BF business owner gets last chance
A business owner in the village of Bosque Farms has one last chance to keep his doors open.
Village planning and zoning commissioners gave close scrutiny to the conditional use permit for Zamora Auto Shop last week, and issued the owner a stern warning.
"You need to take this very seriously," said Commission Chairman Dan Garrison. "There will be no more chances with this commission, understand?
"You have pushed this as far as you can," he told Rodrigo Zamora, owner of the auto repair business. "We want to see you succeed but you can't have contempt for the law."
Zamora was asked to appear before the commission due to repeated violations of the village's zoning ordinance. He was issued a conditional use permit for the property in January 2010, because auto repair isn't a permissible use in the village's commercial zones.
According to Loretta Hatch, the village's planning and zoning officer, under the village's conditional use permit ordinance, the business is limited to having a total of six cars on site, and over the last two years, there have been several violations in regards to that number.
"As per our ordinance, he has two bays and can have three vehicles per bay," Hatch said. "When he is cited for a violation, he corrects it. But (the violations) seem to always come back."
Hatch said during her visit to the property on Dec. 3, the day of the planning and zoning meeting, there were only six customer vehicles there, but on other occasions, she had counted as many as 21 vehicles on the property at 450 Bosque Farms Blvd.
She continued, saying there were other vehicles parked on the property that Zamora said belonged to the property owner, Linda Knight. Hatch said Zamora leases the property from Knight.
"He has admitted he has a problem having only six vehicles on the property," Hatch said. "He will do the work, but sometimes has a problem getting people to come in and pay.
"He's kind of between a rock and a hard place — he can't bring in other vehicles to make money while he is waiting for payment."
Hatch said Zamora told her just that day he was leasing property in Los Lunas to store the "overflow" vehicles awaiting payment.
Zamora told the commissioners when he started his business, he was "expecting six cars in and out, easy. But I've been having problems lately getting paid.
"If I do $3,000 of work on a transmission, people don't have the money right away," Zamora said. "Some just don't come back at all."
He asked the commissioners if there was a way to allow for a few more vehicles to be kept on the property.
The commissioners asked Hatch if it was possible for Zamora to simply park the vehicles behind the garage while he waited to receive payment. Hatch said the total number of vehicles allowed in the ordinance included those in for repair as well as those that were finished.
Commissioner Carl Hulsey told Zamora the commission needed a commitment of some kind from him in regards to working and communicating better with Hatch when a violation occurred.
"We need a way to identify the cars that are waiting for payment and a judge can give you a way to legally dispose of them," Hulsey said. "We don't want you selling them off the property."
Commissioner John Craig asked if Zamora had considered filing for a mechanic's lien against the people who hadn't paid their bill.
Zamora said he had to wait three months before he could initiate the lien process with the state's Motor Vehicle Division.
"Then I give them the VIN and pictures of the vehicle, and they make sure it's not stolen or has money owed on it somewhere else," he said. "That takes about three or four weeks."
Once that process is completed, Zamora can then sell the vehicle in an attempt to recoup his repair costs.
Saying that the number of vehicles allowed on the property was directly tied to the number of bays, Craig told Zamora, "No one is trying to beat you up. At the same time, we can't overlook the ordinance.
"I want to reiterate what Commissioner Hulsey said. Be sure to respond when there is an issue," Craig said. "When you don't, it looks like you don't care or want to communicate with us."
Commissioner Karen McAda, a small business owner herself, suggested Zamora ask for a deposit up front before he began repairs. Zamora said while that helped pay for parts, unfortunately it was still difficult to get some customers to return and pay the balance.
The chairman took a very stern tone with Zamora, saying "I am seriously bothered by your lack of respect for Ms. Hatch, the disrespect and contempt for the law, blowing off the village of Bosque Farms, where you have your business.
"When you came in here, I was ready to hear a motion to have your business closed. It's that serious."
Garrison then asked Hatch what her recommendation was on the matter.
She said her recommendation, if it was the decision of the commission, was to allow Zamora to continue to have the conditional use permit.
"And put a condition that if more violations come up, that's it," Hatch said.
McAda made a motion to review the permit again at the March meeting, and in the mean time, Zamora could have no more violations and would stay in communication with Hatch.
The commissioners also told Zamora he needed to move repaired vehicles to the Los Lunas property he was renting while he waited for payment or the completion of the lien process.
The motion was approved on a 4-0 vote. Commissioner Sharon Eastman was absent.
After the vote, Hatch said the vehicle situation on the property was further complicated by another tenant in a building south of Zamora's shop. Both buildings sit on one large piece of property owned by Knight, she said, and according to Zamora, the vehicles parked near the other building belong to the other tenant.
"I haven't been able to catch anyone there at the property to determine who the vehicles belong to, whether they are operable," Hatch said. "I haven't gotten a response from the property owner herself to verify that the vehicles Zamora say belong to her are hers. It's kind of a mess at that property."
Garrison said while he was "a little high-handed" with Zamora, "the message needed to get through."
In light of the repeated violations at the property, Garrison said he would like the commission to look into "putting some teeth in our ordinances.
"There are people who come in at the 11th hour and push things back another couple months and another couple months, over and over," he said. "The planning and zoning officer is dealing with the same people all the time."
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