Council OKs public hearing on zoning change

By Argen Duncan: PNT Senior Writer

The Portales City Council is set to consider a request that would allow a barbecue restaurant to open in a residential area near Portales High School.

At their meeting Tuesday, councilors voted to schedule a public hearing on a request to change the zoning at 1309 E. Amazon St. from single-family residential to light commercial. The vote was unanimous with Councilor Alfred Bachicha absent.

The public hearing is set for 6 p.m. May 18 at City Hall.

The city Planning and Zoning Commission denied the request by Glenn Johnson of J-4 Barbecue in March, but Johnson appealed the decision.

The council could have accepted the denial instead of having a public hearing.

Mayor Orlando Ortega Jr. said the law didn’t allow anyone to express opinions on the matter at the council meeting.

Councilor Michael Miller asked if the zone change would be permanent if approved.

“It would be from now on,” said city Planning Director Sammy Standefer.

The change would allow any business falling under the light commercial designation to move onto the property. The designation includes operations such as restaurants, convenience stores, health clinics, grocery stores, gas stations under certain requirements and liquor stores with a permit from the city.

In another matter, the council approved two changes orders totaling about $8,000 for ongoing improvements at Portales Senior Center. The project was about $1,860 over budget, but the public works and senior center funds covered the extra expense.

“They were able to absorb those costs without getting special provisions from the council,” Standefer said.

One change order came from installing more electrical outlets and blocking in walls to accommodate shelving as well as reinstalling a laminate countertop, according to city information. The other change order rose from adding a separate grease trap and larger water supply for the dishwasher and another floor drain in the kitchen.

In other business, the council:

• Authorized Ortega to sign a Portales Fire Department application for a state Fire Marshal’s Office grant. The fire department is to receive at least $154,169, City Manager Debi Lee said.

• Accepted a letter to extend a franchise agreement with Comcast Cable Communications Inc. to allow the company to use city rights of way for its lines until mid-December 2016, five years past the original end date.

• Recognized new Information Technology Director Dennis Hales.

• Heard a proclamation declaring May 3-9 Municipal Clerk’s Week.