Protect Rio Communities

Patricia Gregor
Guest Columnist

Cibola Land Holdings, a Harvey Yates family-owned corporation, is requesting to rezone 300 acres of open land in Rio Communities from a planned development zone to heavy industrial (I-3) and heavy commercial (C-3) zones.

Planned development is a zone for residential and light commercial uses (homes and small businesses). Overall, 262 acres would be zoned to heavy industrial and 38 acres to heavy commercial. This land is just a mile from the Rio Grande, and is immediately south of a residential area in Rio Communities.

This rezoning request is extremely concerning to residents of Rio Communities.

Heavy industrial (I-3) zoning allows for industries, such as bulk storage of petroleum and liquefied petroleum gas (a “tank farm”), facilities for production of oil/natural gas/other hydrocarbons, auto wrecking yards, heavy manufacturing, asphalt production plants, cement manufacture and concrete plants, industries similar to the existing Mesa Oil waste recycling plant, and any heavy industry “similar [in] use in character, scale and performance with similar odor, noise, air, water and traffic impacts on neighboring properties.”

What happens when heavy industry moves in next to a residential neighborhood? A good example of the consequences is the Mountain View community in Albuquerque’s  South Valley. Continuing expansion of heavy industry next to this residential neighborhood has constantly exposed the people of Mountain View to fumes of carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, sulfur oxides and heavy particulate matter.

All these pollutants negatively impact the health of the people living near that heavy industry.

Here in New Mexico and nationally, we have watched the development of negative health conditions when people live near these types of industrial uses. What will happen to people in Rio Communities and nearby neighborhoods if the land is rezoned to I-3 and oil and gas facilities are built? Remember, the company requesting the rezone is an arm of the Yates oil and gas conglomerate.

Studies show that people living close to oil and gas facilities — which emit many toxic gases — experience increased rates of cancer, asthma, heart disease, premature births and other conditions. Rio Communities has already felt the affects of leaking toxic gases — just last month, an unidentified gas leak caused residents to leave their homes and seek emergency shelter from the noxious fumes.

Similarly, auto salvage or wrecking yards, if that is a proposed use by the applicant, contain many hazardous materials, including lead batteries, mercury from light switches, anti-freeze, Freon from cooling systems, polychlorinated biphenyls, chlorofluorocarbons, asbestos found in the brake pads and lining of older cars, motor oil and other heavy metals.

These hazardous substances can cause ground pollution, air pollution and water pollution for our residents.

If the I-3 rezoning is approved, it will cause an increase in car, truck and semi-truck traffic on local roads. Multiple additional semi-trucks traveling up and down N.M. 47 will impact all of the communities who depend on N.M. 47 as their only way in and out of the area.

Furthermore, who will be responsible for the mess that this heavy industry will undoubtedly bring? Who will compensate the residents whose property values will tank when heavy industry starts building — literally in their backyards?

If this heavy industry rezone is approved, the Rio Communities motto of “Endless Views, Endless Opportunities” will be quite ironic. Let’s be careful about the “opportunities” that we allow into our community — the “opportunities” for heavy industry are opportunistic only for a few (such as the Yates family corporations).

Please join us: Show up for the 4 p.m., Thursday,  Feb. 16, public hearing at the Rio Communities Planning & Zoning Commission to voice your opposition and concern about this rezone proposal.

For more information, please email us at [email protected] and follow us on Facebook, where you can also sign our “NO Heavy Industry” petition.

(Patricia Gregor is a member of Protect Rio Communities, a group of concerned local citizens seeking to preserve Rio Communities’ water, soil and air.)

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Patricia Gregor, guest columnist