Councilor David Reagor: Pedestrian Retail Overlay Ordinance Vote

Los Alamos County Couincilor

In an article in the Los Alamos Daily Post regarding our August 10 meeting of the Los Alamos County Council, the major issue was the Pedestrian Retail Overlay Ordinance to create a pedestrian retail overlay of the downtown.  As discussed at length in our town hall and the pages of this paper, this ordinance will restrict the ability of a landlord to find tenants for ground floor spaces. There are two arguments against this type of restriction. One argument is that courts have ruled that this is a taking of the property rights of the landowners and that compensation is owed.  This is the argument made by the county attorney.  The second argument is that the landowners will not try retail in order to protect their grandfathered rights to use spaces as non-retail.  It actually should work against retail availability.  There are more arguments, but this is enough for the space here.

In the end the council voted 5-1 to withdraw the ordinance.  I voted to not withdraw the ordinance.  The withdrawn ordinance is now tabled and can be resubmitted for a vote in a few months.  If the vote on the ordinance were completed and the ordinance failed it could only be revived with a motion to reconsider.  A motion to reconsider requires a two-thirds vote.  This parliamentary rule exists to allow a council or legislature to move on without revisiting a topic over and over.  I think we had finished the debate on this, and were ready to vote, settle the issue, and move ahead to other issues.  Several people have asked for a clarification of why I appeared to vote in favor of the ordinance, but I actually only voted in favor of having a vote on the ordinance.  I have decided to vote against this ordinance, and do not need to wait.

In addition, an article from Aaron Walker that discussed the town hall on August 3rd was published here on August 10th.  He said it was basically a landlord lobbying effort against the PRO ordinance.  In the preparation for the town hall it was difficult to convince speakers to appear and after some difficulty the landowners agreed to present their views.  The favorable views were lightly represented in the questions and the town hall was dominated by those opposed. 

We should have put forth the proponents views in a second town hall, but I did not have the time, or the contacts, to arrange knowledgeable speakers.  Now that the ordinance is tabled the proponents have a chance to arrange additional public debate.