VALENCIA COUNTY, N.M. (KRQE) – No permits, no zoning changes, but there is a lot of construction going on in a small community in Valencia County.
“They’re hiding it back here because they think nobody is going to say anything,” said a person who lives in Highland Meadows, who asked News 13 to not use her name. Highland Meadows is a small, quiet community in the far northwest area of Valencia County, near Highway 6 and Interstate 40.
“This is very remote. We may seem like we aren’t but we are,” said a neighbor. Nestled behind a hill and beyond a row of homes, is a very well hidden illegal horse racing track.
“The fact that you can’t see it from the road, it all just seems to be on the down-low,” said a neighbor. Pictures show the track has been taking shape over the last year.
Neighbors say they’ve been fighting against it the entire time. “It will bring in things we don’t want here, like gambling, drugs, guns,” said a neighbor.
Neighbors say they alerted Valencia County almost a year ago, but say the county did nothing to stop the construction. “The county says there’s nothing they can do,” said a neighbor.
The project appears to be almost finished, and, now, the county is getting involved. “We’ve seen pictures. We’ve gone out ourselves. It’s hard to get a good view of what’s going on in the property from a public road and we are not allowed on private property. It makes it difficult for us to build a strong legal case,” said Nancy Gonzales, the Valencia County Community Development Director.
These 117 acres are not zoned for any kind of racing and the hard-to-reach property owner has not applied for any kind of permits. “When we have trouble getting in touch with property owners, that does give us cause for concern,” said Gonzales.
Gonzales says they sent a letter to the owner but have not heard back. “Very frustrating. I understand the concern,” he said.
Gonzales says they are working with the county’s legal department on options of what to do and are viewing this as a learning experience. “There are big areas of land that lend themselves to this kind of activity so it tells us we need to patrol and increase our presence in these areas and that perhaps they’re aware there are things they can do out of our reach until hopefully, it’s not too late,” said Gonzales.
The New Mexico Racing Commission has also been notified of this track. They have an open investigation into the case.
Neighbors are hoping at least one of the agencies investigating this case comes through before racing actually begins. “We just want our community to stay safe and if the county can’t help us, I don’t know what we’re going to do,” said a neighbor.