Belen city councilors considering registration fee for vacant buildings

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Foreclosed or vacant buildings may soon need to be registered with the city of Belen.

The proposed vacant or foreclosed structure registration ordinance, discussed at the city council's Jan. 7 meeting, would mandate owners of foreclosed or vacant buildings to submit an application and maintenance plan and pay a registration fee.

Failure to do so could result in a $300 fine on top of a gradually increasing registration fee or a lien on the property.

"There is a significant consequence if they do not register and present a plan for maintenance," said the city's Planning and Zoning Director Steve Tomita.

Councilors waited for feedback from residents on the proposed ordinance, but heard from no one.

A second public hearing will be scheduled for the next council meeting before councilors vote on the issue.

This proposed ordinance is a tool the city can use to address the public's outcry to clean up vacant or foreclosed buildings throughout the Hub City, said Councilor Wayne Gallegos.

The ordinance states such structures have created blight, depressed property values, damaged neighborhood integrity, created nuisances, threatened public safety and fostered owner's to neglect maintaining sanitary conditions in these structures.

Under the proposed ordinance, residents would submit a registration application.

Upon filing the registration form, the owner will have 30 days to submit a vacant building plan, which, depending on the owner's intention of the property, can be a demolition plan, a rehabilitation plan or a plan to secure the building.

The residential registration fee begins at $100 and increases to $150 and $200 for those who fail to register.

The fee scale for commercial properties starts at $150 and increases to $200 and $300.

"It would start out at $150 (for commercial buildings) or $100 (for residential properties)," Tomita said. "If they did not register and did not submit a plan, then they would be fined $300, and then when they came back to register (the registration fee) would be $200 (for commercial buildings) or $150 (for residential properties).

"In other words, there's some big consequences if they do not register."

If residents continue to fail to register, the city can execute their own maintenance plan and place a lien on the property for implementation costs.

Registration fees must be paid annually on the date of the initial filing, according to the proposed ordinance.

An administrative processing fee of $25 will be charged on top of the registration fee.

Gallegos said these fees are comparable to other cities throughout the state who have similar programs.

It is unsure what the city plans to do with the revenue generated from fees or how many individuals would be affected by the proposed ordinance, Tomita said.

Mayor Rudy Jaramillo said the proposed ordinance still needs some work.

Councilor David Carter said the proposed ordinance is missing a mechanism to determine the status of such properties.


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