Group expresses displeasure over zoning proposal

By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor

A group of predominantly county residents within a possible extraterritorial zone being studied told city of Portales and Roosevelt County officials in no uncertain terms they weren’t interested in the idea.

An ad-hoc group has been studying the idea of extraterritorial zoning for the last few months and Thursday night they presented what they had learned to a packed house at the Memorial Building.

Rick Draker of R.M. Draker and Associates, a land-use planner experienced in the process presented a slide show explaining ETZ, why it is used, how the process would work and what its benefits might be.

“The words extraterritorial zoning may have many of you concerned,” Portales Mayor Orlando Ortega Jr. said in opening the meeting.

“Our intent is not to worry you, it’s to show you the process and how it might help you.”

Draker explained that an ETZ works under a joint powers agreement between the city and county and it is designed to give citizens living in the zone a say as to what is going in there. He said it would also keep incompatible land uses from locating next to each other.

Draker also said it would keep new growth orderly, provide desirable land use patterns for future growth of the city, protect property values, and protect the property tax base of the county.

Following Draker’s presentation, the floor was opened up to questions and comments, which continued for more than 90 minutes.

Several people expressed concerns about whether or not they would be allowed to continue to keep livestock in an ETZ and whether or not those rights would be lost if the property was sold. Draker said that New Mexico’s Right to Farm Act would assure landowners that right couldn’t be taken away but he said expansion of the operation or other changes could fall under an ETZ authority.

“The worst case is you become a non-conforming user,” Draker said. “It doesn’t mean you’re out of business.”
Jimmy Privett, who has poultry operations that would be within the zone of one mile from city limits, expressed concerns about his business.

“Our operation is over 50 years old and we’re constantly demolishing and remodeling our facilities,” Privett said. “We don’t want this to affect the way we do business. Do you understand that the county residents really don’t want this put on us?”

Draker said that changing the facilities could possibly fall under an ETZ’s oversight.

Mildred Porter, who lives west of Portales within the proposed zone, asked rhetorically if anyone could name an instance where a county resident had done something that affected a city resident’s quality of life. She said that the odors from the city’s sewer plant, DairiConcepts and Abengoa had all impacted quality of life for everyone.

“It seems to me like we really have the shoe on the wrong foot,” Porter said. “We’re punishing people for what might happen.”

Some spoke saying they didn’t want more regulation.

“We have enough government in our lives, we don’t need any more with people telling us what we can and can’t do,” county resident Kevin Breshears said.

Greg Privett, Jimmy Privett’s son, said, “This has happened before and it was stopped that night.” He suggested a vote. City officials pointed out that it would be up to city councilors and county commissioners to take a vote if they even decided to do so.

“We can kill this dead in the water if we can keep our county commissioners from joining the JPA (joint powers agreement),” county resident and former magistrate judge Jesse Porter said.

County commissioner David Sanders said a proposed subdivision on land he owns east of Wal-Mart doesn’t play into the ETZ consideration.

“I do not back this thing, never will,” Sanders said. “We’ve tried this thing (several times); it’s died on the vine.”

Kathy Good who lives in the Redwine Addition west of the city was one of the few present in support of an ETZ. She said her property values have “taken a hit” because of a field next to her home that doesn’t have its possible uses defined.

Ortega told the crowd he would have a report from the meetings on ETZ put together and make it available to citizens. City and county officials will then be left to decide if the idea proceeds further.