If the Village Council approves it, a 12.8-acre tract at the north end of Corrales between the Main Canal and the Corrales Lateral ditch will be preserved in perpetuity as farmland.
Using at least $960,000 of the $2.5 million generated by sale of general obligation municipal bonds approved by voters in 2018, the Village would acquire a conservation easement on the land owned by Brad and Deborah Haslam southwest of the intersection of Corrales Road and Kings Road. The broad, rich pastureland is used for alfalfa, cattle and other livestock. No further development of the land will be allowed, although the Haslam home and farm related structures would remain.
The Village’s farmland preservation program, which began acquiring such easements in 2004, essentially buys development rights from the participating landowner. The transaction also buys water rights attached to that acreage. This would be the first use of proceeds from the GO bonds voters approved three years ago. “In 2018, 80 percent of our citizens passed a bond directing the Village to acquire conservation easements to protect Corrales open space,” Mayor Jo Anne Roake explained in her July 17 “Mayor’s Message.”
That level of Corraleños’ support for saving farmland from residential development has held steady since the first round of bonds for that purpose more than 16 years ago. Back then, voters here approved the bond proposal by a vote of 1,178 to 237. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXIII No.14 September 11, 2004 “Corrales Approves Bonds to ‘Save Farmlands’ By 5-to-1 Margin.”)
But in those days, the program was greatly aided by federal grants. The U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2003 awarded Corrales a $1.1 million grant to purchase conservation easements. USDA required a 50-50 local match to its grant, so the $2.5 million bond package approved by voters here August 31, 2004 was adequate to USDA grants.
The proposal presented to the Village Council this month states that the Haslams would “place the entire property into a perpetual conservation easement with an approximate one-acre residential building envelope” and a half-acre agricultural building.
The property is currently composed of three parcels accessible from Kings Road. Under the agreement, the land could not be further subdivided. Without the easement, the property theoretically could become 12 to 13 home sites. But the offered lands cannot be seen from Corrales Road, nor accessed from the community’s main thoroughfare. That is a concern for some villagers who opposed the acquisition.
“It’s land-locked and not even viewable from any Village road,” said one who has followed proposals to use the available bond money. He said the Haslam field cannot be seen from nearby Loma Larga due to a large vegetated berm, nor from Corrales Road or Kings Road.
A similar opinion has been expressed by Ken Duckert, who urged the mayor and council to delay a decision to gain more public input. “I visited the proposed Haslam conservation easement this week and cannot find words to adequately describe my amazement that the Village will consider spending public money on a property that will satisfy no one except the seller, nearby neighbors who don’t want new neighbors, and the few hikers and bikers who use the adjacent ditch trail.
“It fits nicely with six of the other conservation easements in the village in that no one will be able to see it as they drive through the village. Once acquired, few will take the time to find and visit this property. Ask yourself, why would anyone visit this property? Hidden properties like this do nothing to promote the rural or cultural heritage of Corrales.”
Duckert went on to say he and others think the Village’s conservation easements must be easily seen. “No one I’ve talked with likes the idea of public money being spent on property that is hidden from view and offers only a passive recreational opportunity of looking over a fence at an open field. Even my twin six year old grandchildren see little or no satisfaction in doing that.”
But Corrales’ program has always been about saving farmland from development, not preserving scenic views. Corrales was the first community in New Mexico to start a municipal farmland preservation program funded by municipal bonds.
To Duckert, “the financial terms seem especially shocking. It appears that the final cost of this project will be kept secret. While a floor price of $960,000 seems to be established in the proposal, it is almost a guarantee that the final cost will be substantially more and is to be kept ‘in confidence.’ In a time when transparency is a common topic in conversations about government operations, how can spending public funds be kept secret? If true, this is really disturbing.”
While the farm’s green pastures cannot be seen driving along Corrales Road, they are a welcome sight for pedestrians, equestrians and cyclists using the Corrales Lateral ditchbank as well as the eastern ditchbank of the Corrales Main Canal to a lesser degree.
In the proposal presented to the council July 21, “the property will include an area large enough to accommodate an approximate 200 square-foot wildlife viewing platform with an interpretive sign featuring migratory bird educational information. The landowners are responsible for the design and construction of the viewing platform including associated costs.… The area will be easily accessed off the public recreational trail along the Corrales Lateral. This area cannot be used by the landowners for any other purpose outside of public use.”
The proposal states that the lateral irrigation ditch “is frequented by many residents and visitors for walking, running horseback riding and mountain biking.”
The agreement was negotiated by the Village’s agent, Michael Scisco of Unique Properties Real Estate. As with Corrales’ previous conservation easements, this one would be held and administered by the New Mexico Land Conservancy based in Santa Fe.
Although the land has been farmed for decades, Debbie and Brad Haslam began growing a specialized crop to feed a herd of 27 alpaca they acquired from a breeder in Santa Fe who was closing down the business, according to a 2014 article in Bosque Beast.
Brad Haslam is a long-time distributor for Stryker medical equipment.