County code enforcement department updates commission on issues

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2012 was a busy year for the county's planning and zoning and code enforcement departments, which are now under the community development department.

The department was created last year after organizational changes implemented by County Manager Bruce Swingle.

Jacobo Martinez, the county planner, heads up the department, and gave commissioners an update on P&Z and code enforcement at a meeting last month.

Martinez reported the county's four code enforcement officers had opened 549 cases in 2012, and 290 were resolved.

Breaking it down by officer, Michael Marquez brought in 105 cases and resolved 54; Johnny Mirabal had 127 new cases and 63 resolutions; Oscar Vargas brought in 144 and resolved 73, and Sonny Vega brought in 173 cases and saw 100 of them resolved.

"There are a couple of ones we are proud of. On Highway 47, there was a conditional use the applicant didn't follow. We did take that to court and he was told to stop use of the property for an auto shop," Martinez said.

The property is near the corner of N.M. 47 and Willow Road and was one of Vegas' cases.

"This case provided evidence that the code enforcement team is following up on conditional uses and holding community members accountable," Martinez wrote in his report.

Another highlighted case, which Martinez referred to as Mirabal's "most accomplished," was at 496 Meadowlake Road.

In his report, Martinez wrote that the property has been used as a dumping ground for many years, and after many attempts, Mirabal received cooperation from the land owners, and 90 percent of the property has been cleaned up.

And county flood manager, Hoss Foster, was named Flood Control Manager of the Year by the New Mexico Flood Plain Manager Association earlier this year, Martinez reported.

"To date, Mr. Foster has completed 176 (letters of map revision)," he said. "This means that Mr. Foster has successfully argued for 176 of our constituents to be placed out of the flood zone, saving our residents thousands of dollars in flood insurance costs."

In planning and zoning, the county had eight conditional uses, five zone changes, two variances and two appeals.

"Some recent zone changes were big ones, like the PNM energy facilities," Martinez said. "I want to thank the community development division, the attorneys and commissioners for the resolve shown on each case. Land use is not an easy thing; it's very personal and I respect your integrity."

As the first department to go live with the new Tyler software, Martinez said the department is able to be more accountable in its financing and reporting.

For instance, thanks to the new software, this year more than 1,000 delinquent business license letters were sent out to residents and 796 of those have been brought up to date, Martinez said, resulting in $18,205 in revenue for the county.

The department has also used the Tyler software to track revenues from building and mobile home placement permits, Martinez said.

As of the end of November, the county had received 93 building permits, resulting in $2,325 in revenue, and $6,375 in revenue from 85 mobile home permits.

Martinez reported that the community development department generated $35,855 in revenue from the permit revenues, along with money brought in by filing fees for appeals, zone changes, conditional uses, lot splits and exemption plats.

There are still initiatives the department is moving forward with, Martinez said.

"We have thought internally about who we want to be and what we want to do," he said. "Our purpose is to improve quality of life."

Some goals code enforcement is still reaching for include ongoing education, improvement of effective interaction with the courts and an update to the county's comprehensive plan.

An update for the plan is a nearly 10 month process, Martinez said, and will include steering committee meetings, public meetings and dissemination of information and progress of the process through the county's website.

Another tool the new Tyler software gives the department is the ability to enter current code violations into the county's GIS system and generate a map that indicates cases in a geographical area, color coded to indicate how long they've been active.

"This will allow us to see things like repeat offenders and do a better assessment of the communities," Martinez said.

Former Commissioner Georgia Otero asked if the department's back log of cases, some numbering in the hundreds of days, had been resolved.

"We have resolved some, but not completely. We have re-established the cases with the Tyler system and are moving forward with them in the courts," Martinez said.

Otero-Kirkham asked if the judges were being more strict on sentencing, instead of granting violators more time.

Martinez said the judges have been very good recently at "holding people's feet to the fire. Just last week someone was ordered to clean up their property in 15 days or they were going to jail."

In the updating of the county's plans and procedures, Otero-Kirkham said she would like to see it made easier for developers to file plats and lot splits.

"I think there may be too much paperwork, and we can maybe shorten the process," Otero-Kirkham said. "Not doing away with the process, but maybe shorten it. We may get more development."


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