BY JAMES ROBINSON
Los Alamos County Council Vice Chair
Last night the Los Alamos County Council held our regular session.
The Council began the night with a COVID-19 update. Los Alamos is continuing to see a high rate of vaccination with 84.9% of those who can get the vaccine receiving their first dose and 58.7% fully vaccinated. With the announcement that kids from 12-15 are eligible to receive the vaccine, Emergency Manager Beverley Simpson is working with the schools to encourage parents to register their kids. Upcoming clinics on May 10 and May 25 will hopefully continue to increase our numbers. Last week, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced that New Mexico would reopen once the state achieves a 60% fully vaccinated status. So, we will continue to watch those numbers, and hope to see a re-opening in June.
After the COVID-19 presentation, Council discussed the resumption of in-person meetings. After some discussion, the Council voted to begin meeting in-person on June 8 and directed staff to prepare for public comment via Zoom. The Council will decide later when to allow our various boards and commissions to begin their own in-person meetings.
Next, the Council approved the various items on the Consent Agenda, and then proceeded to introduce several ordinances. One specific ordinance I championed was changes to the “Special Recognition” ordinance. I have been working with County Attorney Alvin Leaphart to get this ordinance clarified after some confusion. The proposed changes now make it clear an individual needs to be deceased for several years before a County asset can be named after that person. The old ordinance was interpreted to mean this, but was overall confusing. This change makes it clear.
Then, Council held public hearing for two previously introduced measures. First, Council approved a lease agreement with Comnet Wireless for use on the North Mesa Water Tower. This agreement has been worked on by the Utilities Department for about a year, and the new service will provide a public safety network for first responders. Next, Council approved a new liquor license application for beer wholesales for the Beer Co-Op at Bathtub Row Brewery. This will now allow Bathtub Row to be able to sell beer at restaurants.
Moving on, the Council then had a robust discussion concerning instructing County Manager Harry Burgess to apply to the Planning and Zoning Commission to establish a new zoning overlay for the downtown district known as “Pedestrian Retail Zone”. Councilor Sean Williams championed this measure and described this zone as establishing limits downtown ground-floor spaces to customer-oriented businesses like “mixed use retail sales, entertainment, restaurants, including food and beverage, and personal and medical services with upper floor residential and professional offices”. This would not immediately change what is currently existing in downtown but would establish new requirements once certain levels are achieved.
Council discussed the timing of this initiative with the Downtown Master Plan and Development Code update currently underway, and perception it sends to the business community. Councilor Williams explained that “Council (as a whole) only speaks through its votes”, and this measure would instruct those working on the plans to incorporate this measure into their analysis and final product for Council adoption. Three members of the public provided comment, with one in favor this measure and two opposed. In the end, the Council voted 5 to 2 in favor of this initiative.
The Council then ended the night with various Boards and Commission reports, and update on the County Manager recruitment process. Additionally, with County Manager Burgess’s upcoming retirement, Council decided to appoint Deputy County Manager Steve Lynne as acting County Manager until the recruit is hired.
As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be happy to help!