Plans for a casita or, alternatively, a workshop next to a new home at the north end of the valley are expected to go to district court after the Village Council ruled against an appeal to overturn the Planning and Zoning Administrator’s denial of a building permit. At the council’s October 12 meeting,  it endorsed the Village Attorney’s “findings and conclusions of law” arising from an appeal by Ken DeHoff for his property at 66 Bad Coyote Place, the site which was to have been a cannabis farm operated by the Verdes Foundation in 2017. DeHoff said he and his wife “will not be granting any further illusion of inclusion to this farce of a process,” and therefore declined to be present at the October 12 meeting. “We will not be present for the vote to approve your fictional account of events.”

Although he said his position had great public support, “we were still denied by the Village, but the next step, district court, will allow us to have this heard by a judge.”

He said his submission of construction plans to obtain a building permit was rejected by P&Z Administrator Laurie Stout for arbitrary and capricious reasons and not consistent with her action in a recent similar case.

He referred to the Village’s decision allowing construction of a large casita at a new home construction site on West Ella Drive.  (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXIX No.13 September 19, 2020 “West Ella ‘Casita’ Draws Neighbors’ Ire.”)

DeHoff argued in the appeal hearing that P&Z’s denial of a building permit twice on slightly different plans was in conflict with Corrales precedent and state and constitutional laws. “We have been told that we were attempting to build two dwelling units, which is a violation of code as specified y the new Ordinance 21-04. We had two plan submissions denied by Laurie before a third version of our plans was approved when we modified them to add a door, heat and a hallway based on Laurie’s requirement that ‘all rooms are part of the same contiguous heated space and are accessible from the same door.’

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“We are asking that our initial July 16 plans be approved, without the door and hallway modification. Further, we believe  [that] Ordinance 21-04 changes Section 18 to be in violation of state law, making sections of it invalid and recommend the removal of Ordinance 21-04’s changes.”

He said the ordinance’s prohibition of “accessory dwelling units” did not apply  to his plans “because we aren’t trying to build an accessory dwelling unit.”

DeHoff added that “we submitted two versions of our plans, one as a casita, the other with the same physical space called a shop. Laurie denied both, saying they were not properly ‘connected’”  to the main structure.

In his appeal to the council, DeHoff explained that his first submission on July 16 “referred to the area as a casita with a casita kitchen (with no appliances, which was consistent with the prior Section 18), the second of our three bedrooms and a bathroom. Laurie denied this submission calling it ‘a separate apartment with a kitchen that is connected to the garage, but not connected to rooms of the house.

“The second submission on July 20 referred to the same physical area as a shop with a workbench and an office and bathroom, and we reduced the bedroom count on the permit from three to two. Laurie stated, after denying this second submission, that connected means ‘all rooms are part of the same contiguous heated space and accessible through the same door.’ It is clear in view of these two denials that the Village takes a capricious and arbitrary approach to enforcing Section 18, such that no reasonable person will be able to guess at what may be considered valid.”

It has become almost commonplace in recent years that people seeking to build a home on a Corrales lot will include a smaller, secondary residential house on the same lot, which is perceived by many villagers as circumvention of  Corrales’ long-standing one-dwelling-per-acre rule. Those concerns have been based on assuring continuation of the community’s low-density environment and corresponding protection of groundwater quality for domestic wells.

Corrales’ laws have allowed “casitas,” or guesthouses, on a one-acre lot, as long as the secondary residence did not have a kitchen.

Since the earliest days of Corrales’ incorporation as a municipality in 1971, a bedrock policy has been adherence to low-density housing. Candidates for elective office here always have vowed to protect the one-acre minimum lot size rule.

But even going back to the early 1970s, many Corrales properties already had “casitas” which were often rented for extra income. Commonly, property owners would seek permission for secondary dwellings so that a relative or other caregiver could assist an ailing or aged resident in the big house. But even such hardship cases were often denied.

Still, for many Corraleños, it has been a truism that sooner or later the one-acre minimum rule would fall. If and when that day comes, the quality of Corrales’ drinking water will become an unavoidable issue.

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Pat Davis

Pat Davis is the owner and publisher at Ctrl+P Publishing.

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