BY MAIRE O’NEILL
The Los Alamos County Council agenda for Tuesday evening’s regular meeting includes the possible adoption of
|Incorporated County of Los Alamos Ordinance No. 02-334 An Ordinance Repealing and Replacing in Its Entirety the Text of Article II, Chapter 18, “Nuisances”|
Since the ordinance was introduced, there has been much discussion on what actually is included in the final version of the ordinance and what is not. There are concerns that some of the changes voted on by the Community Development Advisory Board have not been included and that changes discussed by Council itself may also not have been made. Of particular interest is the section pertaining to consequences for violations of the ordinance and the possibility of criminal charges in Municipal Court being imposed.
The Los Alamos Reporter is publishing the final version of the ordinance that is included in the Council’s agenda package for approval. Approval is recommended by the County Manager and County Staff.
A petition has been filed with the Los Alamos County Clerk asking that Council obtain substantive feedback from the public on this final drat before a decision on the ordinance is made. (See separate story to come) That petition is actually on the Council agenda before the adoption of the ordinance.
CHAPTER 18. ENVIRONMENT
ARTICLE II. NUISANCES
DIVISION 1. PURPOSE & SCOPE
Sec. 18-31. – Purpose. The purpose of this Article is to promote the public’s health, safety, and welfare by establishing minimum standards governing the conditions and maintenance of property and structures to prevent the creation and continuation of public nuisances, as defined by this Article, and to provide a means for abatement, as authorized by State Law. Sec. 18-32. – Scope.
The provisions of this Article shall govern the responsibilities of a person for maintenance of all residential and nonresidential structures, premises, and property within the county. Property, structures, and premises shall be maintained in a clean, safe, and sanitary condition and shall not cause or create a health, safety, or welfare hazard.
Sec. 18-33. – Sec. 18-39. – Reserved.
DIVISION 2. EXTERIOR PROPERTY AREAS Sec. 18-40. – Sidewalks and driveways. Sidewalks, walkways, stairs, driveways, parking spaces, and similar areas shall be maintained in a safe and passable condition, free from obstructions and hazardous conditions. This includes any object that obstructs the free flow of pedestrian or vehicular traffic thereon and obstructions impairing the line of sight, particularly within required clear path or sight triangle per Section 164-2(C)(IV) of the Chapter 16 Development Code.
Sec. 18-41. – Obstructive vegetation. The owner or occupant of any property shall trim or remove all trees, plants, shrubs or vegetation, or any parts thereof, which overhang or extrude into any abutting sidewalk, public right-of-way, planting strip, and clear sight triangle per Section 16-4-2(C)(IV) of the Chapter 16 Development Code in such manner as to obstruct or impair the free and full use of the sidewalk or street, including the interruption or interference with the clear vision of pedestrians, bicyclists, or persons operating vehicles thereon, and including interference with traffic signs, poles, wires, pipes, fixtures, or any other part of any public utility situated in the street or public right-of-way. Vegetation shall be trimmed or removed to maintain a minimum clearance of 7 feet overhanging sidewalk and 14 feet overhanging street height.
Sec. 18-42. – Accumulation of litter, garbage, and refuse. All exterior property and premises, whether improved or vacant, shall be free from any accumulation of litter, garbage, refuse, or vegetative debris which causes or creates a fire, health, safety, or welfare hazard or unsafe condition, except in approved receptacles for collection. Every property owner or occupant shall dispose of all litter, garbage, refuse, or vegetative debris in a clean and sanitary manner by placing such materials in approved receptacles for collection or by taking it to an approved disposal facility. Dumpsters and similar large receptacles shall be shielded from the public view per the requirements outlined in Section 16-4-4(E)(III) of the Chapter 16 Development Code. Compost piles shall be contained or covered to ensure contents are not windblown. All other such receptacles shall be kept in orderly manner and may only be moved to the curb no earlier than 5:00 p.m. the day prior to the day of collection, as determined by the collections schedule set forth by the county.
No person shall dump, deposit, place, or dispose of any trash, debris, junk, or other matter on public right-of-way, public property, or upon the property of another without permission from the property owner of record.
Sec. 18-43. – Movable or temporary storage structures.
Tents or canopies used for storage or metal storage or moving containers shall not be permitted in areas visible from the public right-of-way unless specifically approved and permitted through a Temporary Use Permit and in compliance with all Temporary Storage standards of the Chapter 16 Development Code.
Sec. 18-44. – Rodent harborage.
