Last night’s asinine decision by the Santa Fe County Planning Commission to recommended denial of Pilot Flying J‘s conceptual plan for a development at the intersection of NM 14 and Interstate 25 provided yet another example of a message enterprises, entrepreneurs, and investors often hear in New Mexico: Sorry, not interested.
Elitism, junk science, rudeness, hysteria, rent-seeking, politics over property rights, conspiracy theories, whining about irrelevancies. Since the company’s proposal was announced last year, the regulatory process for Pilot Flying J has been marked by a relentless cacophony of almost wholly baseless resistance, driven by neighbors who live right next to an interstate, but think a truck stop is not appropriate for the area.
Pilot Flying J’s conceptual plan outlines a three-phase development that would commence with one of its ubiquitous fueling facilities, then be followed by restaurants, a convenience store, and two hotels. (A picture of the site is posted below.) From the start, it faced long odds of finding approval in what the Santa Fe New Mexican admitted is a “development-averse community.”
Errors of Enchantment was on hand for last night’s sad spectacle, and the public-comment portion of the hearing did not disappoint. We can now measure “nanoparticles” of air pollution! The truck stop will be infested with “prostitution and drug activity”! It’s an “unneeded development”! Pilot Flying J is “a huge, national company with a history of illegal practices”! Santa Fe needs “clean and green and sustainable industries”! The project is about “greed and power”! It would only provide minimum-wage jobs!
Back on Planet Earth, Pilot Flying J went to herculean efforts to show that its proposal meets the myriad of standards imposed by government at the local, state, and federal levels. Everything from public safety to lighting, water to archaeology, utilities to air quality was examined. And earlier this year, both the county’s land-use staff and hearing officer Nancy Long signed off on the conceptual plan.
The hero of the evening was the sole speaker in favor: Stephen Linam, a resident of Rancho Viejo. He assualted NIMBYists’ “overheated rhetoric and fear-mongering,” pointing out the inconvenient fact that the proposed truck stop would be “in an area of commercial and industrial buildings.”
“It is unfair and unreasonable to deny a property owner the ability to use their property for a legal purpose because of arguments that mostly boil down to, ‘We don’t like it,'” Linam thundered. “Our decision-making processes about private property must protect the individual from the tyranny of the majority.”
No matter. The seven commissioners voted — unanimously — to recommend that the Santa Fe County Commission nix the conceptual plan. (One denounced the very idea of a “trafficky, ugly, smelly, noisy truck stop that is not an allowed use.”) A prominent opponent is hoping that the company will simply give up, and conclude that “it’s just too much trouble … because it’s just an uphill battle for them.”
From oil-and-gas production to magnesium mining to a truck stop right off an interstate, NIMBY runs amok in the Land of Enchantment. But no worries — with such a strong economy, New Mexico has the luxury of denying investments that aren’t “right.” Right?