Many oppose planned development

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By Don Pace

Residents from the village of Las Tusas and Sapello packed this week’s County Commission meeting to voice their opposition to a proposed subdivision they say would have a devastating impact on the area.

After hearing the complaints, the commission decided to delay the matter.

Karen Royal, the daughter of the couple submitting the application to subdivide, called the opposition liars and gossipers.

“There’s been a lot of gossip, a lot of misconception, and I’ve heard so many lies today about my family, and I’m very protective of my family. You need to stop gossiping because you’re just stirring up a hornets’ nest, that’s all you’re doing. Not one ounce of truth was told in here today,” Royal said.

Royal said her father was an orphan who worked for everything he has and has always followed the law. She said her father owned property in Texas and New Mexico — not all over the country as one of the speakers had said.

“He (father) goes and hires firms such as Siebert and Associates to do all background work. I’m sorry you weren’t notified. If I had known this was a problem, I would have personally come and knocked on your door,” the visibly irate Royal said.

Royal wasn’t the only one upset as angry residents who live in the Sapello Valley lined up to voice their opposition to the Victor and Joanne Ballas Subdivision.

Many community members also said they didn’t receive any notification that the commission would be taking up the measure. Others said they were only informed in the last day or two.

Las Tusas resident Ester Nelson said while she received a certified letter notifying her of the meeting, many of her neighbors had no idea the commission was holding the hearing.

Nelson said she was in opposition of the four 49-acre parcels because of the possibility of developing smaller parcels.

“So there’s the possibility of having 200 homes — that could be 200 wells, that could be 200 septic systems. That will really take a toll on our water,” Nelson said.

Sapello resident Cathy Swedlund told the commission she was the mayordoma of her acequia and that two years ago, the ditch dried up.

“Our drought can be very severe, and I think we really need to keep this in mind with all decisions we make about more water usage. I do my laundry in town because I worry so much about my well. I think water concerns are number one,” Swedlund said.

Christino Griego said he moved to Las Tusas about six years ago and that people who have been there for generations have depended on the Sapello River for irrigation.

Griego said he was primarily concerned about water, but was also concerned about the notification process.

“Had it not been for a neighbor notifying me I would not have known about this meeting,” Griego said.

Sharon Caballero said she lived about one-fourth of a mile from the proposed subdivision.

“I want you to know in Las Tusas we embrace everybody that comes to us. I was embraced as a new community member,” she said. “I’m concerned about a few things; I too did not receive any notice about the subdivision until Chris (Griego) came on his four-wheeler to let us know.

“I know what an honest and honorable man Mr. (Alex) Tafoya (county planning and zoning supervisor) is. I understand it’s legal and that sometimes you want to shorten the process, but this concerns me a lot. I’m also concerned about the 49-acre plots which can be further subdivided. If it were just four families, I don’t think we’d have everybody here today to protest this,” Caballero said.

Caballero said more people living in the area would bring increased traffic and the two-lane road would have to be widened.

“To have to widen that road means you are going to have to condemn my home, so I’m a little bit concerned about this for my future.”

Sapello resident Pat Leahan said she too had just found out about the public hearing and had little time to research and prepare for the meeting.

“I like to do my research and read all sides of something before I make up my mind,” Leahan said.

Leahan said in doing research, she found Ballas subdivisions all over the country but that was hotly contested by the Ballases’ daughter.

After the meeting, she said without having time to do in-depth research, she couldn’t verify that the Victor and Joanne Ballas of the Las Tusas subdivision were connected to Ballas subdivisions in other states.

As the meeting began, Tafoya briefed commissioners on rules regulating different types of subdivisions. Regarding water, he told commissioners the state engineer issued two letters — one in March and another in September stating the Ballases could not provide sufficient water to meet the requirements of the subdivision.

Tafoya said after a revised disclosure statement, the state engineer issued a positive opinion regarding water in November. He said after that opinion he scheduled the public hearing.

Tafoya said the subdivision consisted of four parcels of land, each being about 49 acres, and is located three-fourths of a mile from Las Tusas. He said Ballas inserted a clause in a revised application that any future subdivision of a lot would require approval of the County Commission.

County attorney Jesus Lopez advised the commission to delay the hearing for a number of reasons, including the lack of notification.

“It would be a denial of their (community) due process to proceed on this matter without giving them more time. Secondly, concerning the applicant, I have a concern there also. The Subdivision Act says they must provide sufficient information to the board of county commissioners to permit the board to determine whether the subdivider can fulfill certain conditions. I don’t think they have yet, but they should also be given that opportunity,” Lopez said.

The commission unanimously voted to delay the hearing. Officials said they would provide plenty of notice next time and may meet in a larger room.