Local Defined Fitness gym owners announced in 2019 that they planned to put one of their gyms in what had been Rio Rancho’s Kmart store. The Rio Rancho Governing Body has voted to allow part of the building to be used as a warehouse also. File photo.

The Rio Rancho Governing Body has opened the door for part of the old Kmart building to become a warehouse, in addition to a section being a Defined Fitness gym.
At their meeting Thursday evening at City Hall, governing body members voted unanimously to add warehousing and storage as a permissive use in the existing special-use zoning of Hilltop Plaza. The owners can still use the property for retail or other purposes if the opportunity arises.
“There’s nothing good that comes from having a building of this size sit there vacant,” said Jim Strozier of Consensus Planning, agent for the property owners.
He said the work to create a warehouse out of 50,000 square feet of the existing building would include improving the facade and the parking lot, as well as the interior remodel.
Defined Fitness will still use part of the building, he said.
According to the request from owners B&L Real Estate Holdings LLC, the warehouse would hold non-hazardous materials for off-site distribution.
In a written comment, Rio Ranchoan Sue A. Prelozni asked the governing body to delay the vote to find out more about the tenant that would operate the warehouse and to notify businesses beyond those in the 100-foot range required to receive notice of the proposal by regulations.
“The lack of transparency raises the questions of safety, congestion, possible truck traffic and more,” she wrote.
City Manager Matt Geisel said the old Kmart building had been vacant for eight-plus years and had been sold multiple times before B&L, the local Defined Fitness group, purchased it.
“The amount of parking a gym this size would need would gobble up 75 percent of what Kmart would need,” he said.
Geisel said that parking situation limits other possible uses for the property. He said 50,000 square feet is considered small for a warehouse and so the facility probably wouldn’t generate much traffic.
Strozier said warehouses generate little traffic. Trucks visiting the warehouse would come off Sara Road to the back of the building and thus be segregated from the smaller passenger vehicles that park in front, he said.
Councilor Bob Tyler agreed that the gym and warehouse uses balanced parking.
“I don’t think the warehouse is going to be an impediment to development in that area,” he continued.
Geisel said vacant buildings lead to neighboring owners protesting their property-tax valuations, which leads to lower assessments and thus less property tax revenue.
Mayor Gregg Hull said the building was generating no gross receipts taxes. Vacant facilities also drive down rent costs so that property owners can’t get a return on their investments and are reluctant to build any new commercial buildings, he said.
When he owned a warehouse in the past, Hull said, he employed 15-20 people.
Councilor Karissa Culbreath supported taking the opportunity at hand instead of trying to wait for something else.
“We all have aspirations of what we would like to see (in commercial spaces),” she said.
However, she said, those desires may never come to fruition in the actual use of a commercial building.
In other business, governing body members:
• Approved an intergovernmental agreement with Sandoval County to support Intel’s expansion.
• OK’d a site plan for a two-story climate-controlled self-storage facility on NM 528 across from Industrial Park Loop.
• Voted to award a $1.4 million contract to WHPacific Inc. for a corridor study and design of reconstruction and widening of Idalia Road between Northern Boulevard and Iris Road; Public Works Director B.J. Gottlieb said because federal money was paying for the design, the process would take two years, by which time he hoped to have money for construction.
• Approved refinancing two loans that paid for water rights, saving $117,000 a year, according to Finance Director Carole Jaramillo.
• Voted to notify the Sandoval County Clerk of Public Improvement District and Tax Increment Development District board elections coming up in November; people must live in those individual districts to run or vote in the elections.