All buildings, structures, or lots shall be kept free from rodent harborage and infestation, as defined in this Chapter. No person shall place, leave, dump, or permit to accumulate any water, garbage, rubbish, or trash in any structure or premises so that the same may afford food or harborage for rodents or pests. When any structure or premises is so infested or subject to infestation, the property owner or occupant shall be responsible for the prompt extermination by processes that will not be injurious to human health.
Sec. 18-45. – Outdoor storage.
Outdoor storage or accumulation of items in residential zoning districts shall be stored and maintained in an orderly manner (e.g. stacked), shall not prevent emergency access to the primary structure, shall remain free of stagnant water, and shall be located outside the front setback area. Storage within carports is permitted, provided storage does not inhibit parking within the carport and storage complies with the provisions of this section. Items customarily associated with residential uses such as, but not limited to, hoses, lawn furniture, grills and outdoor cooking equipment, sport, game and leisure equipment, children’s play equipment, firewood, etc. may be stored outside provided storage complies with the provisions of this section. This section shall not apply to the storage of such materials within a garage or other fully enclosed structure. Notwithstanding the foregoing, construction materials may be stored outdoors on residential premises for a period not to exceed nine months, or for such longer period of time as may have been approved by the Community Development Director, if such materials are being used in the construction of a structure on the site and for which a building permit has been issued by the county. Outdoor storage in non-residential zoning districts shall be screened from view in accordance with requirements of the Chapter 16 Development Code, conditions of a Conditional Use Permit or Special Use Permit, or as otherwise required by law. All required screening shall be maintained in good repair.
Sec. 18-46. – Exhaust vents.
Pipes, ducts, conductors, fans, or blowers shall not discharge gases, steam, vapor, hot air, grease, smoke, noxious odors, or other gaseous or particulate wastes directly upon abutting or adjacent public or private property.
Sec. 18-47. – Accessory structures. All accessory structures, including detached garages, fences, and walls, shall be maintained to be structurally sound and in good repair.
Sec. 18-48. – Inoperable or abandoned vehicles. Storage or encroachment of inoperable vehicles, as defined by this Chapter, in the public right-of-way is prohibited. Storage of inoperable vehicles within a front yard is prohibited, except if the lot, because of topography, shape, or the location of the structures, cannot reasonably accommodate the location of inoperable vehicles in areas other than the front yard, and there is no safety hazard, then one (1) inoperable vehicle may be stored in a front yard; provided that it is covered with an opaque cover designed to fit the motor vehicle. No more than three (3) inoperable vehicles may be stored in a combination of the rear yard and side yard; provided that they are enclosed with a fence or wall or each is covered with an opaque cover designed to fit the vehicle such that the vehicle is not a safety hazard or visible from public view. This section shall not apply to a vehicle stored in an enclosed structure; to vehicles on the premise of a business where an activity is within the contemplated purposes of a duly licensed business with the appropriate zoning or permitted as part of a Conditional Use or Special Use, provided it complies with all use requirements of the district and any conditions imposed by the approving bodies; or to a vehicle that is in compliance with NMSA 1978, Sections 66-11-1 through 66-11-5, as may be amended, except that when stored in the front yard, such vehicles will be covered with an opaque cover designed to fit the vehicle. Any dismantled or inoperative vehicles, or parts thereof, actively being restored, as defined by this Chapter, are permitted to be stored on the property, provided the vehicle is registered in the resident’s name, the dismantled parts are neatly stored out of public view when not actively being restored, and the vehicle is fully covered with an opaque cover designed to fit the motor vehicle if stored in a front yard when not actively being restored. This section does not apply to the routine or minor vehicle maintenance and repairs, such as oil changes, brake replacement, etc.
Sec. 18-49. – Swimming pools, spas, hot tubs. Swimming pools, spas, and hot tubs shall be maintained in a clean and sanitary condition, in good repair, and properly fenced and secured as required by Building Code or applicable law. No person shall allow any swimming pool or similar body of water to stagnate and become polluted or unsafe for its intended use. Spas or hot tubs with a hard safety cover in good repair that is latched or locked shall be exempt from the provisions of this section regarding fencing.
DIVISION 3. REGULATION OF EXTERIOR STRUCTURE
Sec. 18-50. – General.
The exterior of all structures shall be maintained in good repair and in a structurally sound, safe, and sanitary condition so as not to pose a threat to the public health, safety, or welfare.
Sec. 18-51. – Exterior surfaces protective treatment.
