By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor
The idea of extraterritorial zoning in Roosevelt County will undergo its closest scrutiny yet during informational meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Memorial Building in Portales.
A group, led by Portales Mayor Orlando Ortega Jr., has gathered information and discussed the issue in four meetings open to the public this fall. Ortega says the loosely formed group, which also consists of representatives from county government and a land-use planning expert, are ready to present the facts about the idea to the public and take their input.
At least one county resident says he doesn’t like the idea and is speaking up.
Extraterritorial zoning would be controlled by a separate commission appointed by city and county officials and composed of people living within that zone, according to Ortega. That commission can then enact regulations — usually aimed at land-use conflicts. Those could include controlling commercial and agricultural uses.
Ortega says the group has decided to present the minimum area defined by state statute as a potential zone around Portales — one mile from city limits.
“The process started from people both inside and outside city limits concerned about growth and other activities,” Ortega said. “The truth of the matter is we have no jurisdiction beyond the city limits other than subdivisions.”
Garland Justus, who lives a little over a mile east of Kilgore Street, said his property is included in the zone because of an irregular city limits boundary shown on the ETZ map. He worries that not enough people living in the proposed zone know that the idea is being studied.
Justus said he had talked to more than 20 residents he knew who lived in the zone recently and only one or two knew anything about the proposal.
“I think everybody has their opinion and many may want it,” Justus said. “But I do not. I’m concerned that not enough people know about it.”
Justus also fears that the city won’t stop until they’ve annexed the entire zone. He also worries that regulations could affect his cattle operations and his country lifestyle. Ortega challenges that notion.
“The city of Portales has no interest in expanding its city limits,” Ortega said. “People have said we’re interested in expanding to the lines drawn on the map for ETZ. That’s just not true.”
Ortega said the study group has worked hard to gather the information on ETZ so that residents can take a look at what it offers. He stressed that no decision will be made at Thursday’s meeting other than setting a date for a future meeting.
Justus was also concerned that his property taxes would increase if he were inside the ETZ. Roosevelt County Tax Assessor Tex Belcher said that was not the case. Property taxes would increase only if the property was annexed.
County Manager Charlene Hardin has attended the early meetings said that commissioners regularly get calls about conflicts, especially on the edge of Portales.
“This is the only way to take care of that,” Hardin said. “The intent is to present it as informational only. The feedback the city and county receives will determine where it goes from here.”
Ortega says exploring the idea was rooted in requests from both city and county residents for a solution to conflicts.
“In my viewpoint this is a positive thing,” Ortega said. “It gives the citizens a say in how the area will be developed.