Some Loma residents hope to preserve country life

Loma looking north down Hwy 139.

Loma’s days as a rural community along Interstate 70, dotted with farmhouses and the occasional upper-class homes among vast stretches of pasture, may be numbered.

Many of its residents realize as much. With the assistance of Mesa County, they recently completed a community plan, a vision of how the area should grow. It reflects the mix of old Loma, farmers and ranchers, as well as the new residents looking for a quiet home in the country.

The motivation to cobble together the plan came from Loma’s nearest neighbor to the east. Loma was the subject of envious eyes in the city of Fruita, which tried including Loma’s interchange with Interstate 70 in its community plan last year.

When Loma residents learned of the plotting, they banded together and developed their own community plan.

“So Fruita don’t come in and turn us into another Fruita,” said Ann Charlesworth, a cashier at the Country Store who jokingly describes herself as the meanest person in Loma.

She said her husband grew up in Loma, and the quiet, rural nature of it is why they decided to raise a family there. Saving that rural character was a main reason many residents decided they needed a community plan and participated in the process of creating it. The plan officially was adopted by the Mesa County Commission earlier this month.

But, Charlesworth acknowledged in not so many words, their plan can’t stop growth.

“It is not going to help,” the 49-year-old Charlesworth said. “Eventually this will all be another Fruita, all these little, itty-bitty houses.”

Loma’s postmaster, Karen Bonita, is a second-generation Loma resident. Her dad was born 88 years ago at O and 13 roads.

“The complexion of the community is changing,” she said.

Many of the old-timers who can no longer farm are looking to sell to developers, who up until several months ago were eager to make money building homes. Their children can no longer make a living working the land, Bonita said.

It is a world trapped between the desires of many long-standing residents who want to keep it rural and the pressure of new residents who want modern homes in quiet subdivisions without the smell of a cow or the noise of a rooster next door.

“The people who have lived here the longest don’t want it to change,” Bonita said.

Loma has an estimated 700 residents. With a 4 percent annual growth rate the population would be 1,455 by 2030, while a 6 percent rate of growth would increase residents to 2,212 by 2030, according to the community plan.

Over at the Western Slope Cattleman’s Live Auction and Restaurant, off 12 1/2 Road and U.S. Highway 6, some of the lunchtime diners said they have seen the growth firsthand.

“I was raised here,” said Steve Robertson, who described Loma’s population as 75 percent new residents and 25 percent old blood. “A lot of farms have sold out. Every 40 acres has 10 houses on it. This used to be the best pheasant hunting in the valley.”

Robertson reminisces about the good old days, but he also talks about the recent dive in the economy and said he looks forward to the day the economy revs up again. And he knows when it does, it will mean more new residents in Loma.

One new resident said she moved to Loma with her husband for the same reasons the existing residents of Loma remain there.

“We chose Loma because it is not a big town,” said Diana VanHoozen, who lives in a new house in the Gold Lake Estates subdivision, off 13 Road and Gold Lake Drive.

Loma, she said, reminded her of the small town she grew up in, which is now one of the biggest cities in New Mexico: Las Cruces.

She can see parallels. She used to know most everyone in her hometown. It grew so rapidly and became so big she did not want to live there anymore.

Give her the country life.

“Once you start building and growing, you lose that,” she said.

But if there were one thing she could change about her new home, she said, “I’d like a Wal-Mart closer, but other than that it is OK.”


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