Exterior surfaces, including but not limited to doors, door and window frames, cornices, porches, trim, balconies, decks and fences, shall be maintained in good repair. Exposed exterior surfaces shall be rated for exterior use to ensure that they retain their quality over time and shall be protected from the elements, rust, corrosion, and decay by painting or other weather-coating protective covering or treatment. All siding and masonry joints, as well as those between the building envelope and the perimeter of windows, doors, and skylights, shall be maintained weather resistant and watertight.
Sec. 18-52. – Unsafe conditions.
The following conditions shall be determined unsafe and are prohibited: (a) The nominal strength of any structural member is exceeded by nominal loads, the load effects, or the required strength; (b) The anchorage of the floor or roof to walls or columns, and of walls and columns to foundations is not capable of resisting all nominal loads or load effects; (c) Structures or components thereof that have reached their limit state; (d) Flooring and flooring components with defects that affect serviceability or flooring components that show signs of deterioration or fatigue, are not properly anchored or are incapable of supporting all nominal loads and resisting all load effects; (e) Failure to maintain structures, buildings, or premises to the following standards:
- Structural members. Structural members shall be maintained free from deterioration and capable of safely supporting imposed dead and live loads.
- Foundation walls. Foundation walls shall be maintained plumb, free from open cracks and breaks, and rodent-proof.
- Exterior walls. Exterior walls shall be free from holes, breaks, and loose or rotting materials.
- Roofs and drainage. The roof and flashing shall be sound, tight, not have defects that admit rain or moisture, and drained to prevent dampness or deterioration in the walls or interior portion of the structure. Roof drains, gutters, and downspouts shall be maintained in good repair and free from obstructions. Roof water shall not be discharged in a manner that compromises the foundation, creates erosion, or creates a nuisance.
- Decorative features. Cornices, belt courses, corbels, terra cotta trim, wall facings, and similar decorative features shall be maintained in good repair, be properly anchored, and in a safe condition.
- Overhang extensions. Overhang extensions including, but not limited to, canopies, marquees, signs, metal awnings, fire escapes, standpipes, and exhaust ducts, shall be maintained in good repair, be properly anchored, and in a safe condition.
- Stairways, decks, porches, and balconies. Exterior stairways, decks, porches and balconies, and all appurtenances attached thereto, shall be maintained structurally sound, in good repair, and be properly anchored and capable of supporting the imposed loads.
- Chimneys and towers. Chimneys, cooling towers, smokestacks, and similar appurtenances shall be maintained structurally sound, in good repair, and in a safe condition.
- Handrails and guards. Handrails and guards shall be firmly fastened, capable of supporting normally imposed loads, and maintained in good repair.
- Windows, skylights, doors, and door frames. Windows, skylights, doors, and frames shall be maintained in sound condition, good repair, and weathertight. All glazing materials shall be maintained free from holes and not admit rain or moisture. Every window, other than a fixed window, shall be easily openable and capable of being held in position by window hardware.
- Doors. Exterior doors, door assemblies, and hardware shall be maintained in good repair. Locks at all entrances to dwelling units shall tightly secure the door. Locks on means of egress doors shall be readily openable from the side from which egress is to be made without the need for keys, special knowledge, or effort, except where the door hardware conforms to that permitted by the Building Code.
Sec. 18-53. – Sec. 18-59. – Reserved.
DIVISION 4. ADMINISTRATION AND ENFORCEMENT
Sec. 18-60. – Responsibility for property maintenance.
Every owner of real property within the county is required to maintain the property in a manner that is in a clean, sanitary, safe, and structurally sound condition as not to violate the provisions of this Article, and the owner shall be responsible for any violations.
Sec. 18-61. – Violations.
- Violations of this Article shall be unlawful. (b) Violations may be enforced by issuing notices of violation and, if necessary, by filing a criminal complaint in Municipal Court. (c) Each calendar day of a violation shall constitute a separate offense. (d) Nothing in this Article, however, shall in any way limit or prevent the county from taking any legal or equitable actions necessary to abate a public nuisance, taking immediate measures to prevent the imminent harm to or loss of life or property, or abating conditions that present an imminent danger to the health, safety, or welfare of the public.
Sec. 18-62. – Responsibility of enforcement. The county Code Compliance Officer and Code Officials are authorized to enforce all provisions of this Article. The responsibilities of the county Code Compliance Officer and Code Officials shall include making decisions on conditions of abating violations of this Article.
Sec. 18-63. – Administration and enforcement procedures.
(a) Any person may report a suspected violation of this Article to the county Community Development Department.
