More than 30 people who crowded into a Valencia County planning and zoning meeting last month were disappointed and frustrated when it was announced the developer wanting to bring a Dollar General to their community had asked for the hearing to be rescheduled. 

As the Valencia County Planning and Zoning Commission meeting got underway on Sept. 26, the first order of business was to approve the agenda but that took several minutes to accomplish after Commission Chairman Philip Sublett announced Overland Engineering had asked its request for a rezone on a piece of property in Jarales near the intersection of N.M. 116 and E. Baca Lane be tabled.  

When audience members asked if the application would be brought back to the commission next month, Sublett said he wasn’t sure, that it was up to the applicant to come back for a public hearing when it was ready. 

Planning and zoning commissioner Sue Moran, who is the appointee of Valencia County Commissioner Morris Sparkman, said it was her understanding the developer wanted “to be better prepared” before bringing its zone change request to the planning and zoning commission. 

Sublett told the community members who came to speak about the zone change to put their names and mailing addresses on the sign-up sheet for the meeting and use a star to indicate they wanted to be notified directly when the matter came back to the commission. 

Some members in the audience said they didn’t receive notification of the Sept. 26 meeting and felt they should have. Valencia County community services director Melissa Jaramillo said property owners within 300 feet of the subject property should have received written notification of the meeting by certified mail. The county is also required to publish notice of any zone change request 15 days before a public hearing in a newspaper of general circulation. 

“You don’t have to stay (today) but if you can sign up, when and if this comes back you’ll be notified that it will be coming to the board,” Sublett told the crowd. “You can leave if you like. We are not going to hear it now; there’s nothing going on behind closed doors.” 

Melanie Romero, who said she lived very close to the property and didn’t receive a notification, called the delay a “huge disappointment and inconvenience. One person can say they’re not prepared and cancel the whole thing.” 

Romero continued, saying she had a petition with 30 signatures. 

“We were notified of this very late. Long-time community members within spitting distance of this who have land all around this beautiful farming and don’t want the element a Dollar General brings,” she said. “We don’t want the environmental issues, the traffic, the light pollution. We are a farming community and want to remain a farming community.” 

Sublett cut her off, saying he understood her aggravation but the commission couldn’t hear her comments regarding the case at that time. 

“Hear me out. We as commissioners cannot hear (information) prior to it coming before us. That has to wait for the item to come to us,” the chairman said. “If you argue about it and we hear it, we have to recuse ourselves. At this time we are not going to accept any comment. To open discussion, we would need the petitioner (Overland Engineering) to be here.” 

He continued, explaining that all zone change applications come to the planning and zoning commission for a public hearing and recommendation for either approval or denial before going on to the Valencia County Commission for a second public hearing and final decision. 

“When and if the company does bring this in the future you will be notified in a timely manner,” he said. A man in the audience asked if that could be three years from now, to which Sublett said it could. “It has to go through us first.” 

The planning and zoning commission meets at 3 p.m. on the third Tuesday of the month at 444 Luna Ave., Los Lunas. For information about planning and zoning meetings, contact Melissa Jaramillo at 505-866-2072. 

A different zone change request for a Dollar General store in El Cerro was approved on a 4-1 vote at the Sept. 20 meeting of the Valencia County Commission. Commissioner Sparkman, district 3, was the ‘no’ vote. The 1.53 acre property is at 3 La Ladera Road, on the northwest corner of north El Cerro Loop and La Ladera Road. The zoning was changed from Rural Residential 2 to Community Commercial 2. 

The county planning and zoning commission heard the zone change request on July 27 and voted 4-0 to recommend the change. 

12 Oaks Development has a purchase agreement with the estate and trust that owns the property which was contingent on the zone change being approved. The developer is proposing a 10,640 square foot building on the property. According to the department review conducted by the county’s planning and zoning department, the nearest C2 zones to the property on La Ladera are .05 of a mile east and about .17 miles south. 

In a written statement sent to the Valencia County Planning and Zoning Commission, Charles and Mary Frazier asked for a denial of the request. 

“We live very near the intersection … The traffic flow in the area is already congested and building a convenience store would create major problems,” an email from the Fraziers read. “We have other shopping options nearby and do not need another store.” 

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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.