06
Feb

Rio Rancho Observer
By Antonio Sanchez, Reporter
PUBLISHED: Feb 6, 2016

(A previous version of this story incorrectly stated city council candidates were provided questions asked at the forum ahead of time.)

Impact fees and governing body cooperation were among the topics addressed by the hopefuls for three city council seats during a candidate forum at Premiere Cinemas on Thursday morning.

Eight of the 10 candidates for the districts 1, 4 and 6 council positions answered questions during the 1½-hour event sponsored by the NAIOP Rio Rancho Roundtable and moderated by Observer publisher Rocky Hayes.

The participants were Joshua Hernandez and Jim Owen, candidates for District 1; Marlene Feuer, Ron Hensley and Ryan Parra for District 4; and Cris Balzano, David Bency and Lonnie Clayton for District 6. District 1 candidate JoAnne Dudley and District 6 hopeful Chris Vanden-Heuvel did not attend.

Candidates were provided a one-minute response to each of the forum’s five questions. Candidates also delivered 60-second opening and closing remarks.

Impact fees

The candidates offered a variety of opinions on the topic of impact fees –—payments developers make to the city to cover the cost of expanding infrastructure for a new development. In 2012, developer Curb North Inc. successfully sued Rio Rancho for creating a two-year impact fee moratorium.

Hunsley and Parra said the city should lower the cost of impact fees, while Clayton and Feuer said it was too soon to form an opinion, saying they were waiting for an official court settlement in the Curb North case.

Although Hernandez and Balzano also said it was too soon to call, they agreed they would work to lower the cost of impact fees after a court ruling was made.

Businesses should be better educated about the city’s impact fees, said Owen, while Bency said city officials should question why Albuquerque’s impact fees were half the cost of Rio Rancho’s fees.

Public/private partnerships and GO bond for roads

The candidates were in near-unanimous agreement — public/private partnerships are great for Rio Rancho and residents should vote for the proposed general obligation bond issue to improve the city’s roads.

Hensley was the lone candidate not fully in support of public/private partnerships, saying “It always makes me a little nervous” when government entities work with profit entities.

“I don’t think a partnership is really the appropriate approach — I think a cooperative government is the appropriate approach,” Hensley said. “When we get involved in trying to develop properties for profit, we get behind in other responsibilities.”

Each candidate agreed that the city’s roads need to be improved. If approved, property taxes for residents with a $100,000 home would increase by approximately $7.30.

“S.O.S. — Save Our Streets,” Bency said. “If our streets keep crumbling like they are, people are going to start losing their home values.”

Owen said although he supports the general obligation bond measure, it is not his preferred option for fixing the city’s roads.

“I really understand what is happening with our senior citizens on fixed incomes,” Owen said. “It’s made to seem that a $7 deal is not a big deal, but over time they’ll see this inching away when you’re on a fixed income, it’s difficult to continue to make a decision as whether to pay my mortgage or my meds or whatever the case may be.”

Job development

A lack of available open space and physical plants hinders the city’s chances at bringing out-of-state businesses to the area, Clayton said.

“When businesses come to town and they say, ‘What’s available,’ at this point in time we are at a shortage of physical plants,” he said. “Some of the businesses come to town and say, ‘You don’t have available plants; we don’t want to build one.’”

Feuer and Hensley said the city should focus more on finding opportunities to make Rio Rancho more business-friendly; Feuer suggested streamlining the process for a business to settle in the city, while Hensley said the city should lower costs of business development.

The participants were Joshua Hernandez and Jim Owen, candidates for District 1; Marlene Feuer, Ron Hensley and Ryan Parra for District 4; and Cris Balzano, David Bency and Lonnie Clayton for District 6. District 1 candidate JoAnne Dudley and District 6 hopeful Chris Vanden-Heuvel did not attend.

Candidates were provided a one-minute response to each of the forum’s five questions. Candidates also delivered 60-second opening and closing remarks.

Impact fees

The candidates offered a variety of opinions on the topic of impact fees –—payments developers make to the city to cover the cost of expanding infrastructure for a new development. In 2012, developer Curb North Inc. successfully sued Rio Rancho for creating a two-year impact fee moratorium.

Hunsley and Parra said the city should lower the cost of impact fees, while Clayton and Feuer said it was too soon to form an opinion, saying they were waiting for an official court settlement in the Curb North case.

Although Hernandez and Balzano also said it was too soon to call, they agreed they would work to lower the cost of impact fees after a court ruling was made.

Businesses should be better educated about the city’s impact fees, said Owen, while Bency said city officials should question why Albuquerque’s impact fees were half the cost of Rio Rancho’s fees.

Public/private partnerships and GO bond for roads

The candidates were in near-unanimous agreement — public/private partnerships are great for Rio Rancho and residents should vote for the proposed general obligation bond issue to improve the city’s roads.

Hensley was the lone candidate not fully in support of public/private partnerships, saying “It always makes me a little nervous” when government entities work with profit entities.

“I don’t think a partnership is really the appropriate approach — I think a cooperative government is the appropriate approach,” Hensley said. “When we get involved in trying to develop properties for profit, we get behind in other responsibilities.”

Each candidate agreed that the city’s roads need to be improved. If approved, property taxes for residents with a $100,000 home would increase by approximately $7.30.

“S.O.S. — Save Our Streets,” Bency said. “If our streets keep crumbling like they are, people are going to start losing their home values.”

Owen said although he supports the general obligation bond measure, it is not his preferred option for fixing the city’s roads.

“I really understand what is happening with our senior citizens on fixed incomes,” Owen said. “It’s made to seem that a $7 deal is not a big deal, but over time they’ll see this inching away when you’re on a fixed income, it’s difficult to continue to make a decision as whether to pay my mortgage or my meds or whatever the case may be.”

Job development

A lack of available open space and physical plants hinders the city’s chances at bringing out-of-state businesses to the area, Clayton said.

“When businesses come to town and they say, ‘What’s available,’ at this point in time we are at a shortage of physical plants,” he said. “Some of the businesses come to town and say, ‘You don’t have available plants; we don’t want to build one.’”

Feuer and Hensley said the city should focus more on finding opportunities to make Rio Rancho more business-friendly; Feuer suggested streamlining the process for a business to settle in the city, while Hensley said the city should lower costs of business development.

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