Letter to the Editor: Regarding Film Operations and Residents on Monte Rey South

By ELLEN WALTON
Daughter of long-time Monte Rey South residents Leona and Roddy Walton

Why should one invest in a residential home in this community? Those of us who invest and stay here are apparently at the mercy of the film industry and whatever other industry decides to woo our neighbors and our county government.

The latest film activity in our community has brought great disruption to Pajarito Acres. Film vehicles are parked in the roadway on Monte Rey South. Official County communication was received by residents second-hand after commercial activity began. It clearly stated that all vehicles would be parked on the property of the owner who signed the contract with the film company. I emailed the County’s Film Liaison regarding this issue, but nothing was done to ease the problem until I called the police about the dangerous road blockage. Vehicles are still parked on the roadway, but there is now sporadic traffic control.

Another issue is fire danger. The vegetation is highly combustible on this property, which borders Potrillo Canyon. Smoking on the roadside, property or in the canyon adds great risk, as does the use of industrial lighting equipment. Has the home and yard been accordingly fire-proofed with flame retardants and reduction of highly combustible materials? In a commercial space such as a sound stage or theater this is a fairly straightforward task, but it is not so easily accomplished on a residential property. I would like verification that the fire department has inspected and approved the property for this commercial use and that neighboring homes will not be put at risk.

A third issue is compliance with zoning and community covenants. Filmmaking is industrial. Subletting to industry seems a violation of residential zoning. If our government can allow industry to move into a neighborhood at any time regardless of zoning code or covenants, then these regulations become pointless.

The fourth issue impacts all residents who enjoy open spaces. Everyone may walk the roads in White Rock and hike into the scenic canyons using the public access points. This opportunity exists in great part because the residents have protected the streets and access points from over-building and industry invasion. The DOE (LANL) has also cooperated in this effort by opening land to hikers.

If the DOE suspects that large numbers of strangers enter the canyons through private property bordering DOE land, we may lose our privileges to enter them. Thus far they have allowed hikers and horseback riders because of the low-key and low-volume nature of the activity.  

There has also been open discussion between representatives of the DOE and the Pajarito Acres neighborhood about installing a security fence along Potrillo Canyon. This fence would prevent wildlife from coming and going freely from the canyons as it does now. Will industrial subletting continue, the DOE fences go up, and the life cycles we know disappear?

Again, what is being done to make sure that the canyons are safe when large numbers of non-residents are near them? How are fire dangers and traffic issues going to be addressed? Why were residents notified only after the industrial activity had begun? 

I have worked in film/TV. It may bring in some money for some people, but the impact is not small. It must be well managed; otherwise costs to the community will far outweigh the benefits.

I am a native and feel true concern over changes in the quality of life in my community. What is there left for the citizen? Alternatively, what industry can I sublet to when I move away and my home is empty?

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