Edgewood’s town council denied the appeal of two neighbors across Route 66, upholding its planning and zoning commission’s approval of variances for a four-story hotel, bringing the $6 million project a step closer to reality.
That was after a quasi-judicial proceeding in which the town council acts as judge in determining whether its planning and zoning commission had made errors or misinterpreted the town’s ordinances in allowing the variance.
Scott McCall owns a Comfort Inn motel in Moriarty and is seeking to build another Comfort Inn next to Tractor Supply and behind the strip mall already in the area.
In an emotional public hearing, two neighbors with property south of the highway appealed the decision, pointing to property values, issues with the process, concerns about fire and other concerns.
However, because the hearing was a quasi-judicial proceeding, that meant that what the council could hear was limited to a very narrow scope. Town attorney Bob White explained at the beginning of the meeting what could and couldn’t be considered by the council.
“Your standard when reviewing the case, when making your decision, is to determine whether there was an error or abuse of discretion,” White explained to the council, adding, to determine “whether the planning and zoning commission either misconstrued the facts or made an error in the application of the zoning ordinance.”
Both appellants were shut down repeatedly by the mayor on the grounds their weren’t germane to the proceedings.
When Carol Gaweski said her property values had gone down as a result of building in the area, Councilor John Abrams asked what proof she had that this decline in property values had anything to do with Edgewood.
When McCall took the stand, he started by saying, “I’m the bad guy who’s bringing a hotel to Edgewood—sorry,” adding that some of what he heard hurt his feelings. “I’ve heard many things that have been misrepresented,” he said.
Asked if he thought the planning and zoning commission had “asked appropriate questions,” he answered yes, but said, “I believe planning and zoning erred on the side of caution to my detriment,” with ongoing delays meaning that “something that should take 50 to 60 days [is] now going into 95 to 105 days.”
He was questioned about the size of the lot and the direction the sign would face, as well as a traffic study mentioned in a purchase agreement included in the application.
He was also asked why talking to the fire department would come after the variance. McCall said he “did not write the process.”
After being pressed further by the appellant, in this case Laura Harmon, McCall answered by describing the hotel he plans for Edgewood.
“I am proposing to build what they consider a prototype for Comfort Inn, which is owned by Choice Hotels, who owns 13 flags in the United States,” McCall said. “They poll customers, they figure out what customers are asking for. … What I am proposing to build, which is an indoor swimming pool, breakfast facilities, lobby with fireplace, couches—a $6 million property. I’m not spending $6 million because it doesn’t make economic sense.”
He said the project would generate 22 jobs and “inject $35 million into this community in the next five years—that’s economic impact studies done by the state of New Mexico and not by me.”
Councilor Rita Loy Simmons made a motion to grant the appeal, which died without a second.
Councilor Chuck Ring then made a motion to deny the appeal, which passed over Simmons’ dissenting vote.
Findings of fact and conclusions of law will be prepared for the meeting of Dec. 2; once approved by the town council, the case can be appealed to District Court, with a 30-day window to do so.
Leota started working for The Independent in 2006, working her way up through the ranks. An employee buyout in 2010 led to her ownership of the newspaper. Leota has served on the board of the N.M. Press Association, and is currently its First Vice President. She is passionate about health and wellness, especially mental health, and loves making art. She can be reached at [email protected]