Mr. High Pockets Responds

By: Bill Whaley
20 April, 2011

(We are pleased to reproduce the letter below from our correspondent in full. At the end, the editor makes one or two comments. Incidentally, we are in complete agreement with Mr. High Pockets definition of “pulchritude.” Certainly the term is complimentary. We have always admired Mr. High Pocket’s taste in beauty.)

Dear Editor:

In Bill Whaley’s Blog entitled “Mr. High Pockets and Local Custom” in his Taos Friction blog dated April 18, 2011, Mr. Whaley took certain potshots at me (and others) which were, bluntly speaking, poorly researched and mean-spirited ad hominem attacks. In his usual style his factual base is completely one-sided and his arguments are specious. Many of the facts he admittedly speculates upon could have been verified with a minimum of research. For a man that once owned and wrote nearly every article (read editorial) for a Taos newspaper, Whaley plays fast and loose with his “facts” and declarations of “truth.” While Whaley’s influence among the general public is dubious at best, the undersigned will not allow Whaley’s assertions to go unanswered. Therefore I will address his allegations and arguments. So that I am not accused of taking his unsubstantiated drivel out of context, I will quote the portions of the article being responded to word-for-word.

“We don’t know if the merits of the case involving Moises Martinez and his development on Paseo del Pueblo Sur at the old M&M Tire site, now the UPS Store, will garner headlines. But something strange or “arbitrary and capricious,” contrary to the Land Use Development Code, has occurred. The case involves water and sewer hook-ups, fees paid and not paid, or, at best, not tracked, and the suspension of an “open space requirement” or $25,850.00 fee. All together, one observer estimates the applicant may have skated on $40,000 plus but who is counting? Certainly not the Town.”

The “development” I have created is a five unit commercial condominium project that is neither strange nor “arbitrary and capricious” and most of all, is not“contrary to the (Town’s) Land Use Development Code” (LUDC). Commercial condominiums are a permitted use in the commercial highway corridor zone where the Plaza de San Martin Condominiums are located. The UPS Store is unit #1, owned by Jeanne Timber, undoubtedly the principal source of Mr. Whaley’s “factual” information. Two are leased to the owners of Fun Peak, one is vacant and the other is the building occupied by Adventure Ski Shop, which is owned by an LLC of which I am the principal owner.

“Despite middle age and reportedly being a “Grandpa,” Moises Martinez, a onetime waiter, who has made good as an influential player in the local scene, maintains a youthful appearance. Referred to affectionately as “High Pockets Hefner” by his compadres, he is renown for his taste in feminine pulchritude and keeps, reportedly, a Porsche in his garage. According to the record, he made his chops as a ski shop entrepreneur and builder.”

“Perhaps he was too busy to take the test, or, as a product of Taos High, didn’t have the confidence to face Construction Industries Board, but for years he has developed strip malls while working under licenses from (other) contractors. We hear, though we haven’t confirmed, that he recently passed the test. If true we congratulate him as an exemplar of continuing education for adults.”

I am proud of being a “grandpa” three times over and even more proud of the hard work that began at five years of age selling fish to my neighbors and friends in the Arroyo Seco area where I grew up in a large Hispanic family. I may have been relatively poor growing up but have always believed that hard work and ingenuity lead to success. Other than Mr. Whaley I do not know of anyone referring to me by that demeaning moniker he has invented. The few women I have been fortunate to have had a relationship with in my life are certainly beautiful to me in both the inner and outer sense, but Whaley’s choice of words is amusing. To most people the word “pulchritude” evinces something disgusting or putrid and I am sure that is what Whaley was counting on when he used the word. It means physical comeliness or beauty but is that what you thought it meant?

