The former Smith’s store sits vacant. Photo by Wendy Marcus
BY WENDY MARCUS
Are you tired of downtown looking like this? Do you feel Los Alamos County’s efforts to “revitalize” downtown (while spending lots of our tax dollars) are pointless? Has changing the light posts on Central Avenue ever really done anything to improve local businesses? If so, please join County Councilors James Robinson and Sean Williams and myself in letting the Council know that you support investigating a commercial vacancy ordinance.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to let all of Council to know you support drafting a commercial vacancy ordinance to be reviewed by Council and the public and then details worked out. You can simply put in the subject line, “ I support drafting a commercial vacancy ordinance to be reviewed by Council and the public and then details worked out. ” You could add “I want the Council to pass a resolution in favor of it and ask the County Attorney to draft such and ordinance using the criteria below.” You can cut and paste it.
The long version:
Commercial vacancy ordinances have been used effectively by cities all over New Mexico to battle the large number of vacant buildings in their downtowns. They are completely legal. There are many options and details to be reviewed. This is not the time to decide those details. At this point we just need Council to ask for one to be drafted using the criteria below. The gist of what we support is:
1. Register and inspect all commercial buildings that are at less than 60% occupancy. Owners must bring them up to code. Owners will pay fees to cover the County’s cost on this. Buildings must have an in state agent so that contact is easier.
2. Buildings can only be vacant for 2 years, except for extraordinary circumstances. Once past that time, fees will be assessed.
3. Before buildings are leased they MUST be brought up to code for the building’s intended purpose.
4. Owners are required to get rid of evidence of vacancy. Trash, weeds, unkempt exteriors etc.
5. Make reasonable efforts to lease their buildings through marketing.
6. Fines, fees. liens and penalties to enforce the above.
I know there are lots of details to be worked out. However, we need Council to ask for the ordinance to be drafted first, then we can debate the details. We have to let Council know that we want this type of ordinance.
Here is a white paper on this topic: https://www.nmmainstreet.org/WPBeta/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Vacant_Building_Ordinance_White_Paper.pdf