By Tony A. Archuleta
The City of Elephant Butte has a lot of character, not to mention characters, was a common refrain during Wednesday’s, April, 18, workshop on the city’s developing Comprehensive Plan.
For a relative young city incorporated in 1998, that means the area pre-municipality grew in many a direction without a unifying vision that would have better positioned the city to take full advantage of its greatest asset – neighboring Elephant Butte Lake.
Now city leaders are playing catch-up. But corralling the colorful but disparate characteristics of the city into a comprehensive plan is proving to be a challenge.
The ubiquitous boat and RV storage mega-sheds were among the topics of discussion. They can hardly be called aesthetically pleasing, but more importantly, they frequently block what would otherwise be spectacular views of the lake from the city’s main street (State Highway 195).
In a city where residents are particularly fond of their RVs, boats and ATVs, huge garages to store the recreational toys are also a common site.
In a desert climate, landscaping/xeriscaping is both vital to the overall community appearance, but also a considerably more difficult proposition.
The draft comprehensive plan describes the landscaping characteristics of the city as a “hodgepodge,” ranging from nonexistent to modest to elaborate.
Two of the area’s newcomers, the incorporated city itself and Turtleback Mountain Resort/Sierra del Rio Golf Course have led the way on the landscaping front, while long-established businesses, such as Elephant Butte Inn, have also added to the city’s beautification efforts.
Still, city and business leaders say a common refrain among newcomers to the city is that they are unimpressed by the general appearance of the resort town.
In a resort township like Ruidoso, the tall, cool pines go a long way toward providing the “ah” moments (when they’re not ablaze during fire season).
Elephant Butte Lake frequently inspires similar reactions of wonderment among visitors and locals alike, but with the aforementioned storage sheds/garages blocking many a view, the city’s direct line of sight to the lake is frequently compromised.
Hence, Sheridan Fuss, a member of the city’s Planning & Zoning Board who participated in Wednesday’s workshop, posed an interesting question: “Do you want the current community to make decisions on the future?”
The city’s first comprehensive plan was completed in 2003, according to Phyllis Taylor, ACIP and principal of Sites Southwest LLC, Albuquerque-based planning, landscape architecture and urban design consultants.
“The plan provides an analysis of past and present trends, as well as options for the future,” according to the introduction. “It uses the historical and trend data analysis as well as comments from citizens to identify important community issues. The plan also identifies ways that the problems can be addressed by Elephant Butte’s appointed and elected officials.”
•In his third quarter budget report, City Manager Alan Briley announced revenue and expenditures are on track with fiscal year projections. “Staff is doing a good job of keeping costs under control,” he said.
Revenue to date is $1.1 million – 73 percent of a projected $1.5 million.
Expenditures are currently at $1.1 million – 57 percent of a projected $1.9 million.
Briley also announced the preliminary budget for the new fiscal year that begins in July is ready for review by council. Workshops are planned May 1-2.
•The Lodgers Tax Board recently approved the following disbursements, and the council gave final authorization:
Brenda Nelson, Chili Cook-Off, $300; Elephant Butte Chamber of Commerce (rent), $4,680; chamber (website), $504; chamber (Balloon Regatta), $1,200; chamber (Casino Night), $600; chamber (holiday lights), $600; chamber (Weekend of Lights), $2,000; chamber (Golf Tournament), $600; chamber (TV ads in El Paso), $1,500; chamber (reprint brochures), $2,000; Friends of Elephant Butte (fireworks display), $2,000; City of Elephant Butte (advertising), $3,000; city (Elephant Days security), $1,500; city (lodgers tax audit), $500; city (billboards), $3,876; chamber (New Mexico Vacation Guide), $4,800.
The board, working with a budget of about $40,000 (including $10,000 in carryover funding), set aside $6,000 for future requests, according to Briley.
Total requested funding: $102,000. Requests denied: chamber (membership directory), $2,000; city (celebration plaza improvements), $5,000; city (entry signage), $60,000; chamber (El Paso Scene), $2,000.