I will not comment on Whaley’s insults of the Taos public school system but I am proud to be a product of that system. Yes, I together with others have developed three retail outlets commonly known as strip malls but mainly I build custom homes and have built dozens in the Taos area. In the past I have built homes and commercial buildings within a perfectly legal partnership with a licensed contractor who was the qualifying party. I now have my own license to build homes but it had nothing to do with my education or fear of the CID. I simply did not have the time to take the course to prepare for the written test and when I did finally take the time, I passed the test. I have had other businesses in Taos and I am proud of the fact that I have employed many Taoseños (whether originally from here or not) over the years and continue to do so.

“Mr. Martinez recently built a commercial condominium complex of about four (4) separate units, at 1335 Paseo del Pueblo Sur. Apparently he still retains at least one of the buildings, called “Adventure Ski Rentals.” According to the Town’s File, obtained by Taos Friction, it is difficult to tell if Mr. Martinez paid his building permit fees or water and sewer hook-up fees. No copies of cancelled checks accompany the records.”

Of the five units in the commercial condominium complex known as Plaza de San Martin, Martinez Development LLC is still the owner of four units. Has Whaley become so jaded in his distrust and disdain of local government that he thinks that one could possibly get away with construction of a commercial building without a building permit or hook-up to town water and sewer without the required permits? Come on Bill, you can do better than that “it is difficult to tell” innuendo!

“Indeed, on Feb. 7, 2011, Mr. Martinez was notified that “the connection fees have been paid for 1333 Paseo del Pueblo Sur (UPS/Salon). While the letter states that the transfer of water rights to the Town of Taos has been made, “The physical connection to the Town of Taos water system has not been made,” says the letter. On Friday, April 15, this writer witnessed a private contractor under the direction of the Town’s Public Works Director, digging up what appeared to be a connection. The development apparently used water from an existing well, which was outlawed back in 2003. Call it petty pilfering from the Town’s muni water system.”

“Further, the Town has sent Mr. Martinez contradictory letters regarding the installation of a sign, implying that violations of the building code occurred but well, they are petty and hardly worth pursuing. Make up your mind.

“In other words, the correspondence from Town Administrators suggests either equivocation or political pressure was exerted on behalf of Mr. Martinez at every stage, given the pro and con letters.  Rudy “Walmart” Abeyta, Town Councilor, and real estate agent, managed the sale from Martinez to the current owner of the UPS Store, who has been seeking clarification of occupancy permits, water and sewer hook-ups, etc. on behalf of the condominium association and the building she owns. The town’s records of physical addresses do not match the condo docs, implying that either Mr. Martinez or the Town has been negligent in the paperwork. Small thing, surely.”

Under the 2009 purchase agreement between the Martinez LLC and Jeanne Timber for the condo unit now occupied by the UPS Store and other lessees of Ms. Timber, the LLC agreed to hook-up the unit to the TOT water and sewer system. The permits were purchased and the sewer hook-up effected but, inexplicably to me, the water hook-up was not completed despite the order given by me to the plumber in charge of the project. When this came to light earlier this year, I offered to remedy the situation. It had not been noticed because the building was hooked-up to a private well located in the Fun Peak condo unit that is perfectly legal and registered with the New Mexico State Engineer.

(Ms. Timber created a bit of a controversy by filing a “Change of Ownership” document with the NM State Engineer claiming ownership of the well but the attempt was rebuffed by the SEO in a letter to her in the last couple of weeks. The legitimacy of the well and its ownership by the Martinez LLC was confirmed in this letter as well. I bet Ms. Timber did not show this letter to Whaley! Or worse, she did and Whaley conveniently left it out of his blog account.) The hook-up has not been completed to date only because Ms. Timber has refused to allow my crew to dig the trench within the perimeter of her condo unit to effect the hook-up.

An ultimatum has been issued to her through her representative to make a decision regarding the hook-up prior to the end of business on April 19, 2011. The private contractor seen by Whaley was under my direction and being observed (as required by the LUDC) by a TOT inspector. The connection was to the Fun Peak building.

Though it is petty, there is no violation of any code regarding the sign in front of the condo complex.

