BELEN—Hub City residents will soon be able to petition the city to close alleyways.
Belen city councilors unanimously voted last week to approve a new ordinance which details the procedures and process of requesting a closure of an alleyway. The new ordinance will go into effect on April 2.
The idea for such an ordinance came about when concerns regarding public safety were brought up to the council. Some residents were worried that criminals were using open alleyways for criminal activity as well as scoping out houses to target.
Brian McBain, the city’s director of compliance and community services, presented the ordinance to the council, saying they would make the final decision of closing a particular alleyway.
McBain said residents can petition the city to have an alleyway closed. The request would first be heard by the city’s planning and zoning commission and be subject to a public hearing before recommending a closure or not to the city council.
“The Belen City Council has determined this procedure will be needed in order to ensure the safety of these alleyways for citizens living in these specific areas,” the ordinance reads. “The city may close all or part of any alley which is determined by the council to be unnecessary for alley purposes, upon approval of a proposed resolution …”
The procedure to close an alleyway begins with any citizen who must provide petitions signed by property owners in the area of the proposed alleyway closure. The ordinance doesn’t specifically mention the amount of signatures needed, and McBain said the final decision is up to the council.
After receiving the petition, the city would then be responsible for providing the council with a surveyor’s plat showing the alley to be closed, the lots abutting the alley, any dedication of land for alley purposes, any easements to be established or reserved by the city and the person to whom the title to the land to be closed is to revert or vest.
The city would also be responsible for providing recommendations from the police, fire, community maintenance, public works and planning and zoning departments of the requested alleyway closure.
If the council approves an alleyway closure, the city would install a gate, “dependent on available funds.” The city would then provide the affected property owners a key to the gate. If lost, a replacement key would be provided for a fee of $10.
Once closed, the alleyway cannot be used for any type of storage or personal use by the property owners in the area. It must remain free and clear of all debris, clutter and storage.
Anyone caught entering the alleyway without prior authorization from the city can be punished by a fine of not more than $300 or by imprisonment not exceeding 90 days.
Both fire and law enforcement personnel will have master keys to the gates in cases of emergencies.
Clara Garcia is the editor and publisher of the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
She is a native of the city of Belen, beginning her journalism career at the News-Bulletin in 1998 as the crime and courts reporter. During her time at the paper, Clara has won numerous awards for her writing, photography and typography and design both from the National Newspaper Association and the New Mexico Press Association.