Pueblo Design
 La Jicarita

A community advocacy newspaper for northern New Mexico

Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, NM 87521

Volume XIV

February 2009



Current Issue




About Us




Nuclear Workers Continue the Struggle for Compensation By Mark Schiller  

Editorial: Be Prepared to Pay More for Your Water, Assuming There Is Any By Kay Matthews


Two Progressive Bills Work Their Way Through the Legislative Session By Kristina Fisher, Associate Director of Think New Mexico

Update on Placitas "Lomos Altos" Water Transfer Protest By Kay Matthews

Community Land Use Plans Being Developed as Additions to Taos County Land Use Plan

Nuclear Workers Continue the Struggle for Compensation

By Mark Schiller

On January 12, 2009 Mark H. Ayers, president of the Building and Construction Trades Department of the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), wrote Senator Edward Kennedy, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, and Congressional Representative George Miller, Chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor, requesting they convene legislative hearings to consider problems associated with the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA). In that letter Ayers stated, "While oversight hearings by the Senate . . . and House . . . Committees have highlighted many . . . administrative problems, little has been done to resolve them."

Española rally for LANL workers in June of 2008

Ayers specifically noted, among many critical concerns, that: less than 28 percent of all claimants have been compensated; for every payment of $150,000 for radiation cancers under Part B, the government spends $45,000-50,000 on dose reconstructions alone (this figure includes multiple reconstructions for individual claimants because of appeals and new exposure data constantly coming to light); and obtaining Special Exposure Cohort (SEC) status, an admission by the government that it doesn't have enough reliable data to "reconstruct" the probable exposure to toxins of workers at a given site during a specific time period is an overly cumbersome, time consuming, and expensive process fraught with bureaucratic demands and interference.

Ayers' concerns regarding the SEC process were graphically illustrated by outgoing Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt's January 16 decision to deny the appeal by former workers at the now defunct Rocky Flats, Colorado nuclear weapons facility (declared a "Super Fund" clean-up site because of its extensive contamination) for expansion of an existing SEC to include many more workers who were exposed and became ill as a result of their work at the facility between 1952-2005. Of nearly 1,500 workers who have documented, job related illnesses and have applied for compensation, only about one-third were included in the existing SEC (this figure does not include what could amount to 200-300 workers who have job related illnesses but haven't applied for compensation because it's such a burdensome, emotionally draining process for sick workers and their families). Workers not included in the SEC must now, as Ayers noted, go through the lengthy, expensive, and often unreliable "dose reconstruction" process, which purports to determine the "probability" they contracted cancer or Beryllium disease as a result of toxic exposures in the work place.

The appeal specifically accused the Advisory Board on Radiation and Worker Health, which recommended limiting the SEC so that it included only 509 of the 1,475 potentially eligible claimants, of two types of conflict of interest. First, the appeal charged the Board with inconsistent application of conflict of interest regulations within the Board itself: one Advisory Board member, affiliated with the Steelworkers Union, whose members were part of the appeal, was forced to recuse herself from voting on the recommendation, while another member of the Advisory Board, who worked under contract to the Steelworkers Union, was allowed to vote. The second charge involved basing the Board's decision on information provided by a former Rocky Flats program manager who had a conflict of interest. This person was in charge of preparing the "site profile" detailing and evaluating the exposure of Rocky Flats workers and also was involved in the evaluation of the SEC petition, which included validation of results used in his previous work. Despite these gross improprieties and a last minute appeal by the entire bipartisan Colorado Congressional delegation to defer the decision to the incoming administration, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Michael Leavitt refused to amend or delay his decision limiting the SEC. He did, however, state that his office recognized "the need to improve documentation with respect to conflicts of interest and appearance determinations for individuals serving on the Advisory Board on Radiation and Worker Health and will work closely on this with HHS Office of the General Counsel's Ethics Division." His admission will provide very little solace to the hundreds of ill Rocky Flats workers who must continue to fight their way through the "quagmire" of dose reconstruction.

