At the Rio Rancho Governing Body meeting Wednesday night, city councilors unanimously approved the first reading of an ordinance to sell a half-acre of city land to Turtle Mountain owner Nico Ortiz for $70,000. Ortiz would build an overflow parking lot on the property.
To take effect, the sale must pass a second reading. Then, state law requires a 45-day waiting period to allow a public vote if enough voters petition for an election on the sale.
“This proposal represents a permanent solution to a long-standing issue, and we’re fully prepared to move forward if the city approves this issue,” said Jacqueline Fishman of Consensus Planning, representing Ortiz.
Businesses and homeowners near Turtle Mountain have complained about restaurant customers parking on their property or blocking driveways because there aren’t enough spaces at the eatery.
Ortiz approached the city about buying the unimproved parcel, which is just northeast of Turtle Mountain.
City Manager Keith Riesberg said an attempt to get Turtle Mountain customers to park at Esther Bone Memorial Library and walk over failed. Selling the half-acre, for which the city has no plans, would provide a permanent solution, he said.
Under the agreement, Ortiz would have to upgrade the restaurant’s fire suppression system and current parking lot within a year of the sale and use his new land only for parking. If he didn’t meet those conditions, the land would revert to city ownership.
The parking lot wouldn’t change the nearby Veterans Monument Park, and a drainage plan would be implemented to make sure runoff from the lot didn’t cause problems, he said.
Fishman said the site plan includes solid block walls facing the residential area and Veterans Monument Park, and a retaining wall with a tubular metal fence on top facing the open space on the west side.
Steel-cut metal seals of each branch of the military would adorn the outside of the wall facing the park, while a 36-foot landscape buffer with trees would come between the parking lot and homes.
Fishman is proposing lighting with fixtures on interior walls. She promised customers wouldn’t be able to park in the lot until the improvements were done.
John Poston, who lives on nearby Oakmount Drive, said he’d had problems with noise and cars blocking his driveway before parking opened at Esther Bone. He was concerned the issues would return because the new lot still wouldn’t have enough spaces.
Poston asked whether the gross receipts tax the restaurant pays is worth the lack of safety and peace in the neighborhood.
Amy Lewis, whose property borders the land involved in the sale, said she appreciated Turtle Mountain’s prosperity, but she was concerned about safety with the solid walls blocking the view into the proposed lot.
“We feel this could be more easily used for deviant behavior,” she said.
Mark Stephen Guerin, who owns Harris Jewelers, across the street from Turtle Mountain, supported the sale.
“It’s really time to find a solution; I think this is a good solution,” he said.
Guerin said Turtle Mountain customers could use his parking lot after Harris Jewelers and the neighboring bike shop closed for the day, making it even less likely that customers would park in the residential area. He also said the wall would lessen the problem with blowing tumbleweeds and trash.
Councilors asked a number of questions before expressing satisfaction that the plans wouldn’t cause significant problems.
In other business, governing body members:
- Awarded a $1.3 million contract to Wilson & Company Inc. for a final design to extend Broadmoor Boulevard to Paseo del Volcan and eventually widen it;
- Heard from Jamie Silva-Steele, new interim president and CEO of UNM Sandoval Regional Medical Center. She is filling the position during the search for a replacement for former CEO Kevin Rogols, who retired; and
- Appointed Michael Schlichte to the Capital Improvement Plan Citizens Advisory Committee.