Ran­chos gets fired up over Fam­ily Dol­lar

Traf­fic, safety top is­sues ahead of ap­peal

The Taos News - - FRONT PAGE - By Cody Hooks [email protected]­news.com

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.”

Mor­gan Timms

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.

Mor­gan Timms

Around 50 Ran­chos de Taos res­i­dents came gath­ered Tues­day (Nov. 27) to plan their ap­peal of the pro­posed Fam­ily Dol­lar store in their town.

Mor­gan Timms

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.

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