RIO COMMUNITIES — What was thought to have been fixed in the Rio Communities zoning code earlier this year had to be patched up again, and it will continue to be reviewed for conflicts.
Rio Communities City Manager Marty Moore told the council during a special meeting last week he was recommending amending the zoning code once again because the final ordinance that had been posted online didn’t read the same as the document that was approved in August.
“We’ve been going through, as a city, a number of things … and looking through all of our documents, including minutes, resolutions and ordinances,” Moore told the council. “One of the things we’ve been looking at is things posted online as well.”
Moore said because the city is anticipating some applications and because there are conflicts in city documents, he wanted to make sure the zoning code was repaired sooner than later.
The city manager reminded the council that earlier this year, they approved amendments to the zoning code that prohibited certain types of uses, such as Industrial 1 and 2 zoning, and only allowed I-3 zoning on properties annexed into the city after the effective date of the ordinance.
“We also tried to streamline the process and open the door for more public input at the beginning of difficult topics such as rezoning and annexations,” Moore said.
When he looked at the ordinance, he realized the city had the same process, such as a public hearing, at the planning and zoning commission level as well at the city council level.
“We wanted people to be able to come in and be able to voice their concerns,” Moore said.
The city manager said there was not a need for a public hearing to be held during the planning and zoning commission portion of the process, only at the city council level when they were making the final decision.
The ordinance now reads that if the P&Z commissioners are only to be a recommending body, a public forum will be held, where members of the public would be able to speak more freely and without a set time limit. It is only at a meeting when the commission or the council are to make a decision that a public hearing would take place.
Kathy McCord, a member of two watchdog groups, Rio Communities Citizens Alliance and Valencia Water Watchers, said they were concerned when they read the ordinance about eliminating the public hearing portion away from the commission.
“We want to be able to allow for a more open dialogue … and not have these restrictive and rigid rules,” Moore said.
“But because we have three different ordinances that say three different things, all on one website, it’s all a mess,” the city manager added. “One of the concerns we have, because we have applications coming, we don’t want to see any loopholes when applications are coming forward for consideration.
“Is the zoning ordinance going to be perfect? No, it needs a lot of work,” he said. “The changes we agreed to, we wanted to make sure what’s in affect, and we want to make sure it’s all in one place.”
Other amendments to the zoning code the council approved include changing the decision-making authority in zoning cases, including zone changes and annexations, which will now be made by the city council rather than the commission.
McCord, who gave the council a four-page document highlighting concerns in the ordinance, said she found a lot of problems in the document, including missing and different definitions, and several redundancies that need to be clarified.
Helen Smith, a Rio Communities resident, told the council she too was concerned about the ordinance.
“… the ordinance looked like alphabet soup,” Smith said.
Esther Reyes, another resident of Rio Communities, said there were a lot of questions regarding the ordinance that needed to be answered, and urged the council to postpone voting on the amendments.
The ordinance also includes a new zoning designation — business manufacturing development — which is designed to be a buffer between the intense commercial uses found in Commercial 3 zoning areas and more industrial and potentially more objectionable uses of the I-3 zoning district.
According to the ordinance, the B-M zone is intended to accommodate a wide variety of light manufacturing, assembly, commercial processing, storage, packaging, compounding and wholesaling as well as distribution operations.
“Such uses shall be conducted to ensure that there is no toxic/hazardous releases, excessive noise, vibration, smoke, dust or any particulate matter, traffic, humidity, heat or glare, at or beyond any lot line of the parcel on which it is located,” the ordinance reads.
Permitted uses in the B-M zone would include all permitted uses in C-1, C-2 and C-3 zones, as well as others, such as commercial or trade school, concrete sales and ready mix, electrical or mechanical part and equipment assembly, freight warehouse and dock, mining and mineral excavation (office only), rail spur usage for transport and manufacturing.
The new B-M zone envelopes a lot of what is currently permitted in the light and medium industrial use zones.
The council agreed to set a meeting with the planning and zoning commission for 6 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 12, to discuss the zoning code.
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.