BLOOMFIELD — Bloomfield city councilors on Monday night voted unanimously to approve annexing land that will more than double the size of the city.
Councilors agreed to file a petition with the state's Boundary Commission to add 6,775 acres to the city's current 5,185 acres in front of a standing-room-only crowd at City Hall Tuesday night.
"This annexation is really about securing Bloomfield's future," City Manager David Fuqua said. "We have learned from individuals directly involved in exploration drilling that we will experience growth. According to these individuals, the boom will last a minimum of 10 years. This makes our planning for businesses and industry that much more critical."
Donica Sharpe, the city's planning and zoning director, gave an overview of the annexation benefits and costs to the council.
"Bloomfield has been labeled the gas plant capital of the United States, an irony given that no gas plants are within city limits," Sharpe said. "Annexation is a growth tool for local city governments. What we're trying to do tonight is proactive annexation to guide and direct future growth. It eliminates the future potential contentious annexation."
Sharpe displayed pictures taken around the areas proposed for annexation, that showed garbage strewn in unregulated areas that without annexation would continue to deteriorate.
"There's a lot of household dumping. (The natural scenery) is beautiful, but there's a lot of trash," Sharpe said. "We need to think outside the limits, outside our city limits. Let's plan today to build a smarter Bloomfield tomorrow with smart growth."
Fuqua emphasized fairness to all in the wake of annexation.
"Keep two things in mind," Fuqua said. "One, that business development is ... completed in an orderly and beneficial manner. And two, that infrastructure costs are allocated fairly and consistently across the board and that no one is forced to pay more than their fair share."
Mark Sheridan, a lawyer from Santa Fe who appeared on behalf of ConocoPhillips, addressed the council.
"It's pretty clear that the motivating force is the city's interest in the city increasing tax revenues," Sheridan said. "ConocoPhilips is willing to pay whatever the city believes is fair to pay. The kind of agreement we are interested in is an agreement in lieu of annexation, at the same time remaining outside the city limits."
Sheridan said the company was concerned over added costs associated with increased rules and regulations if the gas plant built in 1985 were within city limits.
"(The) status quo has given the company a great deal of certainty with regards to its conduct of business," Sheridan said. "One of the things that happens with annexation is a fundamental shift in regulation. This presents the prospect of more uncertainty and more difficulties with us going forward. ConocoPhilips is opposed to having the planned territory annexed.
"It is not opposed to paying its fair share. Our disagreement is the uncertainty with respect to future business operations."
Darrel Morrow, director of operations for Enterprise Operations, which runs a refinery in the area, echoed Sheridan's concerns.
"We also would be interested in talking about an alternative agreement and negotiate future tax revenues," Morrow said. "We do have some concerns with the industrial environment. Whether it's a true fit for the city. We would like to align with ConocoPhilips and hope for an alternative agreement."
Gary Clifton, a resident, balked at any resistance to the city's expansion.
"It's a no-brainer," Clifton said. "I live in the city. I love the city. I don't see the (concerns over) the regulations. You're going to get fire protection. Safety, the city should be responsible for your safety. It's great that you want to do what you want to do, but sometimes fair share doesn't work out. I want good parks for my kids and grandkids. I want a city that's clean and (to) have a great city."
Ann Marie Tucker said she lives in the area and is a mother.
"I'm for the growth of Bloomfield and the annexation," she said. "If we have the funds (then) we have beautiful safe parks, it's proven that when you have more parks and trails that property value goes up. We need something here to be a strong community."
Luke Montoya, a business owner, also pushed for annexation.
"I see Bloomfield getting better, and I see a fantastic opportunity to grow," Montoya said. "Do you want to accomplish something or watch it rot?"
Fuqua aimed to temper the oil-field concerns over annexation.
"I know the gas plants have concerns about the new regulations they'll have to deal with," Fuqua said. "By the city annexing that area, it changes nothing. We will be able to create a buffer zone around the plants to protect residential areas and have more orderly development."
James Fenton covers Aztec and Bloomfield for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4631 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @fentondt on Twitter.