“Clean And Lien” Debate Continues

by Reporter / Mar 14, 2019 / 0 comments

“Clean And Lien” Debate Continues

By Arin McKenna

Council passes Española Walkability Audit resolution.

Planning and Land Use Director Alison Gillette recommended that three propertied be removed from the “Clean and Lien” resolution, to be dealt with through Section 302 of the municipal code. Council rejected a similar proposal to remove six properties from the list in December.

Mayor Pro Tem Peggy Sue Martinez asked what steps the owners had taken to bring their properties up to acceptable standards. When Gillette confirmed that those owners had not taken even minimal steps to meet the city’s standards, Martinez objected to removing them without some effort on the owners’ part.

“When we decided to start this clean and lien process, we did this with gumption, knowing that absolutely there was going to be some drawback from the community and it wasn’t always going to be the easiest, most popular decision to go with,” Martinez said. “But at this time we’re halfway down the road, and if we turn back now then I really feel that the resolution loses its teeth almost completely.”

Gillette argued that the $35 a month fine for not bringing the properties into compliance could be used to fund other programs and that it might be time to try another approach with owners who had not responded to the Clean and Lien notices.

“At the end of the day we’re going to have to come to a decision about what our priority buildings are for tearing down. We have a limited budget for what that can be. We have some much more high priority properties in terms of the danger they’re posing to the community, housing transients and squatters and places for drug use,” Gillette said. “These particular properties, while they are unappealing to look at, are not dangerous to the community.”

Gillette noted that those properties were structurally sound and were not being broken into on a regular basis.

John Ramon Vigil was concerned that the standards issued by the city were, in Gillette’s words, “subjective,” since the law does not define what those standards.

“I just want to make sure we’re not opening ourselves up to a liability, where we have a set standard where it’s legally defined, where we can find it and back it up: this is how a building is supposed to look, and it’s not just because we don’t like the way your building looks to me personally,” Vigil said.

Councilors John Ricci and Manny Martinez felt that a $35 monthly fine provided little incentive. A question was also raised about how collecting the fee was enforced. According to Gillette, a 50-percent fee is assessed on late payments and those receiving a third notice must appear in municipal court, where they may be fined or sent to jail. She also pointed out that according to the ordinance, $35 was the minimum fine and councilors could choose to set it higher.

‘We do need to put some teeth in that fine that will make an impact when we start to fine them.

If we allow these building to be taken off the Clean and Lien, we’re setting a bad precedent to the rest of the properties,” Martinez said.

Mayor Javier Sanchez suggested holding a work session to discuss setting legal standards all properties must meet and determining what Section 302 fines should be.

When Gillette was asked, will enforcing Section 302 work, she responded, “We can only try. We try, try, try.”

Councilor Justin Salazar Torres withdrew his original motion to approve the resolution and made a new motion to leave those properties on the Clean and Lean list until after the proposed work session. The motion passed with Vigil voting against.

The Clean and Lien resolution will come before council again on April 9.

Council unanimously approve a resolution adopting the Española Walkability Audit, which was also presented by Gillette.

According to Gillette, the need to improve walkability came out during discussions on the city’s comprehensive plan and was incorporated into that document.

Gillette’s department applied for a Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Grant from the National Park Service. Rather than money, the grant provided the assistance of a community planner. The study was conducted in conjunction with the University of New Mexico Prevention Research Center and the New Mexico Department of Health.

Sixty people participated in the audit, which occurred on the hottest day of summer in 2018.

The audit focused on the west side, in part because of the number of major institutions and public spaces located there: Northern New Mexico College, Presbyterian Española Hospital, Valdez Park, Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park, City Hall and the downtown corridor. Gillette also cited the density of housing and businesses, which makes walking between homes and businesses feasible.

According to Gillette, the two main components of walkability are accessibility and safety. The audit revealed how poorly Española’s sidewalks perform in both those areas.

Participants found what Gillette called “pop up” sidewalks (disjointed segments of sidewalk), broken sidewalks, lack of handicap accessibility ramps and sidewalks that do not meet American with Disabilities Act (ADA) width requirements, poorly designed crosswalks and the lack of buffer zones between sidewalks and roadways.

The audit also noted the lack of shade and insufficient signage to direct visitors.

Audit participants discussed both short-term and long-term options for improving walkability. Short-term goals include repairing existing sidewalks and bike lanes (the goal is to improve all forms of human locomotion)and providing shade structures and signage.

Long-term goals include installing new sidewalks, handicap ramps and crosswalks designed for pedestrian safety and ADA compliance, as well as planting shade trees.

The planning department is also developing greenway plans, working with acequia members to develop walking paths along the irrigation systems.

“We don’t have any trails in this city, like actual walking trails or biking trails, even though we live in one of the most beautiful areas in the state,” Gillette said.

The resolution’s identified goals are to aid economic development, improve the health of community members, reduce threats to pedestrian safety, encourage residents and visitors to go outside and appreciate the Española Valley and guide pedestrian planning in other sections of Española.

The resolution also recognizes the Walkability Audit as a first step toward creating a comprehensive transportation plan. It will also increase the chance of successfully applying for grant and loan funding dedicated to pedestrian and cyclist accessibility.

Mayor Javier Sanchez presented the first Española Living Treasure Award to the Española Presbyterian Hospital Auxiliary.

“This award was conceived because we knew that we had not only individuals but groups, people with a strong heart and people who have contributed endlessly to this city,” Sanchez said.

The auxiliary was founded 64 years ago. It currently has 108 volunteers. The organization’s fundraising efforts provide $30,000 to $40,000 a year for medical related scholarships.

Councilor John Ricci reminded constituents that the Alcalde Transfer Station is now enforcing “cover your load.” Anyone bringing an uncovered load to the transfer station will be charged a $20 fine.

Ricci also announced that members of the Herrera Ditch and Bonito Ditch should attend the biannual meeting at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 24.


Comments (0)

Leave a comment

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.