BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OF THE COUNTY OF RIO ARRIBA and GEORGE MARTINEZ, Petitioners-Appellees,
BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OF THE COUNTY OF SANTA FE, Respondent-Appellant.
FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF SANTA FE COUNTY Sarah M.
Singleton, District Judge
E. Trujillo Española, NM for Appellees
Bruce Frederick, Santa Fe County Attorney Rachel A. Brown,
Deputy County Attorney Santa Fe, NM for Appellant
P. DUFFY, JUDGE
This appeal arises from the district court's peremptory
writ of mandamus compelling the Board of County Commissioners
of the County of Santa Fe (Board) to publish notice of
Petitioners' annexation petition pursuant to NMSA 1978,
Section 4-33-3 (1947, amended 2019). The Board appeals,
arguing that the annexation petition was facially defective
and thus it had no duty to publish notice. At the heart of
this appeal is what is required to effect a valid annexation
petition, an issue of first impression in New Mexico. Because
we conclude that the annexation petition was legally
defective, we reverse the district court with instructions to
quash the writ of mandamus.
The City of Española lies within the boundaries of
both Santa Fe County and Rio Arriba County. Residents living
on the Santa Fe County side of Española must travel to
the City of Santa Fe (the county seat of Santa Fe County) to
access county services, such as the county clerk or county
assessor, whereas residents living on the Rio Arriba County
side of Española are able to access these same county
services at Rio Arriba County satellite offices located in
Española, as well as at the county seat in Tierra
Amarilla. Petitioner George Martinez and others who live
within the Santa Fe County side of Española wish to
access the county services available at the Rio Arriba County
satellite offices in Española, given their proximity.
To accomplish this, Martinez and others began the process to
annex the Santa Fe County portion of Española to Rio
Arriba County, pursuant to NMSA 1978, Sections 4-33-1 to -3
(1947, amended 2019).
Martinez prepared a "Petition for Annexation" in
light of the requirements set forth in Section 4-33-2, which
A petition executed by at least fifty-one percent (51%) of
the qualified electors residing within the portion of the
county proposed to be annexed shall be filed with the county
commissioners of the county in which such portion is located.
Such petition shall set forth the facts showing the existence
of the conditions described in Section [4-33-1] . . . hereof
and shall accurately set out the boundaries of the portion of
the county proposed to be annexed.
statute required the annexation petition to set forth facts
showing that the following two conditions existed:
[(1)] Whenever, because of the location and conditions of
roads, or the existence or nonexistence of transportation
facilities, it will be more convenient for the residents of
any portion of a county to travel to the county seat of some
other contiguous county, and [(2)] because of such location
and condition of roads or the existence or nonexistence of
transportation facilities, it will be more convenient and
economical for such other county to render governmental
services to such portion of such other county, the portion of
the county so affected may be annexed to such other county in
the following manner.
4-33-1; see Youree v. Ellis, 1954-NMSC-002, ¶
12, 58 N.M. 30, 265 P.2d 354 (stating that these conditions
are "the decisive grounds upon which alone the court is
authorized to order an election on annexation"). The
first condition- hereinafter referred to as the "county
seat condition"-forms the basis of the parties'
dispute in this appeal.
Two maps were attached to the petition. The first map
described "[t]he Santa Fe County territory proposed to
be annexed into Rio Arriba County." The second depicted
the distances and travel times from Española to the
Santa Fe County offices in the City of Santa Fe and to the
Rio Arriba County satellite offices in Española, and
showed that the Rio Arriba County satellite offices were
closer for the petitioning residents.
Martinez delivered the petition to the Santa Fe County
Manager and requested that the Board publish notice of the
petition, as required by law. See § 4-33-3
(1947, amended 2019) ("Immediately upon the filing of
such petition . . ., it shall be the duty of the county
commissioners with whom such petition is filed to cause a
notice to be published in some newspaper or newspapers of
general circulation in each county affected."). The
Board declined to take any action on the petition after
concluding that it was "legally defective on its
face" in that "it [did] not set forth facts showing
that . . . because of the location and conditions of roads or
the existence or nonexistence of transportation facilities[,
] . . . it would be more convenient for citizens in the area
proposed to be annexed to travel to the county seat of Rio
Arriba County (Tierra Amarilla) as opposed to the county seat
of Santa Fe County (the City of Santa Fe)." The Board
advised in a letter to Martinez that it "was not making
a judicial determination ...