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Read San Juan County's proposed land development code at sjcounty.net

AZTEC — The San Juan County Commission took a step toward creating the county's first zoning laws during Tuesday's commission meeting.

The commission unanimously voted to publish a notice of intent to adopt a land use code.

County officials said the code will be the first of its kind in unincorporated areas of the county. Officials also said current property owners won't be affected because the code won't impact existing homes or businesses.

The county is planning its final public meeting on the land use code on Sept. 11. The commission will vote whether or not to enact the code on Oct. 1.

That vote would likely be followed by a 90-day period in which county residents could request that their property be reclassified, said Doug Echols, the deputy county attorney.

The county's proposed land use code and zoning maps are available for review on the county's website. The code is 170 pages, and the county provided comment sheets online for residents to share their opinions. The map section on the website allows users to type in an address and see how it would be classified under the land use plan.

"Anyone who is concerned about what might be happening to them can check to see in the comfort of their own home," Echols said.

There are about 38,000 people who live in San Juan County's unincorporated areas, which are outside of municipalities and the Navajo Nation. County officials have said the land use code is needed because there is limited space for future growth in unincorporated areas. And, officials says, the code will create land use predictability for property owners.

County Operations Officer Mike Stark said the county has hosted five public meetings pertaining to the land use code, and there is still time for residents to provide feedback about the code.

No citizens addressed the commission about the code during the open forum at the end of Tuesday's meeting.

"If you see something's wrong there, contact us and contact the staff," said Commissioner Margaret McDaniel. "We certainly want to do what's best for the county."

Also at Tuesday's meeting, commissioners decided to wait to vote on a resolution that would urge state, federal and business interests not to move forward with plans that would close units at San Juan Generating Station.

Public Service Company of New Mexico has announced that it plans to close two of the generating station's four units by 2017.

That plan was reached as part of an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and New Mexico Environment Department. The EPA is requiring the plant to reduce emissions that contribute to regional haze.

The commission on Tuesday passed the resolution and then, after meeting in a closed session, rescinded the vote and chose to table the document.

Commissioner Jack Fortner said the commission wants to meet with PNM to ensure they are in favor of the county's resolution.

"I want to make sure that we are not going against what was the best agreement (PNM) could get ... and inadvertently going against the best interests of the citizens of San Juan County," Fortner said.

Ryan Boetel covers crime for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and rboetel@daily-times.com. Follow him on Twitter @rboetel on Twitter.