LAS CRUCES, N.M. — In a meeting that went well into the early morning hours Thursday, a zoning authority made a decision denying commercial development for an area near "A Mountain" in Las Cruces.
Dona Ana Sand and Gravel was trying to get a change in zoning that would allow for the construction of new businesses near the area of Dripping Springs Road and Sonoma Ranch Boulevard.
"We can have a strip mall anywhere," said Kari Bachman, a concerned resident at the zoning hearing. "We only have one Tortugas Mountain."
Dozens of residents spoke in opposition of the proposed zoning change before the Extra Territorial Zoning Authority comprised of Dona Ana County Commissioners and Las Cruces City Councilors.
Residents shared their opinions on what they felt would be negative impacts to traffic in the area and adversely affect recreational opportunities.
The zoning authority had to address the proper zoning for about 37 acres of land transferred over from the Bureau of Land Management to the sand and gravel company in 2005.
At the time of the transfer, per the ordinance, there was no clear definition given for use of the property through a zoning designation.
"They (owners) had several years of being in limbo not knowing what to do," said Paul Pompeo of Southwest Engineering who represents the property owners.
The zoning authority divided the parcel of land in two and voted on them separately.
The company was awarded conditional industrial use of the north side of the parcel divided by Dripping Springs Road.
The 16 acres on the south part of the road was where the company was seeking commercial zoning and was denied unanimously.
The authority made it's ruling shortly after 3am after five hours of listening to both side of the issue.
They denied the change in zoning citing there was no accurate study on traffic in the area, no current commercial zoning and the public was in clear opposition.
Pompeo said area residents were skeptical as to what was going up in the area that might have caused them to be opposed.
"Unfortunately because of the early stages of our planning, we couldn't give more specifics to what it was going to be and that caused the most confusion with the neighbors," Pompeo said.
He did consider the north side being awarded the zoning change a small victory.
"i think it was good for us cause we came off with a good solid zoning on the north side so that issue is laid to rest," Pompeo added.
The company can still apply for initial zoning of the property on the south side.
The plan is to work with staff on what would be the best zoning and in the best interest of the community.
Pompeo said that process can take anywhere from six months to a year before they can take up the issue once more.