By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor
It was the “elephant in the living room” during a recent flap involving the state permitting of a dairy sewer lagoon near Portales. Portales Mayor Orlando Ortega Jr. called it by name — extraterritorial zoning — at the end of Tuesday’s regular city council meeting.
Ortega told councilors he was looking for help and support in organizing a town hall-style meeting sometime in September to begin talking about whether extraterritorial zoning is needed for Portales and Roosevelt County and how to go about it.
“Our community is growing by leaps and bounds, and there are a lot of people making investments inside and outside the city,” Ortega said.
Ortega reasoned that residential and commercial interests need to be brought together in exploring ways to limit conflicts.
Extraterritorial zoning entails regulations put in place to define the types of development surrounding a municipality to control conflicting uses and help direct the development in adjacent areas that may eventually be annexed into the city limits, say city officials.
Recently city residents have been concerned about odors, flies and dust coming from livestock operations as well as industrial sites surrounding the city.
“We need it, we need it real bad to protect the people of Portales,” Councilor Jake Lopez said. “We’ll have a lot of people come with their lawyers I suppose but it’s necessary.”
Ortega and Councilor Gary Watkins agree the key to dialogue about the matter are education and involvement of a variety of people and industry.
“Education is going to be a big key,” Watkins said. “It’s going to have to be a city/county effort, working together to get something accomplished for the best interests of the citizens.”
County Commissioner David Sanders, who has said previously the subject would be a hot one if it came up, said he would be willing to sit down and listen but the process would be hard and require careful thought.
“This is the sort of issue I don’t think we want to jump on real strong,” Sanders said, offering his opinion of the county’s interest.
He said he felt there would need to be some way of grandfathering in existing uses before such zoning would be palatable.
Sanders admitted there has been a problem in Portales for a long time. But he pointed to Roosevelt County residents’ fierce defense of their property rights in such matters as the county-passed fire ban ordinance as an indication that getting something done won’t be easy.
“I don’t want city government shoving it down anyone’s throat,” Ortega said. “I want it to be a process.
“It’s important that we have some way to control growth surrounding our city,” Ortega added.