In response to this denial and in memory of Charlie Wolf, a 49 year-old engineer and outspoken nuclear workers' advocate who recently died as a result of brain cancer contracted while working at Rocky Flats, Senator Mark Udall (Democrat from Colorado) announced that he was organizing a coalition in Congress to "change leadership" and "streamline" the program. Peter Turcic, director of the program for the Department of Labor, has already resigned, and advocates cite Larry Elliot, director of National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), which oversees the dose reconstruction program, as a major obstacle to program reform. Udall plans to introduce legislation to amend the Act in order to ensure that workers who deserve compensation receive it in a timely fashion. His office claims bipartisan support for this proposed legislation, citing interest from Senator Lamar Alexander (Republican from Tennessee), who has previously cosponsored efforts to amend the program, as well as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Democrat from Nevada), who specifically asked to work with Udall on the legislation. According to an article in the Rocky Mountain News, Udall has also visited with the new Secretary of Labor- designate Hilda Solis regarding EEOICPA and "believes the Obama administration will be more responsive than its predecessor."

Meanwhile, many former and current Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) "support services employees", including security guards, custodians, firefighters, inspectors, craftsmen and laborers, are awaiting the outcome of a 2008 SEC petition to expand approval for the claims of workers who became ill as a result of exposures to toxins at the Lab between the years 1976-2005. Readers will recall that an SEC covering workers who were employed by LANL between 1943-1975 is already in place. The new petition, drafted by LANL security guard Andrew Evaskovich and a coalition of technical and legal experts, notes that the recommendation by NIOSH to approve the 1943-1975 petition included the statement, "NIOSH found that the monitoring records, process descriptions, and source-term data available are not sufficient to complete dose reconstructions for the proposed class of employees, at a minimum [emphasis added] through December 31, 1975." The petition also notes that the NIOSH report conceded that "the potential for . . . unmonitored intakes has existed throughout the history of the site." The 2008 petition goes on to provide copious evidence to substantiate the argument that "The information available from the site profile and additional resources are insufficient to estimate the maximum internal and external potential exposure to members of the class [support workers] during the period of radiological operations at LANL; 1976-2005." In other words, there is a very high probability that there is insufficient reliable information upon which to base "dose reconstruction" for individual workers.

In May of 2008, the government determined that the new petition merited a full evaluation by NIOSH, which according to Evascovich has subsequently "interviewed workers and retrieved 618 documents from LANL and the Denver archives." Now the Advisory Board on Radiation and Worker Health, which will make a recommendation to Congress on the merits of the petition, is set to meet in Albuquerque on Tuesday, February 17 through Thursday, February 19. During those meetings a number of pending SEC petitions will be reviewed. On February 17 from 4:30-6:00 p.m. the Advisory Board will hear presentations from NIOSH and the petitioners regarding the LANL SEC petition. After a short break, the Board will listen to public comment regarding the petition. Members of Senators Tom Udall and Jeff Bingaman and Representative Ben Ray Lujan's staffs will be attendance and offer supporting statements.

Claimants and advocacy organizations are soliciting public support. They urge everyone who can attend the Tuesday afternoon session at the Doubletree Hotel (201 Marquette Avenue NW, Albuquerque) to do so. If you can't attend, there's also a toll-free teleconference phone number (866-659-0537, participant code 9933701) through which you can make a statement to voice support for this long overdue legislation. For more information regarding the meeting or the SEC, readers can contact Dr. Maureen Merritt at 505-455-0550.