Incidentally, Rudy Abeyta represented Jeanne Timber in the sale of the condo unit she purchased from the Martinez LLC. While I consider Councilor Abeyta to be a friend, he did not represent my LLC in this transaction and he is the person to whom the letter was addressed in issuing an ultimatum to Ms. Timber regarding the punch list of concerns she has with respect to the purchase agreement and the condominium declaration, among other things, expressed in correspondence from her legal representative. The LLC’s legal representative has responded and the matter, I hope, can be resolved without the need for litigation.

“In an email response, dated June 12, 2008, from Town Planner Matthew Foster to Martinez’s engineer Lawrence Ortega, the latter was told that the open space “in lieu of fee” for the project would be $25,850. Indeed, staffers Allen Vigil, Manuel Pacheco, Rudy Perea, Amos Torres, Matthew Foster, and Moises Martinez (himself) all signed off on the request for a temporary occupancy permit for building no. 3, subject of the controversy, etc. In other words, they all agreed to the above “in lieu of fee” requirement, according to a letter, signed and dated, Sept. 17, 2008.
Yet, on June 12, 2009, a memo was sent to Matthew Spriggs, Code Administrator by Town Manager Daniel Miera addressing a “stalled building code permit.”

“According to the memo, Miera writes that the controversy involves the fee mentioned above. Miera is highly critical of the staff’s decision of Sept. 17, 2008, signed off on by Martinez, requiring the applicant (Martinez) to comply with the open space provision. (Though Martinez himself agreed to the deal.)

Miera writes, according to the email obtained by Taos Friction, “I am unsure as to the rationale behind staff enforcing this provision for some development projects but not of others. However, I am sure of the fact that the Town of Taos now strives to instill professional ethics that focus on equitable (sic) treatment.”

“After much talk about “a flaw in our Code” and “imposing overreaching conditions on building permits,” Miera writes, “I am suspending the open space requirement on this project (until the condition is formally repealed/resolved), and approving the building permit as requested by the applicant.”

“So Mr. Moises, aka High Pockets, has saved himself $25 Gs on the open space fee and who knows how much in building permit or water and sewer fees. Mr. Miera has gutted the code and set the town up for lawsuits by developers, who paid the fees (if any), and contributed to Mr. Wengert’s hurt feelings when it comes to a lack of “equity.”

This is where Whaley has boggled the mind and completely let go of reality. Talk about jumping to conclusions with little to go on, this is a prime example. You know what they say about a little knowledge. It’s a dangerous thing. Especially with Whaley’s bent for acerbic ad hominem attacks. You would think that if Whaley wanted to preserve a scintilla of wanting to be considered a journalist he would have at least gone to the Taos County Clerk’s office and taken a gander at the official plat of the Plaza de San Martin Condominiums approved by the Town of Taos.

He would have seen that there is no question regarding the open space requirements of the LUDC AND that there was no suspension of this requirement or failure to pay the “in lieu of” fee. The LUDC has NO requirement for open space in a condominium project. If the provision has been enforced or not enforced in other situations or cases, I am certainly not aware of such selective enforcement. I am sure the TOT Planning Department may have something to say about this.

Moises Martinez
Adventure Ski & Snowboard Shops
Taos NM

Editor’s Note: We are entirely in sympathy with Mr. Martinez regarding the confusion over “open space” requirements but less so with the confusing paper trail from the town. Apparently, the condominium project was approved–later–after the initial commercial development project was broached to the town. So, there should have been a revision in the file regarding the change from commercial to commercial condominium in terms of requirements. Why didn’t Manager Miera mention that issue in his response?

Further, we are confused by the sequence of events, as we stated, re: the numbers of condos initially and finally served by the town or the well. We thought the well rights were sold to the UPS shop owner and recorded. But that’s another confusing question for the town and Mr. Martinez to unravel along with the alleged buyer. Where are those cancelled checks confirming payment?

Still, we have throughly enjoyed Mr. Martinez’s response and find the correspondence illustrative of political and cultural matters.

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