BERNALILLO — The view of a Sandoval County business literally changes depending on what side of the road you stand on.
On the east side of NM 313, just outside of the Bernalillo town limits resides Dynamos Dustless Blasting LLC, a business in operation for less than a year.
On the west side of the same road resides retired railroad worker Richard Barnitz’s historical craftsman-style home, which he said he and his wife bought and moved into several years before Dynamos bought the property adjacent to them.
Dynamos has operated on the same property for less than a year, before owner Rorick Ward bought the property outright.
Since the very day Ward bought the property, he said he has had nothing but complaints from Barnitz. According to both men, they have had a falling out almost to the point of raising their hands to each other over various issues that Barnitz says are physically and psychologically destroying his way of life.
“When Dynamos came in February or March of last year, they would drive in, drop a car body and begin sand-blasting it in the open,” Barnitz said.
After Ward purchased the business, Barnitz said, Dynamos began sand-blasting in an enclosed space but also used a lot behind the shop to blast outdoors.
“My initial concern as a neighbor came down to the noise being created across the street once Dynamos moved in,” Barnitz said. “No. 2, after you look around the corner to see where the noise is coming from, you can’t help but see this large cloud of dust.”
Barnitz explained that he has taken several videos of Dynamos that show dust clouds billowing out from underneath a half-open bay door.
“Even if the door is all the way shut, dust comes out of the doors’ sides and roof panels,” he said.
After confronting Ward about his concerns with no real change, Barnitz asked the Sandoval County Planning and Zoning Department to help.
When he didn’t get the results he wanted, Barnitz reached out to the New Mexico Environment Department.
According to Sandoval County spokeswoman Melissa Perez, the county does not have a generic noise ordinance.
As for the alleged air pollution, Perez said the state Environment Department has jurisdiction over such matters and has been made aware of the concerns brought forth by residents in the area.
“Sandoval County’s Planning and Zoning Department has been working on this matter for approximately the last six months,” Perez said. “They have been working directly with the State of New Mexico Environment Department and the Town of Bernalillo to assist the residents and business owner involved in this case. With regards to the sand-blasting portion of the business, that is a permissive use allowed under the county’s RC (Residential Commercial) Zone, which is what the property falls under.”
Business owner’s perspective
Ward said he is surprised at the accusations his neighbor has made against his business, given the fact that Dynamos has done business with many of the surrounding neighbors.
“I’ve done business with a lot of people who have retired from Sandoval County that are our neighbors and use our business to paint their cars,” Ward said. “We pay our gross receipts tax; in fact, last month we paid $2,500 in GRT, which is our average per month.”
Before he started his business, Ward said, he restored classic cars as a hobby for seven years. Then he and his wife agreed on moving forward with Dynamos as a real business.
“I bought my first piece of equipment after I sold my '65 Mustang fastback two years ago and just started building the business from there,” he said.
Since initially renting the property, Dynamos has purchased the land, the building and the house on the lot.
After several run-ins with Barnitz, along with several state and county officials, Ward reached out to County Commissioner James Holden-Rhodes for help.
“I was surprised at his response, because he basically belittled the company and took Barnitz’s side on the noise and pollution issue from the start,” Ward said.
Ward admitted that he did some sandblasting in the open, which is illegal, when he first rented the facility because his rental agreement didn’t allow him to modify the property.
“Even though I did this, I didn’t have a complaint for over a year and a half,” Ward said. “I would sandblast out here and there was dust going everywhere.”
Since then, Ward said he has done everything in his power to make sure his company met state environmental standards and he has only received two complaints since he became owner of the property.
“I just had OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) check my place last week and they had no findings,” Ward said. “In fact, OSHA has been a regular fixture at my business for the past nine months because every time Barnitz calls them, they have to come out.”
Ward explained that OSHA took air samples while he was blasting and put monitors inside of the respiratory masks his employees use during the process.
“They would just sit here and monitor the area,” he said. “They would sit here for six hours over a four-day period.”
Ward said he’s experienced nonstop harassment he claims is the result of Barnitz’s persistence to try and shut him down.
“Thirty percent of my time is fighting for stuff that’s not even wrong here,” Ward said.
Asked why he picked the spot to do business, Ward replied that he liked the location.
“No one on this side of Albuquerque is doing this type of business, so we thought it would be a great location and closer than going to northern New Mexico, where they do a lot this type of work,” Ward said. “Like I said, I blasted for two years without a compliant; it wasn’t until I bought the property that the complaints started rolling in.”
A second issue
During the same interview, Barnitz pointed to an added issue.
He said Dynamos has incorporated another company called Concept Rides. This in essence changes the use of the property from residential commercial to light industrial, according to Barnitz.
“A request has to be submitted to the county’s planning and zoning department to move forward with this addition, and to the best of my knowledge, it hasn’t been addressed, yet Dynamos is already using the paint booth to do work,” he said.
Ward said the booth is red-tagged and will not be operational until the City of Bernalillo grants him more electrical power.
In January, Ward applied for a conditional use permit with the county Planning and Zoning Commission, a matter scheduled to be heard Sept. 10.
If passed by the P&Z board, Ward will be in compliance of all county, state and Town of Bernalillo guidelines, and the red tag would be taken away from his paint booth.
Barnitz said, in essence, Ward has counted his chickens before they’ve hatched and has been using the paint booth every day since he applied for his conditional use in January.
“If you want to drive a car, you have to have a license before, not after you start driving…this is the same with across the street,” Barnitz said.
An email to Barnitz from county Planning and Zoning Assistant Director Makita Hill said Ward has recently been been given a cease-and-desist notice from the county and the Town of Bernalillo on use of his paint booth.