No one who owns property in Taos County in an area zoned Residential/Agricultural and where there are empty tracts of land nearby is safe from having a commercial usage plopped down in the middle of them.
The recent application for a "Glamping" project on C110, essentially an "outdoor motel," eagerly promoted by the Taos County Planning Department and passed by the Taos County Planning Commission, demonstrates how we property owners are all in peril. Even if one does their due diligence - as we did before we bought - [it can't] guarantee protection from an unwanted commercial activity being granted a Special Use Permit (SUP).
The County Code (Section 4.6.1, A. and B.) is quite clear about the criteria by which an application can move forward, saying that an SUP - which is used to change zoning on a particular tract of land - must meet Compatibility standards and I quote from the Code:
"A. Use. The development shall be sensitive to and consistent with the existing traditional and historic uses in the neighborhood …" As well,
"B. Visual Impact. The development shall be sensitive to … the existing properties in the neighborhood …"
The "Glamping" project should have never gotten out of the Planning Department. The Code was purely and simply ignored.
The next step was a hearing before the Taos County Planning Commissioners. Two Commissioners, from Districts 2 and 4, are lawyers and well-versed in the law. They immediately saw that the project violated every intent of the law and voted "no."
We don't know why two of the other three Planning Commissioners voted "yes." The third "yes" vote was cast by the District 3 Planning Commissioner who was quoted by the Taos News as saying:
"The people objecting think because residential buildings are allowed that nothing else can be allowed, and that's just not the case." Translated this means people can do whatever they want to do with their property and the Planning Department and the majority of the Planning Commission will agree and grant the SUP.
This is why all property owners should be quaking in their boots. An "outdoor motel" is surely coming soon to you. If not, then a marijuana growing farm, a matanza, or some other equally abhorrent usage.
This project is being appealed to the Taos County Commissioners on Aug. 10. Fortunately, the nearby residents were able to raise enough money to hire a lawyer whom they hope and pray will be persuasive enough to convince the County Commissioners to turn it down.
Suppose the neighbors did not have the financial or emotional resources to fight it. Suppose they didn't even know it was going to happen which almost was the case. Suppose they had no clue what to do. The neighbors should have never been put in this position in the first place.
The Planning Department chose to ignore the law. Knowledgeable Planning Commissioners should have voted against this project. Because of their failure to follow the existing Codes, no neighborhood is safe from unwanted commercial development.
Lawrence Baker lives in El Prado.