PERALTA—John Erickson said the COVID-19 pandemic has made attending town of Peralta council meetings much harder than ever before with Zoom being the primary form of communication.
He said his elementary-aged granddaughter, who has an iPad, had to help him attend the latest meeting to voice his concerns over three tracts of land off N.M. 47, which were recently rezoned from residential to commercial.
Erickson, 75, doesn’t need to worry — at least for now — since the process of rezoning tracts 113A2, 115B1 and 116A to commercial will start again, and this go around will include the town properly notifying residents.
Previously, a recommendation was made by the planning and zoning commission in December, and the town council voted to approve the rezoning the tracts of land in January.
Peralta Mayor Bryan Olguin said the process of rezoning will go through the commission once again and, eventually, the town council. The reason, the mayor said, is because the town didn’t properly notify some residents by mail of the meetings concerning rezoning.
Olguin said when the town mailed letters to notify residents of meetings, it failed to follow its zoning ordinance, which says, “owners of land within the area proposed to be changed by a zoning regulation and within 100 feet, excluding public right-of-way, of the area proposed to be by a zoning regulation” must be notified by mail. Not all residents were.
That holds true for Erickson, who owns property across the street from the properties on N.M. 47, and who wasn’t properly notified, he said.
“I received no notice of any planning and zoning meetings or town council meetings pertinent to this whole rezoning issue that’s going on across the street,” Erickson said. “I maintained that I am entitled to notice …”
Despite the rezoning process starting from square one, residents in Peralta last week filed a civil complaint with the 13th Judicial District Court, claiming the town failed to give residents their due process in relation to the zoning change.
The complaint, which was filed on Feb. 24, alleges a planning and zoning commission meeting held in October in which Max and Cherry Kiehne, owners of the land, spoke with the potential buyer of the property, Jerome Nelson. The complaint stated Nelson said, “his business manufacturers framing and trusses and that is the intent of use for this location” despite the meeting being held to discuss the rezoning of the property and not the proposed business that may occupy it in the future.
According to the complaint, on Dec. 15 Nelson was able to present his proposed manufacturing business along with site plans to the planning and zoning commission. Olguin, however, maintains that whichever business occupies the lot — and if indeed the tracts of land are rezoned in the future for commercial use — will need to go through a process with the town before approval.
In a public hearing during the January council meeting, some residents expressed concern over what type of business might move in, and what that can mean for the town going forward. Residents in Sutton Estates wrote letters to the town of Peralta in opposition to the consideration before the vote took place, and around 60 people signed a petition in the fall in opposition.
Rhonda Jaramillo, whose fence line borders the property, said she wasn’t properly notified of the P&Z meetings, and was only notified of the council meeting in January. Her name was the one listed on the civil complaint, which included a letter about how this zone change and the potential business could affect her family and livelihood.
“I would have thought that because we were so close to it that we would have been informed of all of the meetings regarding this zone changing,” said Jaramillo, whose brother has medical conditions that can be affected by a manufacturing business setting up shop next to her house.
“My brother is medically fragile,” Jaramillo said. “My brother has spinal meningitis, he has cerebral palsy … any kind of noise or distraction can cause my brother to choke.”
Resident Tony Duarte was listed in the complaint that included a letter from him detailing his grievances. He said the reason he decided to join in is due to the proposed business and the noise that could be generated as a result of it.
“The reason that I got involved is because I think that there’s going to be a lot of noise generated by pneumatic nail guns and stuff, and trucks backing up or forklifts,” Duarte said. “And because of the danger that the business of making trusses and framing presents, in my opinion, it would endanger my life, and others, and create accidents and harm to people.”
Duarte said all he wants from the town is to be included in the process going forward and for their voices to be heard. That’s something Olguin agrees should happen.
“I spoke to two of the neighbors who did not receive that [notification by mail] even though they voiced their opinions,” Olguin said. “I felt that was not correct because they weren’t given proper notification … I would like these residents to go face-to-face with the P&Z Commission and with us, the governing body, and voice their concerns so we can hear them face-to-face. I think that makes a big difference, so I’m really glad that is going to happen.”
The planning and zoning commission will rehear the matter during a special meeting on Friday, March 19.