Ranchos gets fired up over Family Dollar
Traffic, safety top issues ahead of appeal
Location, location, location. Opposition to a proposed Family Dollar store is reaching a fever pitch in Ranchos de Taos. The main issue, more than the store itself, is the location, a tricky intersection of two state highways with often heavy traffic.
That has neighbors organizing against the development.
“The closer you get to it, the more people are concerned,” said Cynthia Patterson, a Ranchos resident and board member of the Ranchos de Taos Neighborhood Association.
A Texas developer of Family Dollar stores has worked over the last 18 months to get all the pieces in place to begin construction: purchasing land, pulling permits and getting various levels of approval from Taos County.
The Taos County Planning Commission gave the project’s special use permit an OK in a 3-2 vote Sept. 12. The Ranchos neighbors’ association then appealed that decision.
Now, the Taos County Board of Commissioners will hear the appeal and vote on the matter Dec. 10. The meeting will take place at 9 a.m. at the Taos County Commission Chambers at 105 Albright Street in Taos.
The permit proposes building a 8,400-square-foot Family Dollar at 1800 Paseo del Pueblo Sur, which is currently the Taos RV Park.
The property is in a transitional area of Ranchos: to the south is the more historic part of the community, anchored by the San Francisco de Asis Church and Old Martina’s Hall, while to the north is a stretch of both residences and commercial developments that bleeds into the southern end of the town of Taos.
The property is a little north of the junction of State Roads 68 (Paseo del Pueblo Sur) and
518, the road to Pot Creek and Peñasco. More traffic in that area, and on the west side of the road, would only compound the problems with hectic, congested traffic in the area, neighbors argue.
“At it’s most basic, this appeal is about whether Taos County will inflict an inappropriate and intense land use on a 200-year-old community that does not want it. The traffic safety issues are indisputable,” read the appeal.
The association names seven specific traffic issues at that intersection, including dangerous U-turns and “conflicting traffic movements.”
Principally, the association argues that because of State Road 68’s design, northbound drivers, including gas tankers, who make a left-hand turn into properties on the west side of the road cause problems on both sides of the highway.
“It is widely agreed that there are existing safety problems in the immediate area. Approval of additional intensive development would invariably make a bad situation even worse,” the appeal reads.
People in the community seem to largely agree about that.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea myself,” said Mark Flores, a business owner and Taos school board member who was pumping gas Tuesday (Nov. 27) at the Shell station near the intersection. He said traffic was the No. 1 concern.
“I drive through there every day and I am certainly concerned for the (traffic) safety issues,” echoed Darlene Vigil, former Taos County Assessor and a Ranchos resident. Kids get on and off the bus in front of the RV park and proposed dollar store property, she said.
As part of the earlier approval process, the developer had to obtain a permit from the state Department of Transportation and conduct a traffic study of the area, which found a dollar store would not significantly increase traffic to the area.
Neighbors contend the traffic study was not comprehensive enough. They also argue that though the developer is not responsible for resolving the longstanding issues on the state highway, the county commission must primarily consider the health and safety of residents.
The appeal also argues the project doesn’t fit with the visual nature of the neighborhood and that the planning process was biased in favor of the developer.
“It’s quite remarkable, the solidarity of the residents around the proposed development,” said Hank Saxe, an involved member of the Ranchos association. The organization hosted a meeting Tuesday (Nov. 27) to strategize for the Dec. 10 appeal hearing. About 50 people turned out, most opposed to the dollar store.
But even though neighbors have been organizing for about as long as the developer has been working on the project, apathy among some residents persists.
One woman checking the mail at the Ranchos post office Tuesday, who did not give her name, said this about the project and organized opposition: “I really don’t care what happens in this town.”
Ranchos Neighborhood Association President David Maes addresses residents gathered at Old Martina’s Hall on Tuesday (Nov. 27) during a meeting to appeal the proposed Ranchos Family Dollar store.
Around 50 Ranchos de Taos residents came gathered Tuesday (Nov. 27) to plan their appeal of the proposed Family Dollar store in their town.
Jonathan Vordermark, of Ranchos de Taos, expresses concerns about the proposed Family Dollar store Tuesday (Nov. 27) during a meeting at Old Martina’s Hall.