Neighbors appeal Edgewood motel variances

A motel was approved for variances by Edgewood’s planning and zoning commission, but is now facing an appeal by nearby property owners, who say Edgewood violated its own laws in that approval.

Carol Gajewski and several of her neighbors south of Route 66 oppose the motel planned by Scott McCall. The town’s planning and zoning commission granted both a height variance and a variance to the town’s sign ordinance.

The appeal is made to the town council, and will be heard at its Nov. 18 meeting.

The tallest building allowed in Edgewood is 36 feet, but McCall asked for a maximum height of 60 feet, and plans a four-story structure.

McCall also asked for a variance from the setback required in the town’s ordinances, which is 25 feet. The original application requests a setback of 10 feet, but later documents, including minutes of P&Z meetings discussing the issue, list a setback request of 12, 13 or 15 feet.

According to that application, the smaller setback is needed because the 2-acre parcel needs to accommodate 84 parking spaces and allow big trucks to turn around. The variances are necessary, the application says, because “the size of the lot is too small to accomplish what is needed by the business to be successful without the variances.”

McCall also asked for a variance from the town’s sign ordinance, which limits the height, number and size of signs that may be placed in town. In the application, he argues that because Edgewood only has one exit, travelers on Interstate 40 need to be able to tell quickly where to exit for a motel stay. Otherwise, the application says, that traveler will end up in Moriarty (where McCall owns another motel) or six miles down the road in the other direction at the Sedillo exit.

“It is our belief that this property does not impact any residential communities and will only help the other businesses within the proximity of our proposed business,” the application states.

Chris Hopper, who owns Mail & Copy Center, next door to the proposed site, said Tuesday that a motel in that location would help his business.

“It would help us, too,” said Roger Alink, founder of Wildlife West Nature Park.

However, Gajewski and her neighbors south of Route 66, say that a four-story motel would block the view of South Mountain and lower their property values.

Gajewski said Edgewood’s process has been flawed. A planning and zoning meeting held Aug. 18, for example, did not give notice to some adjoining landowners, including John Bassett, north of the freeway, and Gajewski.

The town set a new hearing at a special meeting Sept. 22. At that meeting, Gajewski said the planning and zoning commission “arrived at the hearing with a set of pre-written Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law already in their packets for consideration.”

In her supporting document listing reasons for the appeal, Gajewski continued, “Having pre-written Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law in their possession before the start of a quasi-judicial public hearing where the Commissioners are expected to act in a fair and impartial manner to all parties involved is another outrageous error and abuse of discretion by this Planning & Zoning Commission that could result in a loss of value to our property and most certainly forfeited our rights as citizens to due process and an expectation of fair and equal treatment by our government.”

Gajewski said that no documents “to demonstrate compliance with Fire Safety Codes” or that Edgewood’s wastewater treatment facility is capable of handling the extra load were presented, and no traffic studies were requested.

An undated report by Edgewood staff said the variances requested “are consistent” with the sign ordinance and the town’s comprehensive land use plan, and “are not detrimental to the general public welfare,” adding, that not approving the variances “may possibly result in the project not being built.”

Throughout the convoluted process before the planning and zoning commission, fire safety issues were raised by Bassett and others. Minutes from the Aug. 18 meeting quote Shepherd saying “the height was not an issue” for the Santa Fe County Fire Department.

Those minutes go on to quote McCall saying that a final plan for the building would have to be signed by the fire marshal before construction could begin.

The commission then voted to approve the variances.

However, minutes from the next meeting show Bassett asking about “conflicting statements in the written record of the meeting” whether the public hearing had been handled properly.

Vice Chairman of the commission, Brad Gabel, then explains that the Aug. 18 meeting had not been noticed correctly. According to the minutes, Gabel said “he thought ‘noticing’ was best effort.”

The minutes continue, “Attorney White replied noticing is not best effort. It is mandatory and required.”

The commission then set a special commission meeting for Sept. 22.

Bassett again inquired about whether McCall had heard from the fire department, according to the minutes of the Sept. 22 meeting. “Mr. McCall replied that he had not talked with them personally, but his architect had called them with regards to the setback and the hill.” He said because a fire hose can be pulled more than 150 feet and the building is”only 276 feet long, this won’t be a problem with a truck at either end of the building.”

At Edgewood’s council meeting Nov. 18, the council will decide whether Gajewski’s procedural objections are enough to overturn the decision of the planning and zoning commission. If the council upholds planning and zoning, those who continue to object to the project could appeal the town council’s decision to district court.