No more weddings at Hacienda Doña Andrea? | Local News

The stucco curves, antique tiles, and heavy wooden doors of Santa Fe’s Hacienda Doña Andrea exude a warm, old-world charm.

They also deny the actual age of the building.

“I built it from scratch,” said owner Maximiliano Contreras, adding that he and his late wife, Andrea, designed and built it together in the late 1990s. had been there forever.”

He opened the property as a bed and breakfast after Andrea’s death in 2000.

Over the years, the tiered venue – perched atop a pinon-studded hill in the foothills of the Ortiz Mountains south of Madrid – has become a popular wedding destination. It offers a panoramic view of the Galisteo basin.

Hundreds of brides and grooms have celebrated their wedding there over the past decade.

“We call it the ‘happy place,’ Contreras said. “It was a gathering place for people.”

Max and Britt Contreras, owners of Hacienda Doña Andrea, following a wedding ceremony on Tuesday. The couple are battling a permissions issue that threatens to close them as a wedding venue after more than 22 years in business.

But Contreras, 80, may have to leave the wedding business. The popular hacienda is now at the center of a growing dispute between him and some of his neighbors over noise, water usage and fire hazards that nearby residents say his guests have brought in their quiet enclave.

The bitter row led Santa Fe County officials to determine the property had been operating for years outside the boundaries of its land use permit and had spilled over into civil and criminal courts – including a lawsuit filed by the hacienda against county officials.

“We moved here nine years ago to escape city life and teach our children to learn and honor the land,” a neighbor wrote in a letter to county land use officials in April. “Since we’ve been living here, every year the weddings at Hacienda Doña Andrea have gotten louder and more frequent.”

A neighbor faces criminal trespassing charges – and is barred by a restraining order from entering the property – after she was accused of breaking into a wedding reception at the hacienda in late April and d screaming about loud music.

In early May, a person who lives at the same address as the accused woman filed a lawsuit against the hacienda alleging breach of contract. He accused the hacienda of violating the covenants of the Vista del Oro subdivision.

Tensions between neighbors came to a head last fall after several days of filming at the wedding venue, which some say caused traffic jams.

County officials reviewing complaints from neighbors discovered the permit violation.

“The Hacienda had a 1999 approval that authorized the use of the property for a 9-bedroom B&B and a small-scale retreat with a limit of 18 people maximum on-site,” county operations manager Sara wrote. Smith, in a recent email.

Instead, she wrote, it hosted weddings of up to 180 people.

The discovery forced Contreras — and his current wife, Britt Contreras — to scramble to find workarounds that would allow them to honor their commitment to more than 40 couples who planned to marry at the hacienda in 2022.


Mirei Marzolf and Stuart Smith exchanged vows last week during their wedding ceremony at Hacienda Doña Andrea near Cerrillos.

The county issued more than a dozen special-use permits earlier this year allowing the hacienda to host already-booked spring weddings, while the Contreras submitted a site plan request they hoped will expand their uses. allowed to include weddings.

But after continuing to fend off neighbors at a public meeting in April, the couple said they had amended the request to simply ask permission to end the year’s wedding season and then they would agree to operate only as a bed and breakfast.

“We would like to find something with the county and our neighbors that would allow us to continue having weddings there, but we don’t want to be the bad guys,” Maximiliano Contreras said in an interview.

County staff recommended the proposal be approved, according to the documents, and it could have been approved through an administrative process. But Director of Growth Management Penny Ellis-Green decided to up the decision up the chain of command, asking the county planning commission to consider the couple’s candidacy at a meeting on June 16. .

Britt Contreras told the Planning Commission that the hacienda had more bookings than usual this year because many couples had postponed their celebrations due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Bookings were made in 2020 and 2021, she said, and the couple have not accepted any new requests since learning about the permit issue in November.

Several couples called off their weddings after learning that the county’s case-by-case special event permits require their events to end by 9 p.m., she said.

The permits also prohibit smoking and require the Contreras to increase their parking area and fire extinguisher system, which the couple said they did.

Britt Contreras said her husband was proud to have built the hacienda and distressed by the animosity between his neighbors, some of whom he has known for years.

However, Maximiliano Contreras said only a few neighbors — part-time residents who recently moved to the area — are actively fighting the hacienda.


Mirei Marzolf and Stuart Smith look into each other’s eyes after their wedding kiss during their wedding ceremony at Hacidena Dona Andrea near Cerrillos NM on Tuesday afternoon. Hacidena Dona Andrea has been hosting weddings for over 20 years, but that could change after a recent confusion over their land use permit could force them to cancel all 24 weddings they have booked for the year.

Nearly a dozen residents, several of whom said they had lived in the area for decades, told the Planning Commission that noise and traffic had gotten out of control. After hearing their testimony, the commission voted unanimously to refuse the site plan proposed by the Contreras and “cancel all weddings for the remainder of 2022”.

Commissioner JJ Gonzales – who filed the motion to deny the application – said his reasons for rejecting the plan were several alleged violations of sound and water use restrictions in the Special Use Permits.

Nathan Manzanares of Siebert and Associates, the land development company representing the Contreras in their application, said in an interview that the hacienda had never received a notice of violation.

The Planning Commission’s ruling — and a subsequent ruling by Ellis-Green that the decision prevented the county from issuing more special-use permits for weddings this year — prompted Hacienda Doña Andrea de Santa Fe LLC to file a lawsuit. legal action against Ellis-Green and the county.

Company argues in court June 17 filing site plan and special use permits should have been handled through administrative processes that require approval if applicants meet certain criteria and should never have applied before the Planning Commission.

“The Planning Commission appeared to deny the request on the basis of incompatibility with the surrounding area,” attorney Christopher Graeser wrote in the complaint. “However, incompatibility is not a specified code criteria.”

The complaint asks the court to order the county to immediately issue special use permits to the Contreras and approve the couple’s site plan based on both meeting county codes.

The couple also intend to appeal the Planning Commission’s decision to the County Commission, Manzaneres said, but will not be able to argue their case until a meeting in late July.

Meanwhile, Hacienda Doña Andrea had to make a difficult decision: disappoint several couples who had planned weddings there in June or operate outside the law by welcoming them, which Maximiliano Contreras said he was ready to do.

“I’m ready to go to jail,” he said.

It looks like that won’t be necessary.

Graeser said Thursday that county officials had “rethinked” their original position and seemed willing to continue issuing special-use permits for weddings on a case-by-case basis, at least until the county commission could. examine the appeal of the Contreras.

The reversal left them little cause for celebration.

Britt Contreras said the high costs of lawyers, experts and agents to represent them in the fight means they are losing money to operate the hacienda this year.

“But we want the weddings to happen,” she said.

Manzaneres told the Planning Commission earlier this month: “We are giving up our right to do this for the foreseeable future so that no one suffers and their marriage is annulled.”

He added: “At the end of the day, it’s the innocent bride and groom who are going to pay for this.”

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