This just in: As I was writing this article, Andrew Evaskovich received and forwarded NIOSH's official response to the LANL SEC petition. To make a long story short (the document is 77 pages) the report concludes: "Based on its analysis of . . . available resources, NIOSH found no part of the class under evaluation for which it cannot estimate radiation doses with sufficient accuracy." This conclusion prompts several questions: How could NIOSH have previously determined that it couldn't reliably estimate radiation exposure from 1943 through December 31, 1975, but now believes that as of January 1, 1976 it has sufficient data to do so? Did LANL suddenly begin keeping more detailed records in 1976? Moreover, delivering this analysis just two weeks before the Advisory Board will consider the petition clearly puts the petitioners at a disadvantage and continues a pattern of delivering critical information at the last minute, also noted in the Rocky Flats' petition. Alliance of Nuclear Workers Advocacy Groups spokesperson Terrie Barrie called the delay "criminal. The law requires NIOSH to submit the evaluation report within 180 days. NIOSH broke the law by not obeying that requirement." Whether this analysis is adopted or overruled, it will unquestionably delay a final ruling on the merits of the SEC for between one and two years, during which time hundreds of deserving claimants (some of whom are deathly ill) will go uncompensated.

Finally, there's more bad news from LANL. At the end of January LANL notified almost 2,000 current and former employees and visitors that they had been exposed to the toxin Beryllium during work and visits to Technical Area 41 within the Lab compound. Although the Lab claims only two percent of Lab employees who worked in the area are at high risk to develop chronic Beryllium disease, which severely impairs lung function, the remaining 1,650 people who were exposed are at risk. While LANL administrators have been aware of the situation since November, they unaccountably did not notify affected personnel and visitors until the end of January. Astonishingly, this kind of safety incident as well as security breaches have become commonplace at a facility for which oversight is supposed to be among its highest priorities. Persons concerned they may have worked in or visited this area can call 505-665-7233 for further information and testing.

Editorial: Be Prepared to Pay More for Your Water, Assuming There Is Any

By Kay Matthews

In a recent "My View" in the Santa Fe New Mexican city councilor Miguel Chavez claimed that some questions needed to be answered before the city decided on a proposed water-rate increase. He raised a number of issues that relate directly to concerns about unbridled growth and development in Santa Fe: who should pay the increase and who should not; what will the burden be on longtime residents; should the burden be borne by new growth; will the city help those on fixed incomes; and should rates reward conservation. (City councilor Rosemary Romero, on the other hand, took a cavalier approach: she's on record saying that Santa Fe is "an expensive date.") Chavez also noted the increased costs of the Buckman Direct Diversion Project (BDDP), which is one of the main reasons the city is considering the hike. The project has jumped from a projected cost of $60 - $80 million to $215 million. Unfortunately, both councilors, along with Rebecca Wurtzburger and Chris Calvert, voted for the rate increase the last week in January, with Mayor David Coss breaking the tie in favor of the increase (thank you, Councilor Ortiz, for your efforts on behalf of the citizens of Santa Fe).

The issues that Chavez raised in his editorial are inextricably linked to a number of other water issues in the Santa Fe area that remain unresolved. The city and county's rationale for development of the BDDP is conjunctive water management, i.e., using both ground and surface water to meet its water demands. The city and county wells at the Buckman Well Field have been overutilized and will be "rested" once the BDDP comes online, accessing 5,605 afy of San Juan/Chama water rights from the Rio Grande.

But there is more to this story, of course. In order to pay back the state for the over pumping at the Buckman Well Field, the city and county have been buying up agricultural water rights, primarily in the Middle Rio Grande Basin, to offset these depletions. The county has also applied to transfer 92 afy of water to 19 wells scattered throughout the county to supplement the Buckman wells. These transfers were protested by over 200 well owners (many of these protests have now been consolidated), who don't know which of the 19 wells will actually be pumped or how much water will be pumped at each well.

This movement of water is not just to offset depletions, however; it is to meet the needs of future development. So what happens if our drought continues, as predicted, and there is no 5,605 afy of San Juan/Chama water to rely on? Or if the Navajo, Ute, and Pueblo Indian Water Rights settlements are never implemented and one of the tribes makes a priority call in the San Juan Basin, which will affect all the various allotments of San Juan/Chama water that are now contracted and uncontracted downstream. The city and county will have to continue to rely on groundwater resources, which means increased movement of agricultural water for urban use.

