SANTA FE – A truck stop on the south end of Santa Fe will bring with it traffic accidents, unpleasant sights and sounds, and violent crime, said dozens of residents who are opposed to the development at a hearing at the Santa Fe County administration building Thursday.
But an attorney representing Pilot Flying J – which has submitted a proposal to develop a truck stop, hotels and other businesses at the intersection of N.M. 14/Cerrillos Road and Interstate 25 – said the development would provide employment and other services to residents in the area.
The proposal went before Nancy Long, a local attorney serving as a hearing officer, on Thursday. Long will make a recommendation to the Planning Commission about the development plan.
County spokeswoman Kristine Mihelcic told the Journal that having a hearing officer hold a hearing and make a recommendation is necessary for proposals within the Santa Fe Community College District, which includes the truck stop site.
If the proposal, which has faced opposition from south side residents for months, gets past the Planning Commission, it would be considered next by the full County Commission.
On Thursday, about 200 people filled the County Commission chambers and more had to wait outside and watch the hearing on screens in the hallway. Many who spoke raised concerns about the development bringing traffic accidents, noise and pollution that will chase tourists away, and about drug use and sex trafficking at truck stops.
“The only employment this project is giving is to prostitutes and drug dealers,” said Helen Molanphy. Opponents also said a truck stop isn’t right for a main entrance to Santa Fe and N.M. 14’s scenic Turquoise Trail to the south.
The conceptual plan submitted by Santa Fe’s James W. Siebert and Associates proposes the development of a 26-acre plot on the southwestern portion of the N.M. 14/I-25 intersection.
Siebert said the plan is for the 10-acre truck stop to be completed by 2019, two hotels to be erected by 2026 and other retail shops to be built by 2030. The truck stop would include three restaurants, one of which will have a drive-thru.
Karl Sommer, a Santa Fe attorney representing Flying J, said the project will permanently employ around 200 people. “That is probably one of the largest employment centers in the community college district,” he said. He added that the development will bring in extra gross receipts tax and property tax revenue for the county.
State Rep. Matthew McQueen – an attorney who represents the Santa Fe Gateway Alliance, a residents’ group that was created to oppose the truck stop – said the Flying J would be detrimental to the welfare of the area because of increased noise and traffic. He also said the community college district is supposed to attract other kinds of businesses.
“The employment centers they were thinking about weren’t fast food jobs,” McQueen said.
If the Flyiing J were to be approved, McQueen requested that trucks not idle their engines as a way to reduce noise and air pollution; that the travel center have hours of operation that don’t go too late into the night; that truckers not be allowed to stay in their vehicles overnight; that there be no alcohol sales; and that there should be between 10 and 20 semi-truck spaces instead of the proposed 75.
The hearing, which started at 3 p.m., lasted about 4½ hours as speaker after speaker rose to oppose the truck stop.