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After over 12 years, Ram Motors RV & Truck on NM 528 is moving to Albuquerque.
“It breaks my heart that we are moving,” owner Walter Ramazzini said. “The community took us in like a family, and we are thankful and blessed to be part of it.”
The dealership is moving due to outgrowing the space and the City of Rio Rancho not being business-friendly, he said.
“Our first thought was we need to stay in Rio Rancho; the community has been great. So, we looked at several locations, presented ideas to the city, and I think the biggest problem was no one could give us a direct answer,” Ramazzini said. “No one would guide us and help us.’”
When considering three properties in Rio Rancho, Ramazzini needed to know from the city if the property would have to be paved with asphalt, he said. According to a city ordinance, parking lots must be paved.
Ramazzini wanted to know what materials could be defined as “paved,” whether that be crushed refined pavement, concrete or asphalt, he said.
According to a timeline created by city spokeswoman Annemarie García, on Aug. 8, 2018, the city “informed him that in order to make an appropriate recommendation to the governing body, staff would need a complete site plan as well as the proposed parking lot to be paved, per the ordinance.”
Ramazzini’s business partner Christian Nelson said they would not take that chance and submit a plan because it would cost the company over $65,000. The company has to pay an architect to draw up plans, survey the area, do soil reports and more, he said.
In addition, responses from the city’s planning and zoning department have been vague, Ramazzini said.
“Certain employees in the planning department in Rio Rancho say it has to be concrete or asphalt. Well, that’s not the truth; it just says paved,” he said. “But yet, other facilities since we have been there have gone up with that same (crushed refined pavement).”
This was the last straw, Ramazzini said. He started to look at properties in Albuquerque.
“It is the same steps in Albuquerque. But even though I think Albuquerque has its own challenges as well, they answer your questions,” he said.
During the transition of moving to the new location, Ramazzini needed to park RVs next to the dealership on his dirt lot that is not up to code.
He asked the governing body to allow temporary use of the property to store RVs till they were able to move, he said. Early this year, the Rio Rancho Governing Body voted to allow him six months to store RVs on the property without bringing it up to code.
“COVID hit; our lenders started back-peddling; we weren’t sure what was going to happen, so we couldn’t close. When the time came, I asked for another extension,” Ramazzini said.
According to the timeline, he reached out to the city Aug. 20. Staff responded Aug. 24, telling him what needed to be submitted before Sept. 4 to place the request on the agenda for the governing body meeting Sept. 30.
Ramazzini missed the deadline and submitted a formal request Sept. 11, according to the timeline.
On Sept. 15, the city emailed Ramazzini “informing him the item had been scheduled for the governing body meeting date of Oct. 22, 2020, as well as requesting additional site plan submission that shows necessary improvements to the property, such as curb cut, proposed alignment of vehicles, landscaping and material to pave the lot, and will need those by Oct. 12, 2020. Staff indicated that absent of those appropriate improvements, staff would recommend denial,” according to the timeline.
Ramazzini said he did not want to make improvements to a property he was selling.
“We missed the meeting due to a simple error on an email. I missed it myself. I didn’t see the date, didn’t show up to the meeting so they could hear why we needed an extension because the project got pushed back; we needed more time,” he said.
At the governing body meeting, Mayor Gregg Hull said he was extremely disappointed Ramazzini was not there.
“We try to be business-friendly by giving a six-month extension to vacate the lot; we understood there was a plan,” Hull said. “I understand as part of this process, it was cited COVID was one of the delays. I would have liked to hear more about that, other than just throwing COVID out there, because I did a little research online, and it seems to me the RV industry now is booming.”
At the meeting, Hull asked Planning and Zoning Division Manager Amy Rincon what the minimum requirements were for Ram Motors to be in compliance.
“Mr. Mayor, they would need to come in for a curb-cut permit. They would need to put down some crushed refined or pavement or something to actually stabilize the land that they’re parking the RVs on, and there would need to be landscaping, at the minimum,” Rincon said.
In a 5-1 vote, the governing body denied the extension.
Ramazzini later watched the meeting online and was frustrated that Rincon gave an answer on if crushed refined pavement was acceptable.
“We were out of ordinance, and we had 15 days to comply or face a fine or imprisonment,” Ramazzini said.
Not being in compliance with city ordinances is a standard code violation, García said.
“Mr. Ramazzini has a history of objecting to the City of Rio Rancho’s established minimum guidelines and standards for aesthetics — such as fencing, paving, landscaping, etc. It should be noted that these types of guidelines are not unique to our city, and are pretty commonplace in any other city,” she said.
Nelson said he believes the city “picks on” Ram Motors for code violations. Regardless, he will miss Rio Rancho because of its outstanding police department.
“And we know going to Albuquerque, it won’t be the same,” he said “And we know the crime in Albuquerque.”
However, theft still happens in Rio Rancho, Nelson said.
According to Rio Rancho Police Department records, provided by Lt. Richard Koschade, Ram Motors has filed the following reports over the past five years:
- Nov. 4: stolen vehicle;
- Nov. 1: criminal damage;
- May 4: two reports of criminal damage;
- April 9: vehicle burglary.
- Dec. 27: vehicle burglary;
- Oct. 14: larceny;
- Sept. 25: vehicle burglary;
- Aug. 13: larceny;
- April 27: vehicle burglary.
- Aug. 20: stolen vehicle;
- April 2: vehicle burglary.
- July 14: stolen vehicle;
- April 27: vehicle burglary;
- Jan. 27: stolen vehicle; and
- Jan. 25: vehicle burglary.
The business partners wanted to put up fences, but because of the city ordinance’s height limit of 4 feet, it would not be practical or look inviting, Nelson said.
“My 8-year-old can jump that,” he said.
The fence regulation reads, “Fences may be up to 4 feet in height when placed within the front setback area but not including the city right-of-way.”
The regulation also indicates, “The maximum fence height on nonresidential property is 6 feet where it abuts residential property, along the rear or side property line. Fences may be built to a height of 8 feet in this situation with an approved conditional use permit.”
Because of the ordinance, the company spends $3,000 a month for a security guard, Nelson said. The company isn’t saving money by doing business in Rio Rancho, he said.
“All the elected officials have been very well; it’s just the departments here that make it so difficult,” Nelson said.
Ram Motors has supported Sunday is Funday, Buy Rio Rancho and other campaigns across the city, Ramazzini said.
“We will definitely miss the place,” he said.
Business has been good for the dealership and they are still committed to serving Rio Rancho citizens, Ramazzini said.
The new location will be near Paseo del Norte and Jefferson Street. They plan to be ready for operations in April, he said.