Contaminants from Los Alamos National Laboratory have already been found in the sediment next to the river, and levels of PCPs, an industrial chemical used in electrical equipment, that exceed water quality standards by 25,000 times, have been found in Los Alamos and Pueblo Canyons.

Folks are still asking questions about the Aamodt adjudication settlement as well. The Pojoaque Basin Water Alliance has collected 950 signatures opposing Santa Fe County's proposed water utility system. Some members recently requested a meeting with their county commissioner Harry Montoya (the other county commissioners attended as well) and he got an earful of complaints that non-pueblo residents have been raising for years: primarily that they don't want the water delivery system to replace their wells, they don't want the wastewater system, and they have not been consulted with regard to management of the resulting water district. Montoya, like all the other bureaucrats involved in these water adjudications, continues to claim that the settlements are the best deal for everyone, regardless of their costs (over $1.5 billion dollars at this point in time), the undemocratic way they were negotiated, and the sleight of hand calculations that maintain there is enough San Juan/Chama and Rio Grande water to underwrite the massive irrigation and water delivery projects they include. Pojoaque Basin residents have also been showing up at the County planning meetings held in the El Centro and El Norte areas that will be governed by the Aamodt settlement.

The San Juan/Chama water slated for the Aamodt settlement (the pueblos of Pojoaque, San Ildefonso, Tesuque, and Nambe) and the Abeyta settlement (Taos Pueblo) is also in question. Santa Fe County is committed to coming up with 2,500 afy for future growth and development, and has apparently obtained some of the 2,990 afy of water slated for settlement of the Abeyta adjudication. Again, because of drought or priority calls there may be inadequate San Juan/Chama water for either of these settlements. The county is also relying on Top of the World water rights to meet this 2,500 afy figure. The outstanding application of 580 afy, protested in 1999, will likely have to be withdrawn because it has lingered so long, and a second application to move an additional 1,100 afy hasn't even been filed. It remains to be seen if the settlement will ever be implemented.


Many thanks to our readers who so generously sent in subscription donations for 2009. It seems that despite tough economic times, folks want to support work that tries to contribute to the common good. As a board member of an anti-nuclear non-profit, Kay saw the same generosity demonstrated there as well.

Mil gracias

• The Peñasco Area Communities Association (PACA) will hold a special public meeting on Saturday, March 7, at 1:00 p.m. at the Peñasco Community Center. The purpose of the meeting is for the public to hear about the proposed Peñasco Area Communities Land Use Plan to establish zoning districts (see article on page 7 of this issue).

• The Advisory Board on Radiation Worker Heath, which advises NIOSH on worker claims, is holding public hearings in Albuquerque at the Doubletree Hotel, 201 Marquette Avenue NW. On Tuesday, February 17, from 4:30 to 6 p.m. the board will discuss Drew Evaskovich's petition to expand the Special Exposure Cohort to make it easier for LANL claimants who worked at multiple tech areas to get compensated for cancer. At 6:30 p.m. there will be time allotted for public comment. On Wednesday, February 18, at 7 p.m. the board will also hear public comment. There is a toll-free Teleconference Phone for those who can't attend but who would like to make a statement: 866 659-0537. Participant Code: 9933701. For more information call Dr. Maureen Merritt: 505 455-0550 (see article on page 1 of this issue).

