Mayor Gregg Hull shows the American and City of Rio Rancho flags Senior Airman Juan Martinez, back, arranged to have flown in F-16V Viper jets over Iraq and Syria during his deployment with the New Mexico Air National Guard, from which he returned last month. Martinez, a Rio Ranchoan, asked Hull to send the flags and then presented them at the Rio Rancho Governing Body meeting Thursday. Argen Duncan photo.

Rio Rancho Governing Body members approved a site plan for a compounding pharmacy and made land near the intersection of Northern and Unser boulevards open for retail use during their meeting Thursday evening at City Hall.

They approved the site plan and land-use change unanimously, with Councilor Jeremy Lenentine absent and Mayor Gregg Hull therefore voting.

For the land-use zoning change, the 2.2 acres in question are along Northern Boulevard, just east of Unser Boulevard, with Eric Road being the eastern boundary.

The lots to the immediate south, east and west are undeveloped R-1 land, the lowest-density single-family residential zoning, according to a city map. A medium-density single-family housing neighborhood and a commercial development with a Walgreens pharmacy and a Speedway gas station are across Northern to the north.

Contractor and developer Dawn Davide said she’d built homes nearby and was invested in the area.

“And my hope is that we can bring some development to this area that was never going to be a residential development, anyway,” she said.

In their application for the zone change, she and her business partner Linda DeFillippo said the change would bring more commerce to the city, as well as allowing the busy intersection to stay consistent with the existing businesses.

Sharon Alire, a resident of the neighborhood across Northern, opposed the zone change.

“The high traffic is already a hindrance, and there are so many accidents right below that space where there is no left turn into our neighborhood,” she wrote in a comment letter. “Adding extra traffic for retail space will just increase traffic there.”

She was the only member of the public to comment.

As for the site plan, it’s a new, larger location for Olive Tree Compounding Pharmacy at 1713 Wellspring Ave. It includes three buildings, totaling about 7,600 square feet, with 46 parking spaces and five bike spaces on just more than an acre of land.

The pharmacy, one of the few compounding pharmacies in the state, according to architect Doug Heller, has a smaller, rented location at Westside and Unser boulevards now. Heller said the biggest building at the new site would have two tenants, and the third building would be constructed in the future if the owner found the right tenant.

He said the pharmacy owner and the owner of Itsa Italian Ice, planned to go into the neighboring lot, agreed that they’d have a shared entrance on Itsa’s property. City Councilor Paul Wymer wanted the site plan approval contingent upon that agreement being provided to the city in writing.

The governing body approved that amendment and the plan.

In another matter, the governing body approved setting aside $360,000 of American Rescue Plan Act money for a home-repair program.

“We have an aging housing stock in Rio Rancho,” said City Manager Matt Geisel, adding that homes built in the 1960s often need repairs and many people are on fixed incomes.

The program would be administered by nonprofit Homewise and provide up to $25,000 per home in the form of forgivable loans for owners whose income is at or below 80 percent of the area median income. Geisel said the income limit would mean $38,000 for a household of one and $54,000 for a household of four, for example.

Deputy City Manager Peter Wells said the city would monitor Homewise’s use of the money and would jointly develop a communication plan to notify as many people as possible of the opportunity.

If this effort succeeds, Geisel said, he hopes to get more funds and expand the program.

City Emergency Management Special Projects Coordinator Rose Martinez, left, accepts a Federal Emergency Management Agency Region 6 Whole Community Preparedness Award from Zach Wachter, right, local preparedness coordinator at the New Mexico Department of Homeland Security & Emergency Management. Martinez and the city’s volunteer Community Emergency Response Team earned the honor for their work during the pandemic, manning COVID testing and vaccination sites, delivering meals to senior citizens and homebound people, and making more than 6,000 masks for frontline workers. Mayor Gregg Hull holds up another plaque in the back. Martinez and CERT were selected from among teams in five states. Argen Marie Duncan photo.