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Apartment project ebbs over water issues

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Several siblings of the Williams family have developed plans for two four-unit apartment buildings in Hagerman, Eric Williams told the Chaves County Planning and Zoning Commission this week. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

A Hagerman housing project that the Chaves County Board of Commissioners is scheduled to consider at its Wednesday meeting appears uncertain at this time, with the question of water supply being one of the most pressing issues facing the prospective developers.

Ernest and Eric Williams of Texas appeared Tuesday at the county Planning and Zoning Commission to talk about their family’s plans to build two four-unit apartment buildings on two lots of about 10 acres in Hagerman near Ottawa and Lincoln roads. The Williams had sought to rezone the property from residential to multi-family.

“I want to thank you for giving us the opportunity to be able help the community, to help the community grow,” said Eric Williams, who added that he thought the project would benefit Hagerman families.

But one of the members of the Planning and Zoning Commission, Andy Morley, District 2 supervisor of the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer, cautioned the brothers that the family’s plan to drill domestic water wells for the four-plexes needed further investigation. The Office of the State Engineer issues well permits and makes decisions and rulings related to public water rights and usage.

Following that meeting, the family is now reconsidering whether to build on that property, according to Larry Connolly, a Roswell-Chaves County Extraterritorial Zoning Commission member at the Tuesday meeting. Connolly has also been in communication with Ernest Williams of Elgin, Texas. Ernest Williams filled out the rezoning application. Requests for comment from him were not responded to by press time.

Morley had told the William brothers that the surface water available by drilling domestic wells on their two lots is not plentiful and might not be sufficient to meet 40-year needs for eight families. He recommended that the family consider other options, such as hooking up to water through the Fambrough Mutual Domestic Water Consumers Association in Hagerman or exploring an investment of tens of thousands of dollars to drill a deeper well into an artesian aquifer. Some, however, question whether access to the aquifer is available from that location.

In spite of his concerns about the water issue, Morley voted to recommend approval of the rezoning request Tuesday, with two other commission members concurring. The elected officials on the Board of Commissioners would need to approve the rezoning for it to be official.

The Williams’ application is only one of the matters expected to be discussed at the Board of Commissioners meeting. Two other zoning issues are on the agenda. Commissioners also are being asked to consider accepting a state appropriation for the Hobson Road project, renewing two leases for county buildings, reappointing a member to the JOY Center Board of Directors and continuing the policy to waive property tax penalties when they are under $5, given that the county has collected an average of more than 99 percent of taxes assessed during the past 10 years.

The Wednesday meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. at the Chaves County Administrative Center, 1 St. Mary’s Place.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.