The Challenge for the County’s LUDC
The County’s proposed LUDC (Land Use Development Code) has raised hackles in the Arroyo Seco, El Salto, Desmontes, Valdez, and Arroyo Hondo area due to a number of objections.
The language of planning is complicated and more outreach and interpretation needs doing. While translating complicated language into Spanish may be impractical, surely the County can send out interpreters to explain the LUDC and answer questions from Spanish speakers or lay people, who do not understand the effects of the code. If the neighborhoods don’t buy into the consensus, as a practical matter the LUDC will not work. Those who are exposed to the code for the first time, tend to take literally restrictions that might not apply to areas that are grandfathered in.
Generally speaking, subdivision regulations, LUDC guides, and even the Taos Regional Water plan are aimed at the pressure of new development in broad open spaces or predatory practices by outside forces downstream. What is applicable to the Blueberry Hill or Lower Las Colonias will not fit the historic patterns of development in the villages and valleys like Valdez. In an effort to preserve the culture and family patterns of growth, specific considerations for high density and mixed use need to be considered and understood.
On small lots, for instance, several residences, whether mobile homes or evolving and expanding structures, may require variances from proposed setbacks or road widths, due to crowded areas. Acequias that wind through back yards with livestock or wildlife trails could require microscopic analysis when it comes to the placement of fences. A wetland or vega might include some high ground, appropriate for building a house or setting up a trailer home but might appear to be forbidden by a one-size fits all code.
Requiring hearings or administrative decisions seem onerous to property owners, who have planned all their lives to accommodate adult relatives at some point in the future. Similarly, when you want to build a three hundred square foot shed for livestock or chickens or an eight-foot fence to maintain privacy, you must get a permit. Folks who are used to dealing with their land as private property naturally don’t like the interference from the authorities.
In rural areas with large tracks of land, farmers and ranchers don’t infringe on each other. But in the villages and valleys mentioned above, a rural life style continues on one-acre lots. Common walls, trailer homes incorporated into extant dwellings, or outbuildings for wood lots and chickens or dogs are all part of what many of us find attractive about the densely settled neighborhoods of greater Taos.
At the same time, the rural neighborhoods must recognize the threat of overdevelopment as it affects water pollution due to septic tank and field line construction. Health and safety considerations drive codes and the planning process. Land and building costs, however, economics, cause property owners to try and find space for family members or financial relief in terms of the potential sale of a building site.
Understanding and interpreting the LUDC requires the wisdom of Solomon and the patience of a saint. But most folks are merely human.
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