A meeting plagued by technical issues ended Wednesday night with the East Mountain Cowboy Church being granted new zoning, and Councilor Linda Holle unleashing a rare lambasting on another councilor.
Several concerned parties called—or attempted to call—into the public hearing Wednesday night to voice an opinion on a proposed zone change for the Cowboy Church, one of roughly 20 churches in Edgewood. The new property is on Riverview Road south of Route 66.
The church requested a change from a commercial use designation to a special use. The special use zoning lifts some restrictions on what can and can’t happen on the property. The church plans to hold outdoor concerts, rodeos, and single-action shooting events.
Neighbors of the new church property voiced concerns about an increase in dust, noise, light, and traffic as a result of these events, as well as worries about water conservation during such large-scale gatherings.
The applicant for the zone change, John McCauley, brought data and reports on wind direction and sound transmission from the property.
Planning and zoning administrator Tawnya Mortenson said all municipal ordinances will be enforced, including those addressing light pollution and permissible noise levels, and she presented evidence of compliance by the church.
Noises emanating from speakers cannot exceed 70 decibels between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m., Mortensen said.
McCauley said that during recent tests, decibel levels were measured on sound emanating from outdoor speakers on the Riverview Road property.
Resident Kay Wilks, the meeting’s most vocal opponent of the zone change, said that she could hear the sound test music while in her home, and that it was loud enough to drown out her television, chastising McCauley for saying she didn’t hear what she said she heard.
McCauley said access to the property via Riverview Road would be used only as an emergency point of ingress and egress. Pending permit approval, said McCauley, a main entrance would be constructed off Old 66.
McCauley said that the church had purchased a water truck to help with the dust problem. He continued on to say that economic impact to the community from event attendees traveling to Edgewood would be beneficial.
In a rare show of solidarity, all four council members voted in favor of granting the zone change.
Other Edgewood residents also spoke in favor of the church and its plans.
The now-familiar dispute about meeting minutes from Nov. 2, 2020, and the law firm Robles, Rael, and Anaya serving as legal counsel to the governing body, occupied the first half hour of the meeting, but the night’s most surprising confrontation came from the usually reserved Holle.
In a letter to New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas from Councilor Audrey Jaramillo dated June 1, Jaramillo made several statements about Holle that Holle said were not true.
“How dare you presume to speak for me?” Holle demanded of Jaramillo in the agenda time reserved for matters from councilors, regarding comments attributed by Jaramillo. “Councilor, you do not speak for me nor do you represent the Town of Edgewood governing body.”
Holle said Jaramillo’s claim to the Attorney General that Edgewood residents “expressed unanimously their desire to vote at large for all five commissioners” in the upcoming November election was “untrue.”
To date, there has been no formal hearing on whether residents of Edgewood would prefer the five commissioners to represent the newly created districts within the town, or to be elected at large.
Holle also said Jaramillo’s claim in the letter that attorney Nixon “represents half the governing body” of the town of Edgewood was also not true.
Holle said that, as the town’s attorney, Nixon is representing the mayor pro tem and her in their official governing capacities in response to councilors Jaramillo and Sherry Abraham hiring their own lawyer and suing the governing body, adding that Nixon is not representing her and Abrams as individuals, as Jaramillo claims.
Additionally, Holle called Jaramillo out for writing in the letter that Holle and Abrams were “concerned about getting into hot water.” Holle said that she never made the statement, and that she was “truly appalled at [Jaramillo’s] audacity in misrepresenting [Holle] to the New Mexico Attorney General,” as well as to Sen. Gregg Schmedes and representatives Matthew McQueen and Stefani Lord, who were copied in on Jaramillo’s letter.
After reading to Jaramillo from the Municipal League’s 52 Tips for Successful Public Service, Holle ended her reprimand.
Jaramillo briefly countered by saying she didn’t understand what Holle was talking about, but Abrams took the opportunity to wrap up the nearly 3-½ hour meeting.
In his statement under “matters from the mayor,” Abrams said he found the “contentious nature” of the Edgewood town council meetings to be “very interesting,” adding that he finds it “absolutely ridiculous” that the council fails so often to get things done.
He went on to express his hopes that, going forward, council members would “think about what we’re saying to each other and how we’re saying it,” and that he hopes the animosity within the council will improve.