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Councilors send buffer rule amendments back to staff for revision

City ordinance amendments to lessen buffer requirements are in the works, but the Rio Rancho Governing Body has delayed action for two months to allow staff to refine language.

Governing body members unanimously voted Wednesday to table the zoning code amendments until March 26.

The amendments would lessen requirements for wall and landscape buffers in certain situations, as well as allowing outdoor sales displays, outside storage and truck rental as land uses in certain commercial areas. Truck rentals aren’t mentioned in the ordinance now, Wood said.

Businessman Perry DeBonis stands on the Southern Boulevard lot he wants to sell to U-Haul. Proposed zoning ordinance amendments could make that possible. (File photo)

Businessman Perry DeBonis stands on the Southern Boulevard lot he wants to sell to U-Haul. Proposed zoning ordinance amendments could make that possible. (File photo)

Also, currently, the zoning ordinance requires a 6-foot solid wall and a 10-foot-deep landscape buffer for commercial property that’s adjacent to residential property, even if a street separates them.

“Staff finds this one-size-fits-all approach to buffering too restrictive,” said Development Services Director Dolores Wood.

She proposed three requirements for three situations:

For commercial property directly abutting residential land, the commercial developer will still have to build a 6-foot wall;

Truck rental property and commercial land separated from residential by a street must have a 3- or 4-foot wall or solid screen of hedges; and

Commercial property separated from residential land by a right-of-way wider than 100-feet or abutting residential property that already has a privacy wall can have a landscape buffer only and no wall.

Those amendments would address the complaints of local businessman Perry DeBonis, who wanted to sell land at Southern Boulevard and Veranda Road to U-Haul. However, U-Haul delayed the purchase because company leaders were unhappy that the required 6-foot wall would block the view of their trucks and trailers from Southern.

The property is across Southern from the back of residential property.

In addition, the amendments would require trees 20 feet apart in landscape buffers, meaning more trees and thicker coverage than with the current 25-foot spacing requirement.

Under the change, Wood clarified at the meeting, business owners putting in new landscape buffers or replacing dead buffers would have a year to comply with the new spacing requirement. Businesses with existing, healthy buffers wouldn’t have to change to meet the new requirement, she said.

Councilor Lonnie Clayton protested requiring more trees in the desert, and said the language of the amendments wasn’t clear.

“It’s confusing; it’s redundant; it trips over itself,” he said.

Councilor Mark Scott said he didn’t want to affect all land use when one business simply needed a variance.

The councilors agreed to send the amendments back to staff to be reworked.

In other business, the governing body also approved a $4,900 state grant for 60 evergreen trees at A Park Above. The city will provide a match of $980.

The governing body also appointed precinct workers for the March 4 municipal election.

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