Subdivision approved after lengthy meeting

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By David Giuliani

The San Miguel County Commission this week gave a green light to a subdivision in Rowe.

But during a more than two hour meeting on the issue, several commissioners wondered about the condition of the road that accesses the proposed development, known as Mesa Azul.

Melvin Varela, owner of Anazasi MVJV, is proposing a 13-lot subdivision five miles southwest of Rowe, with each lot to be around one acre.

Last month, the county Planning and Zoning Commission had recommended the commission approve the the subdivision’s preliminary plat.

Over the last two years, the state engineer’s office had twice advised against approving the proposed development because of insufficient information on water. But this summer, it gave its support when it got the necessary information. There was never an issue of water availability, officials said.

The big issue that came up during a public hearing Wednesday was the condition of a private road that accesses Mesa Azul and an existing adjoining residential development.

A few residents from the other development, started by Henry DeHerrera two decades ago, said they had tried to form a homeowners association to pay for road maintenance. But they said many people didn’t want such a group, even though covenants require that everyone help with the road.

They said they were concerned that with the new subdivision, there would be twice the amount of traffic and more wear and tear on their road as a result.

While DeHerrera supported the new subdivision — which will be formed from land he sold to Varela — he said he had concerns about the road as well.

County Attorney Jesus Lopez suggested that county approve the subdivision, but as a condition, it could require that Varela and the existing landowners work on maintaining the road.

“Here, here,” said one of the residents in the audience.

However, County Manager Les Montoya recommended the county delay a decision on Varela’s subdivision until the county could get its engineer — at Varela’s expense — to look at the condition of the road accessing the neighborhood. He said the commission should be concerned with the impact of a new subdivision on existing residents.

Varela didn’t like Montoya’s idea, saying he had done his part. He noted that the county’s public works department, which handles roads, had the opportunity long ago to comment on his proposal but chose not to do so.

“I feel that I’ve gone above and beyond,” he said.

Lopez said he understood Varela’s perspective, saying he didn’t believe the county could impose such a cost on a developer after he had paid all of the appropriate fees.

County Commission Chairman David Salazar said he didn’t think it was fair to delay Varela’s project based on a road outside his subdivision, while Commissioner Nicolas Leger said dealing with access issues was in the county’s jurisdiction.

Near the end of the meeting, Lopez suggested the commission approve the subdivision contingent on any requirements for the access road as laid down by County Manager Montoya, based on advice from the county engineer.

The commission voted unanimously for that proposal.