It’s their sole source of income. Expanding the treatment plan will take a big chunk out of it.”

Village Administrator Phillip Jaramillo has said the village has three years to complete construction of the wastewater treatment plant.

Although the village has said it has studied other alternatives to the wastewater treatment plant, expanding the plant on the Jarratt property makes the most sense, Jaramillo said.

“It is the one that works best for the environment, our citizens, and is economically sound. We had to consider all those things when we made the decision.”

The case was initially assigned to District Court Judge William Sanchez and a hearing was set for Thursday. Sanchez recused himself from presiding over the case on Friday.

The case has been re-assigned to Pope. A hearing has not yet been scheduled.

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Clara Garcia is the editor and publisher of the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
She is a native of the city of Belen, beginning her journalism career at the News-Bulletin in 1998 as the crime and courts reporter. During her time at the paper, Clara has won numerous awards for her writing, photography and typography and design both from the National Newspaper Association and the New Mexico Press Association.

Jennifer Harmon