What the East Mountain Coalition Can Do for You

by Christie Chisholm, East Mountain Living Magazine, Spring and Summer 2010

The East Mountain District 5 Coalition of Neighborhood and Landowner Associations isn’t the sexiest of names. But the group serves a vital purpose—to unite the communities that make up the Cedar Crest and Sandia Park areas of the East Mountains and give them a voice in local government.

The Coalition’s five-member board works with the Bernalillo County Commission to address the concerns of East Mountain residents, and it also helps disseminate information about area services and issues. Christine Smith, now president of the group, has been a member of the board since the Coalition’s inception in 2005. Back then, there wasn’t any organized way for the community to speak up in matters that affect it, she says. And so a handful of people (six of them, to be exact, each representing a different neighborhood association) joined together to form an organization that now represents more than 36 neighborhoods.

Beyond providing basic tools and advice to residents about local law enforcement, zoning changes and public works, the group has also helped fend off a number of ill-designed contracting yards, which would have been built right next to subdivisions, says Smith, who doesn’t wish to name any specific projects. On a number of occasions, residents objected to proposals for such sites, due to the anticipated noise and pollution they would cause. The Coalition helped by going to public meetings in support of the subdivisions’ cases, speaking to county officials and sending e-mails to spread awareness.

Smith says the Coalition doesn’t take a political stance and that the group doesn’t always agree with requests that come its way. “People have to understand that if we disagree, it’s not personal,” she says. Still, the group makes an effort to let all opinions be heard. Right now, it’s helping create a sector plan for North 14, which is supposed to be finished by the end of the year. The sector plan will deal primarily with zoning regulations for the area—determining things like density, and what kinds of buildings can be built where. The goal of the plan, says Smith, is to retain the rural character of the area and pay attention to wildlife and water concerns. The Coalition’s role in the process is to make sure all residents have an avenue to voice their thoughts about the contents of the plan.

Another issue the Coalition is involved in is a proposal for a swap meet and potential farmers’ market to go on the abandoned Bella Vista site. Smith says in a two-week period she received more than 75 e-mails from residents in support of the idea. The group is also organizing neighborhoods that are concerned about crime, as she says people are reporting a higher incidence of burglaries in the area.

Membership to the Coalition costs $10 per neighborhood/landowner/homeowner association per year. And although only associations registered with the County can be official members, Smith says a number of unofficial groups are still on her mailing list so they can stay in the information loop. You can contact board members at the following addresses:

Christine Smith, President: chskiki@msn.com

Dan Salzwedel, Vice President: sbratkid@aol.com

David Holcomb, Secretary: djholco@comcast.net

Jim Hanlon, Treasurer: KNJHanlon@msn.com

Bert Almy, At-Large: bertalmy@msn.com