Belen City Council discusses property ordinance

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In an effort to demolish vacant buildings lining the streets of Belen, city councilors discussed adopting an ordinance that would give them "more of a bite."

The 2012 International Property Maintenance Code, published by the International Code Council, sets minimum maintenance requirements for existing buildings, including standards for basic equipment, light, ventilation, heating, sanitation and fire safety, according to the code.

This code provides the city with guidelines to beef up its code enforcement ordinances, which would go hand in hand with the draft resolution resulting in removal of "ruined, damaged and dilapidated materials" or vacant, abandoned buildings.

"They (IPMC) have more meat in them," said Lisa Miller, the city's planning and zoning officer. "They have more of a bite in them. They're more detailed and more descriptive than most of the ones we have."

Before the city can proceed forward with the drafted resolution, a code, such as this one, needs to be in place, said Councilor Wayne Gallegos.

"It's just a start," Gallegos said. "We don't know if its the answer to everything, but it's a lot more than what we have right now."

The city has set aside $100,000 for the 2012-13 fiscal year to demolish vacant buildings, as well as attorney fees associated with the procedure. Those funds will be available in July, which is when the drafted resolution and ordinances need to be completed by, said Councilor Mary Aragon.

"There will be something in place for the city to continue with," Gallegos responded.

Other New Mexico communities have adopted the code, along with 39 states around the nation, Miller said.

"It's very popular and is gaining more popularity because people want to write their own codes and they always have holes in them," said Jay Peters, ICC senior staff.

Councilor David Carter said he was concerned about the steps following a violation.

Mayor Rudy Jaramillo said he wanted to know how the city could legally go into a building and tear it down without prolonging the process in the court system.

"If they've made a decision not to do anything with the building, where does the city come in and say, 'OK, you made that decision? We're making the decision to go on in and remove that building that's an eyesore to the community,'" Jaramillo said.

The proposed ordinance and resolution may result in pushing property owners to fix their violations by tearing down vacant buildings themselves instead of continuing to do nothing.

Adding an increasing fee, depending on the property owner's number of violations and re-inspections, may be added into the ordinance, Gallegos said.

The property owners need to be given some type of responsibility for their growing number of violations, Jaramillo said.

"They already know the system and know they can get away with it," he said.


-- Email the author at aortiz@news-bulletin.com.