By Lorie Hildebrand
Hurley Town Council held the sixth in a series of workshops for Ordinance 23 C – “creating and maintaining a public nuisance unlawful.” Mayor Ed Stevens said the “purpose is to promote health, safety and welfare of residents to maintain outside buildings, lands, and rights-of-way.” “This is for a better community and a pleasant place to live,” further stated the Mayor.
Town Attorney Benjamin Young of Holt Mynatt Martinez P.C. of Las Cruces was present for the first time. He is helping the town to create a new ordinance with public input for the near future. Young has been the town attorney for three years. He received copies of letters submitted by the residents to the town. Amendments or revisions can happen after the town has a working ordinance. Young said the letters reflect residents' concerns that they are being targeted when other yards and lots don’t seem to be. Mayor Stevens said that when people get cited it is then up to the judicial branch to set penalties and make sure compliance is done. The council cannot legally do things to these properties without court approval.
George Moreno, a local resident, said that letters were still going out when the council said they would stop until the new ordinance was finalized. “Notices for weeds over 12 inches are still going out, yet I drive around town and see weeds a lot higher. I see weeds on the town sidewalks over 12 inches. Please explain to the community how evenhanded this is.”
Young explained that there is a statutory process in the New Mexico Municipal Code to “condemn property” because it is a health hazard or nuisance. But it is an expensive and very time consuming process. Even if a court eventually has the town take over a property, it is now up to the town to come up with the money to clean up, tear down, or sell said property.
Delilah Huerta said there are properties in violation that are in court, but the cases are under a continuance. One has been that way since February.
Anselmo Telles had concerns that code enforcement did not know the ordinance very well, or was not interpreting it correctly. He was also concerned about stories of code enforcement intruding on private property to discover violations. Police Chief Jaime Serrano said that the Code Enforcement Officer Delilah Huerta has “never stepped onto, and never will step into, people’s property.”
George Peck had concerns that after several meetings and workshops nothing has been done. “Formalize the draft ordinance or enforce the existing ordinance.”
Attorney Young said he appreciated the community for coming out to these meetings and for submitting comments. He will look at all of them and see how they can be worked into the ordinance. He feels the town is trying to use alternative enforcements to treat each case individually. One idea is for a different letter going out to violators as just a warning before penalties are assessed. Residents then can come to City Hall and ask questions or voice concerns.
Mayor Stevens wrapped up by saying the end results will be better for the town.