Rio Rancho Governing Body members will join a charter review committee for the first time in the city’s history.
The city charter requires a review of its provisions at least every six years. In the past, the review committee was made up entirely of appointed residents, who made recommendations to the governing body.
As per state statute, only the governing body can decide whether to bring suggested changes before voters, who must then choose whether to institute them.
Thursday night during a virtual meeting, governing body members unanimously approved a second and final reading of an ordinance amendment that changes the charter review committee to have four residents, two city councilors and the mayor as members. If too few councilors were willing to participate, more residents could take their place.
Rio Rancho resident John Pearse spoke against the change. He read from guidelines saying residents without day-to-day involvement in government are more impartial.
Pearse said elected officials shouldn’t be able to overwhelm the voice of the citizens.
“I once again suggest you put Rio Rancho citizens first and start the year moving forward in the right direction,” he said.
Deputy City Manager Steve Ruger said residents can attend meetings and make comments even if they’re not on the review committee.
According to the city agenda briefing memorandum, past committee members have been mostly new to city government. It could take several meetings for them to learn enough for the review and it was hard for members to tell if changes were needed when they weren’t involved in daily city operations, according to the document.
“Staff is placed in an awkward position of serving both the interests of the governing body and the committee,” according to the memo.
Also, the governing body couldn’t alter proposed charter amendments without committee consent.
“The intent of this change was never to exclude the public from the process, but to streamline it and help it move along,” said District 4 Councilor Paul Wymer.
Mayor Gregg Hull said he’d always fight for citizen involvement in city processes.
“This is an extremely public process,” he said. “So that being said, I think this is a great hybrid that allows us to have individuals in there that can look at how the charter is currently functioning and make sure that we preserve the absolute maximum integrity of the charter and protect as much as possible our home-rule authority.”
Acting City Manager Peter Wells said that if the new committee composition didn’t work, the governing body could change it again.
Councilors Bob Tyler and Dan Stoddard volunteered to serve on the review committee. The other councilors must each appoint a representative from their district using whatever process they choose.
Ruger said committee membership might be confirmed in March.
Governing body members also:
• Heard the city had sold bonds Thursday to refinance earlier debt, saving about $312,000 a year for the life of the bonds. Financial Services Director Carole Jaramillo said the bonds will be paid off in 2032, and the total savings at present value would be about $1 million.
• Voted to rezone a lot on 22nd Avenue from R-1 residential zoning to R-2 residential zoning. Howard Balmer, the agent for developer FNA LLC, said R-1 lots must be at least 7,000 square feet but mobile homes and churches are allowed on them. R-2 lots can be 5,500 square feet, but mobile homes, churches and other types of use are excluded, he said. Balmer said most lots in the subdivision would be 6,000-6,200 square feet.
• Voted to change a section of land in Los Diamantes subdivision from R-1 and business park zoning to R-2 to match a previous change in the master plan.