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Our view: Proposed buffer rule changes are sound

We applaud the Rio Rancho Governing Body’s decision last week to approve the first reading of an ordinance amendment relaxing certain requirements for buffers between adjacent commercial and residential properties.

The amendment, which needs to pass a second reading to take effect, offers a common-sense approach when it comes to landscape buffering. “One size does not fit all,” to use the words of city Development Services Director Dolores Wood.

It addresses commercial property owners with unique circumstances, while still protecting nearby homeowners from intrusions that might result from commercial uses.

Overall, the amendment should afford for more uniform application and enforcement of the ordinance by the city.

The issue came to a head when U-Haul sought to locate on a commercial lot on Southern Boulevard at Veranda Road. Under the current ordinance, the rental company would have to erect a 6-foot wall and establish a 10-foot landscape buffer because it is across the street from a residential area. U-Haul contended a wall would block the view of its rental trucks and trailers from the road.

In that particular case, Southern separates the commercial and residential properties, with Southern abutting the already-walled backyards of the homes.

The amendment retains the requirement for a 6-foot wall and landscaping if a business shares a property line with residential land and there is no existing wall. But it would drop the wall size to 3 feet if they’re separated by a street.

Where there is separation by a street 100 feet wide or more, such as in the U-Haul case, or if there is already a privacy wall on the residential property, only landscaping would be required.

Mayor Tom Swisstack broke a tie vote that kept buffer requirements from being set back to 6-foot walls in all cases, siding with councilors Tim Crum, Cheryl Everett and Dawnn Robinson. After several votes on changes to staff-recommended amendments, the overall amended ordinance passed 5-1, with Councilor Chuck Wilkins dissenting.

We believe the changes are sound and urge the governing body to approve the second reading.