On Saturday, January 29, Chevron held a public meeting and marketing session at Rael’s Market & Coffee Shop from 1 to 3 pm in order to advertise land for sale throughout northern Taos County. Representing Chevron Mining Inc. (the Chevron company that owns the land) was Public Affairs Advisor Christian Isely. Accompanying Mr. Isely was real estate broker John Johnston, with Berkshire Hathaway. Questa Mayor Mark Gallegos and Questa Land & Water Board Member and Village Councilor Louise Gallegos were also present.
The Questa Land & Water Board has five members: Chairman Juan Cisneros, Vice-chairman Malaquias Rael, Councilor John Ortega, Councilor Louise Gallegos, and Donald Gallegos.
Mr. Isely showcased 12 parcels of land in Cerro and Sunshine Valley. Mayor Gallegos discussed these potential land sales with Mr. Isely, particularly the process each proposal must go through to obtain confirmation through the Questa Land & Water Board, a committee that was organized through the joint efforts of Chevron and the Village of Questa to review the stated intentions of prospective buyers. The process would ensure that the land sold will be put to good use for Questa’s economic benefit.
“Chevron had the parcels appraised in 2018. Taos County has experienced a real estate boom since the pandemic started, but we are still using the 2018 prices,” said Mr. Isely.
Mayor Gallegos expressed concern about developers from outside Questa or even New Mexico buying land here and subdividing it into smaller parcels for further development. That is what the Questa Land & Water Board aims to prevent.
Mr. Isely explained that the most challenging part of land sales is water rights transfers through New Mexico’s Office of the State Engineer (OSE). “One issue we constantly hear is that the OSE is under-budgeted and understaffed, resulting in a lengthy application process. We very much look forward to working with the new State Engineer Mike Hamman, to ensure that water rights can be expeditiously transferred from Chevron to local farmers, ranchers, businesses, and the Village of Questa for economic development,” said Mr. Isely.
Chevron acquired these properties some 40 years ago and transferred the water rights from these properties for the now closed molybdenum mine (for mining and industrial use), in 1984. “Most of these properties were acquired from local farmers and ranchers specifically for their water rights during one of the mine’s boom periods in the early 1980s. Chevron is now working with the community to provide these water rights for the economic development of the Questa area. No mining occurred on these land properties. They are environmentally unimpacted,” Mr. Isely added. See the related water rights story on the front page.