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20-Year Chilili Land Grant Dispute Appears Over

By Kathy Louise Schuit
Mountain View Telegraph
    The two-decades-old dispute between private landowners and Chilili Land Grant heirs may finally have run its legal course.
    That could be good news for Gail Veloz, Tony and Angela Valle and other property owners in the Sundance Mountain Ranches subdivision who, since the 1980s, have been unable to sell or secure clear title to their land.
    The Sundance subdivision lies in the northeastern part of what land grant heirs claim is collectively owned, sovereign land grant territory.
    In 1996 Harry Shearer, a Minnesota developer, purchased all the unsold Sundance lots in a foreclosure sale and began selling them. Land grant heirs protested the sales.
    In a June 2001 interview, Juan Sanchez, president of the land grant's board of trustees, said the Chilili Cooperative Association— the land grant's governing body from the 1940s to 1988— defrauded the heirs and sold grant land illegally.
    Sanchez's position, however, has not been upheld by the Bernalillo County Commission or in the courts.
    After county commissioners recognized Shearer's 2001 claim that the Sundance development was a legal subdivision with saleable land, land grant heirs appealed the decision to state District Court in Bernalillo County. When the court ruled in favor of the subdivision, the heirs appealed to the New Mexico Court of Appeals.
    When that bid also failed, land grant heirs decided to try the New Mexico Supreme Court.
    In November, the high court refused to hear the case, allowing the decisions of the lower courts to stand.
    "It's been a nasty nightmare," said Tony Valle, whose Sundance home has stood vacant for more than two years.
    "You can't imagine the size of the file I have on this thing. The file is almost as big as the house."
    Valle said he purchased his land in 1986.
    Gail Veloz owns two lots in the Sundance subdivision and testified before the county commission in 2001.
    At that time she told commissioners, "They (heirs) want us to pack up and go."
    Now Veloz says she's happy with the court decisions and intends to stay on her land for along time.
    "We plan on living and dying here and on giving it to our children," she said Tuesday.
    The court decisions technically affect only the Sundance lots owned and controlled by Shearer through his company, Shearton Development. And with the final word from the state Supreme Court coming so recently, Shearer said he hasn't yet found a title company that will work with him on the sale of the remaining Sundance lots.
    However, it is likely, he said, that he and other property owners within the land grant boundaries will gradually begin to find title companies willing to certify titles to their land.
    "The (land grant) documents that were impacting their lots were the same ones that were impacting our lots," he said.