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ETZ Authority rejects horse training proposal

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Margarito Rodriguez talks about his special use permit at the Nov. 20 meeting of the Roswell-Chaves County Extraterritorial Zoning Commission. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

A local couple plans to file a new application for a permit to conduct horse training on their property northeast of the city after the Roswell-Chaves County Extraterritorial Zoning Authority voted Monday night against their plans, which had been opposed by numerous neighbors signing a petition.

Margarito Rodriguez and his wife, Maria Padilla, said that they intend to make a new and revised application after the Authority members — Roswell City Councilors Jeanine Corn Best and George Peterson and Chaves County Commissioners Will Cavin, Dara Dana and Robert Corn — voted 4-1 to reject the special permit request. Peterson cast the dissenting vote.

Technically the ETZ Authority vote supported a Nov. 20 ETZ Commission recommendation that Rodriguez’s original application be denied.

That application sought a permit for the 40-acre Greenfield Road property that would allow not only horse training but also horse racing for up to 12 public racing events a year. Greenfield Road is just outside the city limits in an area that has mostly residences, farms and ranching.

Rodriguez and his wife had asked at the start of the Monday meeting to amend the original application to forgo the racing aspect and authorize only the horse training functions, with up to 100 people allowed on the property at a time to observe and participate.

But the members of the ETZ Authority chose not to second two motions that would have considered an amended application and instead moved forward with the motion to uphold the ETZ Commission’s recommendation to deny the original application.

At both the commission and authority meeting, some neighbors opposing the couple’s plan spoke about their reasons and referenced the petition they had circulated that garnered 47 signatures from neighboring property owners, with many signatures coming from members of the same families.

The petition stated six objections, including worries about traffic along a small road, the possibility of damage to roads and nearby properties, the likelihood of debris, a negative effect on property values and the chance of disruptive and illegal activities, including gambling. Some said there would be no guarantee that racing would not occur, even if only the training facility were approved.

“Please don’t let something come in that is going to disrupt our community out there,” said Duanita Rich, who explained that she has lived in the area since 1963, with her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren spending time there as well. “We welcome anybody who wants to come out there to make a living and raise their family, but we don’t want drinking and gambling and everything that goes along with racing.”

Ivonne Chavez, who lives close by on Greenfield Road, was the only neighbor to speak in favor of the horse training venue.

“I would be probably the most affected person by it,” she said. “For us, it is fine. Whatever he wants to do, it is his property.”

Margarito Rodriguez, speaking with the assistance of an interpreter, said only that it was going to be a facility for training. Padilla, through the interpreter, said the number of people allowed on the property was negotiable. She also sought to assure people that there would be no racing, explaining that owners and jockeys training would not want outsiders to know how fast their horses were running before competing elsewhere.

The couple also said they would take responsibility for maintaining the road and that they had received an easement to ensure that traffic would not be required to pass onto others’ property to access their land.

In making the motion to uphold the commission’s vote, Dana said that her concern was that the area was residential.

“I’ve been out to the facility, and I agree that the road is the issue, especially with having that amount of traffic,” she said. “I believe that if we had a better area for it, if it wasn’t so residential, as we say, it would have been approved, no problem.”

But Dana did speak after the vote with Rodriguez and Padilla to tell them about their ability to file a new application and to encourage them to speak with their neighbors about their concerns.

Chaves County Planning and Zoning Commission Director Marlin Johnson said that, under current rules, applicants for special use permits can refile at any time.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.