On Stands Now
February 2024

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Village Council Listens to Speakers on La Cienega, Housing, And Questa-Area Acequia

Save the Date
State of the Village Address by Mayor John Ortega is set for April 1 at 6 p.m. at the Village Office. Tune in to Questa del Rio News Facebook for a live stream.

The Village of Questa Council held a regular meeting on the evening of February 13, 2024, during which they voted on infrastructure procurements and heard presentations from Taos Housing Partnership (THP) and Questa Economic Development Fund (QEDF).

Three people approached the podium during the initial public comment section of the council meeting to speak up in defense of saving the old La Cienega school building, which is being planned for demolition.
“Right now that building has asbestos, it has lead paint, the ceilings have caved in on portions of it, so it’s not an option,” said Mayor John Ortega on the old school. “It’s gonna take multi-millions of dollars just to clean it up in order to restore it.”

All the public speakers want to save the building for the historical significance it holds for community members. Mayor Ortega made it clear that he and the Council are “all ears” for potential solutions to keeping the La Cienega building.

After the public comment period, THP Executive Director Lisa O’Brien presented a three-year plan for affordable housing advocacy and assistance. “Taos Housing Partnership came out of a group of us in leadership… primarily based in Taos County working with Taos Community Foundation about how to keep folks in their homes with rental protection assistance, when we were all faced with COVID,” explained Director O’Brien. “What came out of those conversations is… we hired a consultant, Jenn Lopez, [with Project Moxie] who is an absolute expert in affordable housing initiatives.”

This Taos Housing Partnership is three years in the making and is dedicated to a mission for affordable housing. In collaboration with Project Moxie, their three-year plan is organized into three phases involving (phase 1) community interviews and assessments, (phase 2) establishing branding and memorandums of understand (MOUs) with municipal governments, and (phase 3) implementing pre-development plans with established funding sources for affordable housing. The three-year plan is available at THP’s website, https://taoshousingpartnership.org.

Director O’Brien explained that QEDF has contracted THP to specifically study Questa’s workforce housing and idenify solutions for the area’s affordable housing needs. (See the full story on page 8.)
For more information about THP and the Questa study, contact lisa@taoshousingpartnership.org or call (575) 240-9673.

Councilor Louise Gallegos spoke up about water rights during O’Brien’s presentation. “This part of it I think is very important… because of where we live—water rights. Some of these people in this town are not up-to-date on their water rights so you need to incorporate that into your phase 1. As you’re looking at the housing, look at the water rights that go along with the property.”

QEDF Executive Director Lynn Skall was the next to present. “I see my role in Questa is to make sure that Questa is specifically included in the initatives happening in this county. Our situation in Questa is so different from any other part of the county that this housing assessment is essential to figure out what we need.”

Skall then pivoted to the new Questa-area acequia association in the works. “Over the past—not quite a year—we’ve had seven public meetings to talk about how the 15 separate acequias in our community, from San Cristobal all the way up to the Colorado border [can be brought] together to create one voice,” said Skall. “An organization that supports all of them… and that takes the lead on advocacy to the legislature even up to the federal level. It’s also to help with administration of water issues. By having a central association, very similar to what [Judy Torres] operates at the Taos Valley Acequia Association… sshe keeps her members up to date on water policies and regulation changes, this is what the our area-wide association would also do.”

Skall further explained that the point of this Questa-area association is to preserve the water rights that Questa and area residents already have and to utilize a stronger voice as a collective. The association will be moving forward with a steering committee which will be made up of one representative from each of the acequias, 15 people. Judy Torres will be the facilitator for the steering committee to assist in establising the association and help form their leadership structure to operate the organization.
Director Skall can be reached at lynn@questaedf.com or at the QEDF offices co-located at the Questa Visitor Center at the intersection of Highways 522 and 38.

After the presentations, the Council moved on to the action items, three of which passed through with no decisions, due to typos on the agenda. Action items A and B were listed on the agenda in reference to Embargo Road but in reality they relate to Cabresto Road. The Council felt it was best to pass on these action items pending reviews and revisions for the sake of transparency. Village Attorney Chris DeFillippo explained that simply tabling the items was not enough, because tabling would not allow for a change in the language on the agenda. The items will simply be added to an upcoming agenda with the proper language.

Village Clerk and Procurement Officer Valerie Vigil then took the podium to announce two procurement contracts with NV5 for infrastructure work for Shirley Drive and Llama Bridge as well as another procurement contract with NV5 for Village of Questa park equipment. All three contracts passed unanimously.

Last on the agenda was the nomination from the Council for the Holy Cross Hospital Nominating Committee. Councilor Jason Gonzalez volunteered for the nomination and was approved unanimously. Councilor Gonzalez served on the committee last year as well.

The recording of the 2/13 Council meeting is available at the Questa del Rio News’ YouTube channel.