• Carson National Forest is beginning the scoping phase of its "Travel Management Proposed Action" on its six ranger districts: Canjilon, El Rito, Tres Piedras, Camino Real, Jicarilla, and Questa. The Forest Service has identified four major threats to the national forests and grasslands: 1) the risk of catastrophic fire; 2) the loss of open space; 3) invasive species; and 4) unmanaged recreation, including the effects of unmanaged off-highway vehicles (OHVs). In response to this last concern, the Forest Service published final regulations for motorized travel, and the Carson solicited input from the public and other agencies to promulgate its Travel Management Proposed Action. While the Jicarilla and Questa districts are currently closed to cross-country travel, the plan proposes to eliminate cross-country motorized vehicle use in the other districts. The number of miles of trails designated for use of motorized vehicles 50" or less in width (OHVs) in some instances will be increased, while other trails currently open to OHVs will be closed. Along with a scoping letter sent out to its mailing list, the Forest Service included maps of the proposed openings and closings, but because of their small size they are almost impossible to clearly interpret. According to the Forest Service, larger maps are available for viewing at each ranger station, the Supervisor's Office, and public libraries in the vicinity of the Carson. You can also request a CD for easier viewing or go the website: http.www.fs.fed.us/r3/carson/recreation/travel_mgmt. The Forest Service requests that public comments be submitted by February 28,2009. Final decisions should occur in the summer of 2009 and the decisions will be implemented in October of 2009.

La Jicarita News did not receive the scoping letter in time to do a more extensive analysis, but we did call the Forest Service and request that the scoping period be extended to the end of March. Written comments should be sent to: Carson National Forest, Travel Management Proposed Actions, 208 Cruz Alta Road, Taos, NM 87571. Electronic comments can be submitted to carson_trvl_mgt@fs.fed.us. The subject line should read: CNF Travel Management.

Two Progressive Bills Work Their Way Through the Legislative Session

By Kristina Fisher, Associate Director of Think New Mexico

This year, among the hundreds of bills up for consideration in the New Mexico legislature, are two that have the potential to make an important difference for New Mexico students, homebuyers, and homeowners.

First, Senate Bill 255, co-sponsored by Senators Cynthia Nava (D-Doña Ana) and Sue Wilson Beffort (R-Albuquerque), would provide incentives for school districts to build smaller schools and establish procedures to ensure that existing small schools are not consolidated unless doing so is in the best interests of students.

It has been clear for a long time that New Mexico's schools are failing our students. Only 54.1% of New Mexico's entering ninth graders graduate from high school, the second worst rate in the nation (the national average is 70.6%). An average of 77 students drop out each school day across New Mexico &endash; totaling nearly 14,000 per year.

Decades of research have demonstrated that smaller schools are better for students. High schools smaller than about 900 students have higher graduation rates, less student alienation and violence, and higher levels of satisfaction among students, parents, principals, and teachers. Small schools also improve the performance of children from low-income families, which helps to narrow the persistent achievement gap.

This month, U.S. News and World Report released its 2008 list of the "best high schools" in America. The ranking is based on academic achievement, particularly by the most disadvantaged students. Fifteen of the nineteen schools honored in New Mexico have enrollments that are well under 900 students, and another, Taos High School, is just over 900 students. The only large schools to make the list were located in wealthy areas: Los Alamos and the northeast heights of Albuquerque.

While small schools are not a silver bullet, they are an important first step toward improving education in New Mexico. Moreover, smallness makes other important reforms &endash; like increasing parent involvement &endash; easier to implement.

SB 255 would require that, in order to be eligible for state funding from the Public School Capital Outlay Fund, a new school must be designed to accommodate no more than 225 students per grade at the high school level; 120 students per grade at the middle school level; and three sections per grade at the elementary levels. It would also prioritize funding for projects designed to restructure existing large schools into multiple, smaller schools-within-schools.

Ironically, many of the state's high-performing small schools currently face pressure to consolidate with other small schools because of perceived cost savings. This happened recently with Velarde Elementary, which was pressured to merge with Alcalde Elementary. The community successfully defended the school, and last year it won a national award from the U.S. Department of Education.

SB 255 would prevent such situations by requiring school boards to: 1) conduct a feasibility study examining how the proposed consolidation will affect student performance and well-being; 2) hold public meetings at the schools to provide parents and community members a chance to voice their concerns; and 3) get the approval of the state Public Education Department before proceeding with any school consolidation.

