The Taos County Planning and Zoning Commission will hold a public hearing on a proposed Family Dollar store in El Prado.
The proposed store is again generating controversy between supporters and those who think a Family Dollar Store doesn't belong in the location.
The hearing will take place at 6 p.m. on Wednesday (Feb. 12) in the Taos County Commission Chambers and will provide information to the public about the proposed location, which sits on 1.3 acres of agricultural land in El Prado.
The proposed store will be over 9,000 square feet and will be on the west side of Taos' main road at 1578 Paseo del Pueblo. Family Dollar is hoping to place their building on a lot sold to them by Robert and Lilian Martinez. Currently a storage facility sits on another portion of the land to the south of the 1.3 acres in question.
Family Dollar will be asking for a special-use permit from the planning and zoning commission since the land is zoned for rural agriculture. In order to operate a commercial business there, the applicants must have the approval of the commission.
Rudy Perea, chief planner for the county, said the applicants have reapplied since a previous application in 2018 and met all the needed criteria for this building to proceed in the current process.
The building will utilize Southwestern styles of construction if approved, including a backlit stucco sign rather than a tall roadside pole. The front of the building will incorporate vigas and stucco along with the Family Dollar logo above the doors.
In preparation for the project, officials at Abeyta Engineering contacted both the New Mexico Department of Transportation as well as Taos Pueblo government for the building of a driveway for the project. According to a letter from former Taos Pueblo Governor Richard Aspenwind, Taos Pueblo has no issue with the project.
"The Taos Pueblo Governor's Office has determined that this project will not have any adverse effect on our cultural/traditional properties in this location," Aspenwind said in the 2019 letter.
The area is located on the corner of Millicent Rogers Road and Paseo del Pueblo Norte and is surrounded by agricultural land as well as small family dwellings. The property owned by the Martinez family totaled 7 acres before the sale to Family Dollar.
The area sees a considerable amount of traffic with thousands of vehicles passing both north and southbound per day. In order to accommodate the traffic, the plans for the building include a deceleration lane for southbound traffic to turn into the store.
Opponents and neighbors are questioning the need for the store in that location and are saying it could change the makeup of the area.
"Once we lose this pasture it will always be a big stain on that part of Taos," said Michelle Montoya.
Montoya and her family own the land bordering the proposed store and said she is related to Robert and Lilian Martinez.
According to Montoya, offers had been made to the Martinezes to buy the property in the past but were turned down over the years.
"We just want to maintain our heritage," Montoya said.
Montoya and her family were hoping to restore the family land by using it once again for farming.
Supporters of the building signed a petition in support of the landowner's right to sell the property and the company to build on it. Over 600 signatures from all over Taos County were collected in the effort. Taos News attempted to call 10 of the people who signed the petition and reached five, but none commented.
Opposition to the Family Dollar has been rising since the initial conversations in 2017 and members claim to have over 1,000 signatures.
Both sides will have the opportunity to discuss the pros and cons at the Feb. 12 meeting. If the planning and zoning commission approves the special-use permit, the project will move forward in the construction process.
Any member of the public can protest the decision of the commission within 30 days of the decision's file date with the clerk's office. If an appeal is filed, the matter then goes to be heard by the Taos County Board of Commissioners.
Robert and Lillian Martinez did not respond to multiple requests for comment before deadline Wednesday.