A Chaves County property owner has dreams of a horse racing and a horse training facility on his land east of the city, and he plans at this time to pursue the idea in spite of objections of some neighbors and a vote against it by a local commission.
Six people spoke against Margarito Rodriguez’s request for a special use permit at a Tuesday night meeting of the Roswell-Chaves County Extraterritorial Zoning (ETZ) Commission.
Some were near tears as they described their homes in a tranquil, rural area outside the city limits that they worry will be changed or harmed by traffic, debris and dangerous or illegal activities if Rodriquez is allowed to hold public horse racing events near them.
“For years, we have had a nice little quiet community. There was one way in and one way out,” said David Randall, who lives near the proposed horse facility, which would be at 3631 Greenfield Road. “We don’t have a lot of people coming in there now who don’t have business there, you know, just the people that live there for the most part. I don’t like the things that come with the racing, you know, because there is gambling. Whether they say there is or not, there is. We all know that. Then they drink and there will be trash. It will just be a big impact on us.”
Randall added that he supported a training facility, a view not shared by everyone with objections to the plan.
“I don’t want them to not be able to make a living,” he said. “But the racing part, I am against.”
Other objections voiced at the meeting included the possibility that violent crimes would occur at the race track, given that fights and murders have occurred at other official and unofficial racing venues in the county; worries over the possibility that property values would decrease; concerns about the safety of children in the area who are not accustomed to dealing with traffic; and the possibility that property and fences could be damaged inadvertently because the single-lane dirt road, which is actually only an easement, is not equipped to handle large numbers of vehicles.
Prior to the meeting, 37 people had signed a petition in opposition to the permit, submitting their complaints to the Chaves County Planning and Zoning Department.
After listening to Rodriguez and his neighbors, the commission voted 4-0 to deny Rodriguez’s application to train and race quarter horses.
Assisted at the meeting by an English-speaking interpreter, Rodriguez said after the vote that he intended to appeal the commission’s decision to the ETZ Authority.
Chaves County Planning Director Marlin Johnson and his staff had recommended to the commission that the request for a public horse racing venue be denied but said a horse training facility would be compatible with the area, if certain conditions were met. The city of Roswell, represented by Planning and Zoning Administrator Director Merideth Hildreth, took the same position.
Rodriguez, however, told the commission that he does not want to build a training facility if he cannot also have a public horse racing venue.
“A lot of people have concern about traffic and congestion, and it is only going to be once a month or even less than that,” a member of the the Rodriguez family said after the meeting. “It would only be during the day and on the weekend, Sundays usually.”
The family lives in Roswell but purchased the 40 acres on Greenfield Road about three months ago.
The commissioners noted that nothing would prohibit Rodriguez from training horses for himself or others, as long as he does not make that operation a commercial enterprise and no gambling is associated with it.
The ETZ Authority, consisting of elected officials from the Roswell City Council and the Chaves County Board of Commissioners, meets as needed to consider zoning ordinance changes or appeals of commission decisions.
Rodriguez has 30 days to file an appeal, according to Johnson.
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at email@example.com.