This bill is supported by groups including the Center for the Education and Study of Diverse Populations at Highlands, ENLACE (Engaging Latino Communities in Education), the New Mexico Coalition of Charter Schools, the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the New Mexico Forum for Youth, along with two national organizations: the Rural School and Community Trust and the Coalition of Essential Schools.

Another bill to watch is House Bill 488, sponsored by House Speaker Ben Lujan (D-Santa Fe), which seeks to reform New Mexico's shameful title insurance system. Title insurance must be purchased when people buy a home or refinance a mortgage.

In 1985, the title insurance industry won passage of a law requiring the state Insurance Superintendent to set a single rate for title insurance everywhere in the state, making it impossible for New Mexicans to shop around for lower prices. The industry has since won special immunity from its own negligence, so that home- owners pay the price if their title insurance company negligently misses a costly title defect.

HB 488 would reform the system so that the Insurance Superintendent would instead set a maximum rate, and permit companies to charge less. It would also increase transparency, strengthen prohibitions against kickbacks and collusion, and eliminate the negligence immunity.

Perhaps most important, with the worsening housing crisis, HB 488 would require discounts of at least 40% for any title policies purchased by homeowners who refinance their mortgages. The current discounts are only 25% for a homeowner who is refinancing less than one year after purchasing the home, 20% after 1-2 years, 15% after 2-3 years, and 10% after 3 years or more. By contrast, the average discount received by homeowners in other states is 40%.

Both HB 488 and SB 255 are being championed by Think New Mexico, a nonprofit think tank that works to enact public policies that improve the lives of New Mexicans. In past years Think New Mexico has successfully advocated for the passage of laws making full-day kindergarten accessible to every child in New Mexico, repealing the state's regressive tax on food, creating a Strategic River Reserve to protect and restore New Mexico's rivers, and reforming the state lottery to reduce its excessive operating costs and redirect the savings to full-tuition college scholarships.

To voice your support for these important reforms, please visit www.thinknewmexico.org, where you can easily contact your legislators and ask for their votes on these bills.

Update on Placitas "Lomos Altos" Water Transfer Protest

By Kay Matthews

As reported in the January 2007 issue of La Jicarita News, the potentially precedent setting protest of the Lomos Altos water transfer application in Placitas was heard by the New Mexico Supreme Court and was remanded to District Court de novo for reconsideration in December of 2006.

The case goes back to the 1997 and 1999 applications to transfer 15.05 acre feet per year (afy) of surface water from locations on the Rio Grande in Valencia County to wells that supply the Overlook subdivision in Placitas (owned by Bob Poling). The protestants, Lynn Montgomery, Robert Wesley, and Catherine Harris, live in areas near the subdivision, where they irrigate from springs near Las Huertas Creek. Their protest claimed that their surface water rights would be impaired by the groundwater pumping. They also raised the other two statutory objections considered by the Office of the State Engineer in water transfer protests: whether it is contrary to conservation and detrimental to the public welfare.

Now that the case is back in District Court it has become even more complicated. The Supreme Court remand states: "[W]e remand to the district court for a de novo proceeding to consider all existing water rights at the move-to location, or extinguish those rights, the extent of depletion at the move-to location, and determine whether this depletion constitutes impairment of existing rights." The Supreme Court also directed "[f]or the impairment analysis, the State Engineer must either include the total amount of water rights contained in . . . non-party declarations [or other evidence] or formally extinguish them. The State Engineer can extinguish these rights through various means, including a forfeiture proceeding or an abandonment action."

