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Actor Val Kilmer apologizes to New Mexico commissioners, neighbors over published comments

LAS VEGAS, N.M. (AP) — Actor Val Kilmer has apologized to his northern New Mexico neighbors after he was quoted making disparaging comments about the community.

San Miguel County commissioners invited Kilmer to a meeting Wednesday to explain comments published years ago in Rolling Stone and Esquire magazines.

Kilmer says he shares residents' concerns "when you hear negative things about a place you love."

After hearing from Kilmer and those upset by his remarks, commissioners approved a permit that will let him rent guest houses at his ranch.

Commissioners say they hope everyone can put the situation behind them.

But Rowe resident Abran Tapia says he doesn't accept Kilmer's apology. Tapia says he thinks someone needs to continue speaking up for those who were offended by Kilmer's remarks.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

LAS VEGAS, N.M. (AP) — Actor Val Kilmer appeared Wednesday before San Miguel County commissioners, saying he hopes something good comes from the hearing after he was quoted making disparaging comments about the community.

Commissioners invited Kilmer to explain comments published years ago in Rolling Stone and Esquire magazines. Some residents also have complained that Kilmer chased away people fishing on the Pecos River at his ranch.

The actor, who starred in "Tombstone," ''Top Gun" and "The Doors," has maintained that his words were taken out of context and misunderstood. He says he loves the San Miguel County area, where he has lived for more than a dozen years.

Before the meeting, Kilmer said he understands why some residents are upset.

"I have the same concerns as anyone else when you hear negative things about a place you love," he told The Associated Press. "That's the good part of this story. Really, they care about where they live, and I do too. I share their concerns."

Kilmer said he feels guilty "that I haven't done enough work to make sure people know this isn't me. I'm on the other side of the fight."

There was an increased security presence, with six officers from state police, the sheriff's office and Las Vegas police inside the commission chambers.

Commission chairman David Salazar said Kilmer wasn't forced to appear Wednesday but was simply offered an opportunity to speak on his own behalf.

The commission was expected to make a decision at the end of the meeting on whether to allow Kilmer's Pecos River Ranch to proceed with its plan to open three guest houses to paying customers. County zoning and planning commission approved the proposal 3-2 in March, but Rowe resident Abran Tapia appealed to the commission.

Tapia has accused Kilmer of being a bad neighbor and a racist. He claims the actor is trying to create "a segregated facility" at the ranch by charging people to stay at the guest houses. He reasons that local Hispanics would be excluded because they wouldn't be able to afford a stay at the private ranch.

In his pleadings with the commission, Tapia also pointed to comments Kilmer made in the magazine articles.

In October 2003, Rolling Stone published an article that quoted Kilmer as saying he lived in the "homicide capital of the Southwest," and 80 percent "of the people in my county are drunk."

Rolling Stone stood by the article, but Kilmer denied the statements and said he had actually bragged about New Mexico during the interview. Days later, he took out an ad in the Santa Fe New Mexican, saying he loved New Mexico and Pecos.

Two years later, Kilmer explained for an Esquire writer the emotional toll acting takes on an artist by talking about the soldiers who fought in Vietnam and how they couldn't have mentally prepared for the horror of war. He ended up saying most of them were sent to the war because they were "borderline criminal or poor."

The controversy caught the attention of the New Mexico chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which has offered to defend Kilmer's First Amendment rights; the California-based Committee on Chicano Rights; and Gov. Bill Richardson.

Richardson, who is friends with Kilmer, has said he thinks the meeting will provide "a gracious exit" for both sides.