Jon Pickett, Deborah Bunten, Penny Holbrook, Peter Clark and others who live along Guadalupe Trail near Alameda Boulevard NW envision life as they’ve known it for years – quiet nights in a rural neighborhood without the noise of 200 people enjoying wine next door as late as 11 p.m.
Zoning disputes commonly come down to this – a push and pull between commercial interests and neighborhood concerns, between change and the status quo and between one person’s vision of the good life and another’s.
If you want to hear impassioned conversations in which neighbors seem to be speaking in completely different languages, a meeting of the planning and zoning commission in your burg is the place to be.
In this corner of the North Valley, the debate about a special use permit to allow the proposed Alameda Valley Vineyards is a classic example of differing visions of what’s good for the valley and of how different things can look, depending on which side of the fence you live on.
The view from inside the fence is this: Xavier Zamarripa, a glass artist, sculptor and painter, envisions a lush vineyard and boutique winery behind attractive walls where the works of local artists can be displayed.
In a letter to the Bernalillo County Planning Commission requesting the special use permit, his wife, LoriAnna, describes her family’s dream for the handsome property just south of Alameda Boulevard where they own a home.
“Our intent is to create a destination in the village of Alameda for the community to enjoy wine and art,” she said. “Our structures will be in traditional New Mexico style so that it will be in harmony with the landscape.”
To make room for the winery, Zamarripa bought three one-acre lots in an adjoining subdivision. Those lots, like the one he lives on, are zoned for single-family residential homes, which is why his proposal has ended up in the zoning files.
Zamarripa, a 37-year-old native of Texas who has a family tradition of winemaking and who planted grapes on his property as soon as he bought it five years ago, said he wants to build “a destination and a beacon for the community.” He said he envisions an oasis along the lines of Casa Rondeña, a winery and event venue in the village of Los Ranchos.
The hefty zoning file contains letters from people associated with the Alameda Studio Tour, an annual art show, whose artists would have gallery space at the vineyard.
“The ideal North Valley location for the project couple with tastefully designed landscaping and buildings will create a unique destination for visitors year-round,” Jeff Potter, the founder of the studio tour, wrote in a letter of support.
Because we’re talking about a zoning dispute here, of course there is another side and of course that side envisions a very different future for the neighborhood.
This is the view – literally – from the other side of the fence.
Pickett, a neighbor who lives just south of the proposed vineyard, can stand in his front yard and look across a vacant lot at one of the vacant lots Zamarripa owns that would become the winery’s parking lot, adjacent to the proposed art gallery.
Pickett sent me an email in which he graphically outlined his fear: “We are very concerned that the project is going to morph into a full-blown commercial operation and our quiet neighborhood, not to mention our property value, is going to be destroyed.”
The scope of the Alameda Valley Winery contains parking for 55 people with a capacity for as many as 200 guests, wine tasting hours until 8 p.m., with special events that could last until 11 p.m. Zamarripa says no amplified music – only acoustic – will be allowed.
A petition opposing the project was signed by about 30 people – more than twice as many people as the petition in support – and many neighbors have sent letters to the planning commission with concerns ranging from noise to traffic to drunks.
Holbrook, who has lived in the neighborhood for 26 years, pointed out that the property Zamarripa intends to develop is long and narrow and closely bordered by neighbors. “It is difficult to see how this intensive use of land can possibly conform to the quiet, rural, pretty, simple style that this neighborhood has always had.”
Clark wrote that his children’s bedroom windows, which now look out over a residential subdivision, would exchange that view for an event center focused on alcohol.
James and Barbara Meyer, who live directly south of the proposed winery, wrote that “To allow one person to spoil his neighbors’ peace and quiet for their own financial gain is a travesty.”
The case has been in the zoning process for nearly a year without a decision because of two long delays, the first because the application was deemed too vague and the second because Zamarripa changed his proposed access to the site, scrapping an unpopular plan that would have brought winery traffic in on a cul-de-sac off Guadalupe Trail, in favor of a proposed entrance off Alameda Boulevard at the traffic light at North Guadalupe Trail.
Zamarripa told me he expects to submit a new plan to the county by Aug. 26 and hopes to host a meeting with neighbors in September to explain his vision and then persuade county planning commissioners to give him the green light.
Clark, Holbrook, Pickett, Bunten and others are also looking forward to convincing county planning commissioners that their residential neighborhood should remain residential.
Planning and zoning isn’t the sexiest of our government processes, but it’s a good old-fashioned democratic tradition in which everyone gets a say in shaping the communities we live in.
UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Leslie at 823-3914 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Go to ABQjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.