Lomos Altos then proceeded to identify over 100 parties who it claims might have an interest in water rights at two of the five springs in question, and that these "third party defendants" have not put any of the water rights in question to beneficial use, or that the water rights have been forfeited or abandoned. The protestants filed a motion to stay, claiming only 38 of these water rights defendants have been served: "Until all defendants are joined and served . . .[p]rotestants are unable to determine whether the water rights attributed to these parties play a role in the analysis and resolution of the overall issues of impairment, conservation and public welfare." The protestants also filed a motion that the court direct the state engineer to conduct a hydrographic survey or dismiss the "Third Party Complaint." They claim that the directive of the court is in essence "an adjudication of the water rights of the named defendants." According to state statute, the state engineer must make or furnish a complete hydrographic survey of the affected stream system.

To further complicate the case, two of the newly named defendants hired prominent Albuquerque Attorney Peter Shoenfeld, who also filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the "District Court has no jurisdiction to forfeit or otherwise extinguish those water rights." That power is accorded solely to the State Engineer, and that office has not issued any notices of non-use. Shoenfeld also argued that District Court cannot hear this case as a de novo trial because de novo means "anew, or "once more, again," and there can be no proceeding to forfeit or extinguish water rights in the absence of an original proceeding before the State Engineer.

Lynn Montgomery

According to Lynn Montgomery, the State Engineer also filed a motion to stay and a motion to bifurcate the case (all parties, except the applicant, agree that any determinations of water rights, whether by abandonment or in adjudication, must occur in another court as a separate case). It's unlikely that the OSE has the resources to carry out abandonment proceedings, and even if it did, the agency probably would have trouble getting large amounts of rights abandoned. It would also have trouble coming up with the resources to do a hydrographic survey and adjudication. Montgomery and attorney Peter Shoenfeld claim that the OSE would have to conduct an adjudication of the entire Middle Rio Grande Basin. Mary Humphrey, Montgomery's attorney, believes if the State Engineer continues with this, it will precipitate adjudication. The motions to dismiss ask the judges to embark on a prima facea (before investigation) proceeding, and accept all existing water rights claims to determine impairment and avoid adjudication or abandonment findings. Many more attorneys have entered the case, defending people in other subdivisions who could be affected. There are still many defendants who haven't been named or served.

A hearing on the case is expected this month.

Community Land Use Plans Being Developed as Additions to Taos County Land Use Plan

A Peñasco area citizens group has been working with Taos County land use contractor Charlie Deans (Community by Design) on a proposed Peñasco Area Communities Land Use Plan to establish zoning districts. Deans has been working with six other Taos County communities on similar plans, which if approved will be incorporated into the Land Use Regulations of the County of Taos.

Deans presented the committee's proposal to the Peñasco Area Communities Association (PACA) on January 28 for its approval and recommendation to the Taos County Board of Supervisors. The zoning plan is broken down into five district designations: Resource Conservation, which are areas of high sensitivity such as forested lands and riparian areas; Irrigated Agriculture, areas that historically or are presently irrigated by ground or surface water (acequias); Traditional Village, which are existing historical villages that typically have a plaza and a mix of uses associated with them (Placita, Chamisal, etc.); Commercial/Employment, which are larger commercial, retail, employment/industrial clustered on highway corridors; and Scenic Highway Corridor Overlay, which are designated corridors with high scenic values and high sensitivity to strip development.

Dean's committee came up with a list of residential and non-residential allowed land uses (homes are allowed in all designations) and decided which use should be permitted in each district designation for the Peñasco area and which should require a special use permit (a permitting process through the Taos Planning and Zoning Commission and the County Commission). For example, mobile home parks would not be permitted in any of the designations except the Commercial/Employment, and would require a special use permit.

The proposed plan also has a section of Special Provisions, which are advisory guidelines or options that can be implemented to reduce the Development Standards requirements on minimum lot sizes. For example, in the Irrigated Agriculture designation, homes and structures would be clustered on a quarter of the lot, leaving the remaining land open for irrigation. This is similar to the Rio Arriba County Ordinance that protects irrigated lands.

There were many questions about the proposal, of course, and PACA will host a public meeting on Saturday, March 7, at 1:00 p.m. at the Peñasco Community Center. You can also get more information on Dean's website: www.communitybydesign.biz.

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