The Santa Fe City Council voted late Wednesday that the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association must stop using a historic home in the South Capitol area for office space.
The association sought permission from the city to continue using the converted home in a commercial capacity. But longtime residents and city Land Use Department staff argued that would set a dangerous precedent in the Don Gaspar neighborhood. Councilors voted unanimously to deny an application to rezone the property.
Neighborhood association President Peter Komis said city officials have been aware of what he says is illegal commercial use of the property since 2005 but haven’t acted. He provided a March 28, 2005, letter to former City Manager Mike Lujan that explained the problem.
The character of the neighborhood has already suffered, he said, because an increasing number of homes in the neighborhood are converted to businesses.
The New Mexico Oil and Gas Association applied to the city and was granted permission to have its office at the corner of Santa Fe Avenue and Webber Street in 2004 because city officials were told that then-director Bob Gallagher lived in the building. An attorney for the group later said Gallagher never lived there but instead occasionally occupied one bedroom on a part-time basis. Gallagher was fired as director in early 2010. But the association continued to receive “home occupancy” permission on its annual business license from the city.
It wasn’t until November 2011 that the city Land Use Department issued a notice of violation to the association, according to a staff memo, “because it was revealed that the business owner did not reside at 203 E. Santa Fe Ave. and because the number of employees were more than that permitted under a home occupation.” That violation led to the formal request for rezoning from residential to “residential arts and crafts,” a distinction that allows an exception for professional offices.
The city Planning Commission voted to deny the application, and Land Use Department staff recommended denial because the association didn’t meet the criteria for rezoning.
A lack of parking for business, an increase in traffic and late-night hours are some of the reasons residents cited in their objections.
“We are fighting to keep our neighborhood a neighborhood,” said Carol Webber, who has lived in the area for 20 years. About 12 of her neighbors also asked the council to uphold the Planning Commission ruling.
Contact Julie Ann Grimm at 505-986-3017 or firstname.lastname@example.org.