Belen

The Belen City Council is taking a tough stand against deteriorating buildings.

The council passed an ordinance that requires property owners to maintain their property and sets penalties to ensure that happens.

“This is a good ordinance. We have some buildings in our city that need to be condemned; others just look bad. Now we have something in place that will make the owners take responsibility for their vacant properties and keep them maintained,” Mayor Ronnie Torres said.

Prior to the passage of the ordinance, the city could just require property owners to secure their property; now, property owners must maintain their vacant properties.

“This ordinance provides a mechanism for us to keep our city from looking run down,” said Julie Baca, planning and zoning director. “We’re looking at the unoccupied buildings because we are hoping that occupied structures are being maintained. With this, we will be able to say to property owners of vacant buildings that they have to keep their property in good repair and maintained as if they were being occupied.”

City officials hope the ordinance will foster civic pride and respect in the community’s future, maintain and improve property values, protect and enhance the community’s attractiveness to tourist and visitors and foster preservation, restoration and rehabilitation of structures, properties, buildings and sites.

The ordinance requires owners to repair their vacant property within 10 days after being cited for not being in compliance with the new standards. If they do not abate the nuisance, they may be fined up to $500.

The ordinance says that:

  • Generally, the appearance and conditions of the building or structure shall be maintained to present a safe and attractive streetscape to passersby.
  • No more than 10 percent of the exterior facade may exhibit peeling paint, damaged stucco or other deteriorated exterior visible surfaces.
  • In the case of vacant buildings where the windows and doors are boarded up, the plywood or covering must be cut to precisely fit inside the entire window or door frame, not merely tacked over the approximate location of the wall opening.

Also the coverings must be painted a dark ashen gray or black to simulate a typical exterior window color or by some other color in keeping with the building facade.

This standard applies to any side of the building that faces a street. Alley exposures are exempt.

  • The roof shall be maintained so that leaks do not threaten interior electrical components, interior contents or create damp interior conditions that can promote mold or mildew or threaten the building or adjacent structures.
  • If a disrepaired building, property site or structure may reasonably cause injury, damage, harm or inconvenience to a considerable portion of the community in the use and enjoyment of surrounding property, the city can take action.
  • If the property, because of the conditions of the exterior, invites vandalism or graffiti, or attracts rodents or other vermin to infest the area, action may be taken.
  • If it, in any manner affects the public’s health or safety, in general, or that of the immediate property owner or adjoining property owners, the city may step in.

When violations of these standards occur, the city will notify the property owner in writing or published notice. The property owner will have 10 days to respond to the notification, either by fixing the items cited or by entering into a written agreement with the city for the correction or removal of the nuisance.

If the city abates the nuisances, the ordinance gives the city the right to place a lien on the property for any and all costs incurred by the city during the abatement. The lien will bear interest at the approved legal rate until it is satisfied.

If the property owner disagrees with the citation, he or she has the right to request in writing a hearing before the city council within 10 days after receiving the notification.

Failure to perform the repairs on the vacant property, after it has been determined to be within the power of the ordinance for the city to cite the owner, will be punished by a fine not to exceed $500.

“This ordinance has been needed badly,” said Councilor Rudy Jaramillo. “People are not going to like it, but it is necessary.”

“We have come a long way in improving the appearance of our city,” said Councilor Jeff Trembly. “This ordinance will help Belen look better and be a better city.”

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Jane Moorman