Village demands over property sale feel like extortion

Recently my husband, Bill, and I requested a “lot line adjustment” from the Corrales Planning and Zoning Commission. We’ve lived on our 3.5-acre parcel for 21 years. We recently retired and wished to downsize. Our neighbors to the south wanted to buy 1.5 acres from us to add to their 2-acre parcel. Everything is within the legal description of land use in the village.

First we were told by Fire Chief Anthony Martinez that unless we granted an easement to the village for fire trucks to turn off Coyote Trail, he wouldn’t sign off on our request. The easement he wanted was to be …”26 ft. wide and 72 ft. long with a center line of 42 ft. from the new Easterly boundary of the newly created property.” It required removal of fencing and vegetation, plus (would) split our front 1-acre pasture in half so this portion could no longer be used for livestock or cultivation.

Two decades had brought fire trucks to our neighborhood and they’d not had trouble getting in and out, so why now were we being asked to donate and re-purpose land that would devalue our property and complicate a simple sale between neighbors and friends.

Nevertheless, we took steps to comply with the fire chief’s requests.

Then we appeared before the Planning and Zoning Commission. To our shock and dismay we were told there would be additional demands. P & Z Chairwoman Elizabeth Staley did not make it clear what those demands would be, nor did she give any reasons for these demands. Commission members were silent. No questions were asked, no options were offered.

We left feeling confused, knowing that the road would cost thousands of dollars to construct. If we didn’t build the road, we would not get our lot line adjustment, and we’d lose the money we’d already spent to have our land surveyed twice – once without the road and then again with the road – plus the not inconsequential fees paid to the village for the privilege of asking permission to sell our land to our neighbors.

A week later we received notification from the village that we would have to form a Home Owners’ Association, get a village permit to build the new road, have the construction supervised by a village representative, remove six inches of sand and fill the road gap with six inches of base coarse, then have that material rolled and compacted to five inches, and lastly, incorporate this new road into our property deed stating we – or future owners – would maintain the road, subject to periodic inspections, in perpetuity!

How could the village just take over our land and make expensive demands that would limit its use and devalue our property? It felt like extortion.

Options were offered to the fire chief. Water from a 14 foot-deep swimming pool was volunteered for use in fighting a possible fire, plus property access to the Loma Larga Ditch was offered as well as use of a driveway double the size of the proposed “road to nowhere.” There was no interest in pursuing these options.

We’ve heard other Corrales residents have had similar problems … Three families gave up a total of 600 feet of property to the Fire Department for a truck turnaround and received no compensation for their loss. Another couple unwillingly gave an easement to the village then moved out of state. Is this legal, we asked? Probably not but who can afford the cost to fight the village administration. Not us.

(We) have since withdrawn our request for a lot line adjustment. There will be no new road. There will be no property sale to our neighbors, which would have made downsizing much easier for us. … We’ve put our 3.5 acres and buildings on the market. There are cul-de-sacs and dead ends all over Corrales. How long will it be before other owners find themselves in the same “fight or flight” position?

Some might say this lack of concern is simply a fact of life, but I sincerely hope not. … If you don’t trust and respect the people who are in the service of your community, those who were hired or elected to represent your interests, then you’ve got no real reason to believe you and your neighbors and friends will be treated fairly and with genuine concern. How sad is that?