Nearly a dozen Valencia County residents turned out to once again say “no” to a rezone for a Dollar General in their community.  

Last fall, Overland Engineering filed a zone change request with the county to rezone two acres near the intersection of N.M. 116 and E. Baca Lane in Pueblitos from rural residential 2 to commercial 2.  

When the application went to the Valencia County Planning and Zoning Commission on Sept. 26, more than 30 residents attended the meeting to speak against the proposed development. 

However, prior to the meeting, Overland asked the commission to table the item so it could be better prepared for a public hearing on the matter. When the item came back to planning and zoning on Feb. 27, the company sent its surveyor as a representative, but he hadn’t been provided with any details of the project and couldn’t answer questions from the commission or community members. 

The planning and zoning commission voted 5-0 to recommend the Valencia County Commission deny the request. When the application came before the county commission at its April 17 meeting, Overland didn’t send a representative at all. 

After hearing from the residents — none of who spoke in favor of the rezone — the county commissioners voted 4-0 to deny the zone change request. 

Linda Sanchez, who lives within sight of the property, said she would object to commercial development no matter what was being built. 

“People who live here live here for a reason. We want this life,” Sanchez said. “People live there because it is rural.” 

Sanchez, as well as other residents of the farming community, pointed out there are plenty of shopping opportunities just three miles to the north in the city of Belen, including an existing Dollar General and Dollar Tree, as well as a Family Dollar, which is among the hundreds of stores the company closed this year.  

In March, Dollar Tree — which bought Family Dollar in 2015 — announced it plans to close 600 Family Dollar stores in the first half of 2024. 

With the closure of a very similar type of retail store in the neighboring city, Pueblitos resident Miles Romero said there didn’t seem to be a high demand for the stores.  

“I’ve reviewed the county’s comprehensive plan and this area is designated as a green space,” Romero said. “(A Dollar General) is the furthest thing from a green space as you can imagine … I teach special education students and then homebound kids after school.  

“After a 12-hour day, the only thing comforting is to come home to this beautiful area, to peace, tranquility and a safe space,” he said. “This will change the whole structure of the community. I’m pro-business, but this is the wrong business, in the wrong place, at the wrong time.” 

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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.