Residents raise concerns about Joint Land Use consequences

Some in Curry and Roosevelt counties feel a Joint Land Use Study (JLUS) is merely a way to begin open communication with Cannon Air Force Base about compatibility issues between communities and the base.

But others worry recommendations in the JLUS are the beginning of something bigger and more severe, effectively creating a form of zoning.

Cannon Air Force Base officials say the study is little more than a device to assure joint cooperation. The study was commissioned by Curry and Roosevelt counties to evaluate the area and provide information to assist Cannon Air Force Base and surrounding communities in coexisting.

A draft of the study has been available for public comment since October. It and any public reaction are expected to be included in a final draft after a meeting of the Joint Land Use policy and technical committees 1:30 p.m. Monday at the Clovis-Carver Public Library.

The meeting is open to the public.

The study includes recommendations from the Air Force about how the entities in the area — 1,468,000 acres around the base and Melrose Air Force Range — should regulate things such as wind turbine height, easements, occupancy density, lighting and more.

Clovis Mayor Gayla Brumfield said she felt concerns were mainly limited to a corridor between the base and the Melrose Air Force Range, a 66,010 acre range located 25 miles west of the base used for training.

“I don’t really see anything as far as hard fast regulations coming out of this,” Brumfield said. “I think mainly it will be a case-by-case basis that is discussed with the base and what they need.

“The way I understand it,” said Brumfield, “the JLUS isn’t saying they can’t build something, it just starts the conversation.”

Brumfield said she felt the study is a good way to plan.

“We brought all the players to the table to try work out situations before they happen. Now we have a plan. We’re being proactive instead of reactive,” Brumfield said.

She said if property rights are reduced or taken away, compensation needs to be part of the solution.

Portales Mayor Sharon King was a member of the JLUS policy committee. She said many of the concerns brought to the committee were from landowners whose property lies around the base or range.

“They were mainly concerned about their land or intrusion on their land. Especially with building wind turbines. The number one concern is height restrictions,” King said. “That concern came up at every meeting.”

King said she felt a policy restricting wind turbine heights around flight lines would be reasonable. She also believes the base is more concerned with being informed of where tall structures will be located.

“It was more of a ‘let us know it’s happening’ than anything else. Open communication,” King said.

Others see it as a list of demands that give the base too much power.

“I will be the first to tell you that Cannon is an asset to Curry County, but when you put restrictions on a landowner, there has to be just compensation,” said Curry County landowner Richard Wilkins.

His family has owned 1,300 acres southwest of Cannon since 1941. He provided his comments to Curry County Manager Lance Pyle.

“I feel like we will never have wind turbines (on our property) because of the flight patterns and I don’t have a problem with it. I can live with it. There’s just going to have to be some kind of compensation,” Wilkins said.

Five acres of the Wilkins family land were purchased by the base in 1996 because the parcel was under flight patterns.

“I’m worried about the height restrictions. They say we can do it if we notify the base but then why put it in there?” Wilkins asked. “Do we need to ask the military on everything we do? Isn’t that getting too much government?”

Wilkins said he believes issues can be worked out on all sides.

Wilkins’ comments also included feedback about Cannon’s encroachment worries, mainly centering around Curry Road R, which is parallel to Cannon’s west perimeter.

“If they want to close Curry Road R, if it’s for our national security, they should purchase the land adjoining them,” he said. “You can’t just close a road because one person wants to close it. You’ve got to get all the land owners together and agree.”

Wilkins said his main concern is that laws will go into effect without the true consequences being realized until its too late.

“I’m glad they’re having one (study),” he said. “Anything can be worked out.”

Former Lt. Governor Walter Bradley said he was struck by the sheer size of the undertaking.

“Cannon Air Force Base is an intricate part of our community,” Bradley said, “and is a large employer, but they are government. The underlying question is how much authority do you want to give a government entity that is not a civilian legislative body about how and where you grow?”

Bradley said he feels strongly that Cannon should be informed in processes and have a voice. He questions giving them voting or binding authority in civilian population growth.

“They’re asking to be part of a decision-making process of a civilian decision making body and I question whether you want that to happen,” Bradley said.

Bradley said he is concerned trying to implement 39 recommendations in the JLUS will require a large amount of resources.

“Who’s going to take the lead on that? Where is it going to come from? How does the JLUS mesh with state law and local ordinances and regulation?

“No one has examined the legal consequences of the pursuing this,” Bradley said. “No one has done a market analysis on what could happen to property values. There are more questions than there are answers in this document.”

Bradley said upon questioning JLUS committee members, they had not looked into any of the questions that jumped out to him after he read the study.

In an email response Friday, Cannon Air Force Base officials said the recommendations are intended to promote comprehensive planning.

“The JLUS is the first step in integrating the local jurisdiction’s comprehensive plans with the installation’s plans thus ensuring a joint vision and open dialogue and discussion,” Cannon officials said.

Cannon officials said the goal of recommendations is “to ensure all stakeholders (city and county residents, military interests, energy proponents, investors, land owners, business owners, etc.) have an equal say in the future development and future course of their property and interests.”

Pyle said following the meeting, HDR Engineering Inc. will prepare a final draft for adoption by the Curry and Roosevelt county commissions. Comments received about the draft will become part of the final draft, he said.

“We want feedback from the community,” Pyle said.

Pyle said comments can be emailed to him at lpyle@currycounty.org until the meeting.

The JLUS draft can be found online at www.cannonafbjlus.org or can be requested at the Curry County administration office.