$5.5 million water loan, tiny home ordinance and new precincts pass with ease. Agenda and sidewalk hearing, not so much.
Three new ordinances passed unanimously without any public opposition during a Thursday night meeting of the Roswell City Council.
But the meeting had some drama, including a public hearing on sidewalks that didn’t go forward because of a lack of a second and long, convoluted debate concerning an agenda item that ended up being tabled.
The ordinances that were approved authorize a $5.5 million loan for a dewatering facility, allow for new provisions within the city’s zoning code to permit tiny homes and create new precincts within City Council ward boundaries, in compliance with new state election laws.
Agenda matter of contention
Before any of the public hearings could be discussed, the 10 members of the governing body debated for more than 40 minutes about whether the agenda presented should be accepted with the final item. Item No. 19 concerned a proposed resolution to alter one rule of order on how City Council functions and also add a new rule.
Originally, an amendment to leave the item off the agenda tied 5-5, with some councilors saying the topic needed more time and thought before coming before the full council and others saying that it shouldn’t have been brought to the council because it did not receive a majority vote in favor at the committee level. Mayor Dennis Kintigh broke the tie by voting that the item should be off the agenda, but that led to a vote against the agenda as a whole and sparked a lot of opposition, primarily from Councilors Angela Moore and Juan Oropesa.
Several more votes followed until the group finally voted to move forward with the original agenda — including Item 19.
But an hour later when the item came back before the council, Councilor Jeanine Corn Best voted to table the matter and send it back to a workshop for further consideration. Councilor Barry Foster seconded. A 5-5 tied vote was again broken by Kintigh, who voted to table the item.
The three new ordinances passed by the City Council have been discussed during various committee meetings and came before the full governing body previously when they agreed to hold the public hearings to consider them.
Water loan for new equipment
The $5.5 million Clean Water Revolving Fund Loan from the New Mexico Environment Department will allow the city to obtain and install dewatering structures at its wastewater treatment facilities.
The 20-year loan will have an interest rate of 1.2% and the annual $309,500 loan payments will be covered by wastewater user fees, without having to raise customer rates, according to city staff.
Staff also explained that the money will pay for two screw presses and the building they will be contained in and will cover equipment, construction and inspection fees.
The screw presses will increase the drying time for sludge by about 80%, staff said. At the current time, using the traditional method of using heavy equipment to turn over the sludge, it can take three to four months for the material to dry during winter months.
In response to Councilor Steve Henderson’s questions, staff also said the two screw presses will have the capacity to handle current needs as well as some future added capacity and that the building being constructed will be large enough for an additional two presses should growth require more equipment.
Two speak up for tiny homes
The tiny home ordinance defines a tiny home as a single-family, non-mobile structure of 400 square feet or less; changes the residential mobile home park provisions of the existing code to allow for tiny homes; and creates a new subdivision exclusively for tiny homes, the Residential Tiny Home Subdivision.
Community Development Manager Bill Morris said the ordinance was prompted by public inquiries and new state codes, as well as a desire to ensure the tiny homes would not be detrimental to the city and its residents.
“The genesis for all this was that staff started receiving a lot of inquiries about tiny homes over the last year and so did the state,” he said. “State enacted their own administrative codes to define these things. So we wanted to get out in front of these things, to have something on the books if these did pop up.”
Carla Murphy said she supported having “reasonable rules and regulations and policies” but wanted to see more leeway in where the homes could be located.
“My concern is that we don’t over-regulate. Roswell needs homes,” she said. “So rather than just considering a subdivision or a mobile home (subdivision), you might also consider whether we can subdivide some of our larger lots. I live in the historic area and I have a very large lot. Something like this would be good to put in the back of a house.”
Christine Sproul said that she has studied tiny homes and alternative buildings for some time and believes the smaller living structures can serve a need while still being of good quality.
“I have met quite a few people who are actually great citizens, good neighbors that live in a tiny house,” she said. “We cannot judge someone because they choose to live smaller. And the younger generation coming up right now, they are choosing not to build these big houses and lot of them are choosing not to have children. They want to live small but are choosing to have big experiences in the world rather than just stay at home.”
New precincts approved
The ordinance dealing with the ward boundaries was brought forward as a result of changes to the state election law made by the 2019 New Mexico Legislature. The law requires local changes by January.
The new law requires splitting precincts that had more than 750 voters during the previous two elections or a population of more than 2,500 during the most recent decennial Census count, or 2010, in this case.
During Thursday’s vote, councilors approved adding two precincts in Ward 2, one in Ward 3 and two in Ward 5. The changes correspond with decisions made and approved by Chaves County concerning its five wards as well.
Sidewalk hearing stalled
The public hearing regarding proposed changes to city code regarding maintenance of sidewalks in the city limits and enforcement provisions regarding unsafe sidewalks never got off the ground.
Councilor Judy Stubbs moved to hold the hearing, but no one seconded the motion.
After the meeting, Stubbs and City Attorney Aaron Holloman, the primary city staff member who has worked on the proposed ordinance, said they were surprised by the outcome, but added they had thought that the matter would have been tabled anyway. He and councilors previously had expressed in committee meetings that they wanted more time to work on the policies that underlie the ordinance.
Stubbs said the matter is likely to come before the governing body again, although it could take up to six months before it is able to be reconsidered by the full council.
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.