Another small group of East Mountain residents showed up to the latest meeting for the East Route 66 Sector Development Plan on Feb. 20 in Tijeras, part of Bernalillo County’s outreach for public comment on the plan.
The goal of the meeting was to look over the draft that was created in response to a meeting in January, and it gave residents an opportunity to weigh in any other potential ideas for the plan and to discuss the latest changes.
Bernalillo County planner Benjamin Savoca emphasized that the sector development plan is about the creation of a new zoning option for the area.
He said the plan would “better accommodate current and future commercial and light industrial development through revised zoning regulations.” He also said, “The plan is about restricting what’s allowed to be developed in the East Mountains so that the rural character of the area is preserved.”
Savoca said it would also minimize the issuance of Special Use Permits.
The plan would also create a design standard that would help to preserve the rural and scenic character of the area while simultaneously promoting Old Route 66 and local businesses, balance the needs of commercial sites with efficient traffic flow, and encourage improvements to increase safety for all transportation modes. He said it would create a new zone that mirrors and expands on the county’s commercial zoning.
One of the changes that was implemented into the plan was the expansion of the area.
The first version of the plan went over well in the community according to Savoca, so as response to that reaction the area was expanded from a 2-mile corridor to a 7-mile corridor.
The corridor has been separated into four distinct segments: Mountain Valley, Sedillo Hill, Scenic Vista (a mostly residential and mountainous area with a focus on residential development not commercial), and Zuzax.
During the January meeting Savoca invited the community to participate in an online survey.
The February meeting also revealed the results of that survey. There were 38 respondents to the survey.
When the survey asked, “Which currently prohibited uses should be allowed?” the majority, over 30 percent, responded saying they would like to allow restaurants that serve liquor.
Over 25 percent of respondents said they want drive-in facilities and car washes.
Another question on the survey was, “Which uses should not be allowed?” The majority, which was only three people, said high water consumption uses should not be allowed.
For the remaining six categories only one person made suggestions for each one. One of those categories was wireless towers. The residents at the meeting did have concerns about aesthetics and the potential danger tower emissions have to wildlife, and the consensus at the meeting was that wireless towers should not be allowed.
When the survey asked, “What types of businesses should be allowed?” the majority responded that the number one business they want to have were breweries, but Savoca pointed out that breweries are already allowed.
The community also showed an interest in 1950s style drive-ins, drive-throughs, short-term RV parks and trailer sales. Savoca said that drive-throughs, drive-ins, and short-term RV parks are not allowed under the new sector plan and that trailer sales were already allowed.
When asked, “Which special use permits should be allowed?” 50 percent of respondents said yes to overnight campgrounds. Savoca said he would add the overnight campgrounds into the next round of drafting.
The last question of the survey was a more open-ended question and it asked participants to express any concerns they still had.
Based on the amount of people who participated, an average was graphed and the results were shared at the meeting.
The top concern was preserving the rural and scenic character of the area. Number two was water availability. Next in line was preserving wildlife, then came light and noise and traffic, followed by jobs and economic development.
Other concerns that came up include aesthetic and architectural continuity, water and wastewater, protecting the natural landscape, no new development and one person even suggested promoting the musical road and Route 66 themed signs.
Savoca pointed out that the newest draft of the sector development plan took all of these concerns into account and it was amended based on these concerns.
At the meeting, the concerns of the residents who came were two-part: Some residents didn’t understand why the county feels the need to meet the summer deadline to get the development plan into motion, and wondered if the process could be stalled for longer to allow for meetings and more community input.
Another resident felt that the notion of “Do we really need this plan and why?” had been left out of the conversation, stating that because the East Mountain area is close to Albuquerque and because it includes urbanized areas like the North 14 corridor and Edgewood, that perhaps no new development was really necessary.
Planning Manager Catherine VerEecke said that if the community really wants Bernalillo County to slow down, to start calling and emailing Savoca and to show up at the hearings and meetings. She said that if a big enough group of people speaks up that the county would be happy to host more meetings and maybe even postpone or set a new deadline for the sector development plan.
One person at the meeting pointed out that stalling the plan can also have the result of having businesses come in and get established without the regulations and restrictions that the sector plan has in it.
To send your comments, questions, suggestions, or concerns contact Savoca at email@example.com or 505-314-0361.
To learn more about the development plan or to get a copy of the latest draft, zoning or more information about the plan, visit bernco.gov/planning/east-route-66-sector-development-plan.aspx.