(b) If the Code Compliance Officer or Code Official determines that a violation of this Article is occurring on a property, the Code Compliance Officer or Code Official may issue a written Courtesy Letter pursuant to Section 18-66(b) requesting the violation be voluntarily abated within 14 days of the receipt of the Courtesy Letter. The county may take action to abate a violation that presents imminent danger to the health, safety, or welfare of the public per Section 18-71(g).
(c) The Code Compliance Officer or Code Official may re-inspect the subject property after the 14-day abatement period described in the Courtesy Letter to determine if the violation has been abated.
(d) If upon re-inspection of the subject property, the Code Compliance Officer or Code Official finds the violation has not been abated, a Notice of Violation may be issued pursuant to Section 18-66(c).
(e) If the required abatement will require a longer abatement period, the owner of record may submit a request for an abatement extension to the Community Development Director or their designee. The request shall contain the property location, the violation, proposed abatement measures, and the proposed timeframe required to adequately abate the violation.
(f) The Code Compliance Officer or Code Official may re-inspect the subject property after the given abatement period to determine if the violation has been abated.
(g) Upon the failure to abate a violation within the given abatement period, the county may file a complaint charging a violation(s) of this Article with the Municipal Court.
Sec. 18-64. – Authority to Enter.
The Code Compliance Officer or Code Officials shall obtain a search warrant, or permission of the occupant thereof, or permission of the party responsible therefor in the event the premises are unoccupied, prior to entering the interiors of private parties, dwellings or living quarters, or the portions of commercial premises used as dwellings, or the non-public portions of commercial premises. Where it is necessary to make an inspection to enforce the provisions of this Article, or whenever the Code Compliance Officer or Code Official has reasonable cause to believe that there exists in a structure or upon a premises a condition in violation of this Article, the Code Compliance Officer or Code Official is authorized to enter the structure or premises at reasonable times to inspect or perform the duties imposed by this code. The provisions of this section do not apply in the event of explosion, fire, or like emergency.
Sec. 18-65. – Abatement and Lien.
The county is authorized to take affirmative action in accordance with NMSA 1978, Section 3-185, as may be amended, to abate a violation of this Article, and may place a lien on the real property for the reasonable costs of abatement, and the lien shall bear interest at the rate of twelve (12) percent per year from the date of filing the notice of the lien.
Sec. 18-66. – Notice.
- The Code Compliance Officer or Code Official shall issue all necessary notices or violation orders to ensure compliance with this Article.
- Whenever a violation is observed, the Code Compliance Officer or Code Official may send a written Courtesy Letter directed to the owner of record of the property, as identified in the records of the County Tax Assessor, to make them aware of the violation and to request abatement of the violation. The Courtesy Letter shall also be sent to the property address where the violation exists, if the property address is different from the address for the owner of record.
The content of the Courtesy Letter shall contain:
(1) A description of the violation, including the location of the violation in question;
(2) A description of corrective action to abate the violation;
(3) A request to complete all corrective action within 14 days after receipt of notification; and (4) The contact information for the Code Compliance Officer or Code Official.
- The Courtesy Letter may be served either personally or by certified mail. In the event that re-inspection of the property after the 14-day period finds the violation was not abated and no abatement extension has been established per Section 18-63(e), the Code Compliance Officer or Code Official may send a Notice of Violation to the owner of record, as identified in the records of the County Tax Assessor, to abate the violation. The Notice of Violation shall also be sent to the property address where the violation exists, if the property address is different from the address for the owner of record.
The content of the notice shall contain:
(1) A description of the violation, including the location of the violation in question
(2) A description of all corrective action required to abate the violation;
(3) A time period not less than 14 days or more than 30 days after service of the Notice of Violation, by which the owner must complete all corrective action; and
(4) The contact information for the Code Compliance Officer or Code Official.
A Notice of Violation shall be served on the owner personally or by certified mail. In the event the certified mail is returned undelivered, the owner of the property cannot be determined, or the owner does not respond to the Notice of Violation, such notice shall be served by affixing a copy of the Notice of Violation in a conspicuous location upon the premises.
- Nothing in this Section shall in any way limit or prevent the county from taking immediate measures to prevent the imminent harm to persons or property, or abating conditions under this or other chapters of the Code which present an imminent danger to the health, safety, or welfare of the public.
Sec. 18-67. – Penalties for violation.
Any person who convicted of a violation of any provision of this Chapter shall be sentenced in accordance with Section 1-8 of the Los Alamos County Code.
Sec. 18-68. – Sec. 18-69. – Reserved