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By Charlie McKee

On Tuesday, Feb. 12, the Town Council approved Ordinance No. 1214, which in turn approved the Silver City Metropolitan Redevelopment Area Plan after months of controversy and debate.  The Plan is an updated version of the 2010 Downtown Action Plan, which is a comprehensive approach to cleaning up and revitalizing Silver City's historic downtown area.

The controversy and debate sparked from a single word, "blight," which is required by New Mexico state statute to designate a physical area as a "Metropolitan Redevelopment Area" (MRA).  Citizens of Silver City-from Mayor James Marshall to private home owners in the targeted area-rebelled against the onerous description, concerned for the impact on public relations and tourism, as well as for property values. 

Once an area is designated as an MRA in the state of New Mexico, however, it becomes eligible for a multitude of funding options to enable revitalization projects both to stimulate economic growth and to protect the health and safety of residents and visitors. This meeting was no exception regarding the "B word," with Bill Harris of American Legion Post 18 stressing to the Council during the Public Hearing portion of the meeting that the American Legion believes strongly that their property within the designated MRA is not "blighted" and that the word should not be used beyond the confines of the ordinance.

In support of approval of the ordinance, Charlie Deans of Community by Design in Santa Fe noted the huge potential benefit to Silver City of public/private partnerships enabled by the designation to improve downtown.  Nick Seibel of MainStreet, which was instrumental in developing the original 2010 Downtown Action Plan, also spoke in support of the ordinance, as giving Silver City the financial toolkit to bring sustainable growth to the historic area. Councilor Mike Morones, as sponsor of the ordinance, noted that its approval provides "opportunities for decades" to enhance Silver City's downtown center.

As noted above, considerable review and discussion of the components of the Metropolitan Redevelopment Area designation and the ordinance itself occurred in prior Town Council meetings, which were reported in the Grant County Beat as follows:
http://www.grantcountybeat.com/index.php/news/news-articles/8618-scfd-s-finest-and-the-mra-plan-capture-town-council-s-attention, http://www.grantcountybeat.com/index.php/news/news-articles/8365-silver-city-town-council-approves-metropolitan-redevelopment-area and http://www.grantcountybeat.com/index.php/news/news-articles/8027-town-council-stymied-by-question-of-silver-city-s-blight.

At the outset of the Council meeting and prior to the Public Hearing, Marshall and Councilor Cynthia Bettison reported that Grant County Prospectors, the area's elected officials, and the Mayor and staff were providing excellent input and feedback in representing Silver City and Grant County to the current legislative session in Santa Fe.

There were numerous reports to the Council during the Reports portion of the meeting regarding the following items:

•    Grant County Disabilities Advisory Council Report
The Disabilities Council members thanked the Mayor, Town Council, and Town Manager for their support and urged support of three bills currently before the legislature.  The bills are: House Bills 322 and 323 and Senate Bill 281.  They also emphasized the urgent need to have competitive pay rates for contractors who provide care services to the disabled in order to attract them to the Silver City area.

•    Silver City Deer Management Report
Ray Aaltonen of the NM Department of Game and Fish reported on 2012 deer management activities to reduce deer population in the area, including "trap and transplant" and the killing of deer on private property.  Those killed were sold to the public for $1 each as a source of food for low-income families.

•    San Vicente Trail User Survey Results
Nancy Cliff of the Grant County Trails Group reported on the results of a survey of the users of the San Vicente Trail.  The trail begins at the south end of Bullard Street downtown and completes a one-half-mile loop along San Vicente Creek under Highway 90.  The more than 250 respondents to the survey were very positive about the trail itself, but had negative feedback regarding litter, homeless people, and safety issues.  

Cliff had two requests of the Town Council and Manager: 1) Clean up the weeds under Highway 90; and 2) declare the trail a park as part of Silver City's Open Space and thereby establish an official trail management function that can be staffed through the Town's Public Works and Parks Department.

•    Silver City Police Department's 2012 Statistics Report
Prior to Silver City Police Chief Ed Reynolds' presentation of Silver City's 2012 crime statistics, newly elected District Attorney Francesca Estevez appeared before the Council to pledge her commitment to work closely with law enforcement to reduce local crime.  The Mayor then pointed out that a majority of local crime is committed by the "usual suspects" over and over and over again.  He pointedly queried Estevez as to what she planned to do to stop the "catch and release" policy that is currently in place for local offenders.  Estevez responded that there are three entities that must be working in close synchronization in order to make that happen: law enforcement; the prosecutors; and the judges.  She stated that she cannot make it happen on her own, but will make every effort to cooperate with the other two organizations to try to stop the repeat offenders.

Chief Reynolds then reviewed the comprehensive crime statistics report for 2012.  Most significant of these statistics was the fact that robbery, burglary, and larceny sky-rocketed in 2012 compared to prior year statistics. In addition, the incidence of forcible rape was up by 20%.  The detailed SCPD 2012 Statistics Reports were published in the Grant County Beat on Jan. 19, 2013, beginning with the following:
http://www.grantcountybeat.com/index.php/news/news-releases/8730-scpd-2012-stat-comparison-to-2011  

•    Solar Array Facility Celebration
Nick Sussillo, Director of the Town's Office of Sustainability, announced the completion of the solar-array facility at the Town's sewage treatment plant and invited the Council to a celebration at the facility on Feb. 26.  He also reported that progress continues on developing Silver City's Sustainability Plan 2030, which is focused on reducing Silver City's vulnerability to fire and drought over the long term.

After the Reports and Public Hearing portions of the meeting, the Council approved a Consent Agenda, which consisted of five separate routine resolutions that are passed each year.  They are:
•    Resolution No. 2013-06: Adopting a Fair Housing Policy
•    Resolution No. 2013-07: Citizen Participation Plan Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program
•    Resolution No. 2013-08: Residential Anti-Displacement and Relocation Plan and Certification
•    Resolution No. 2013-09: Section 3 Plan
•    Resolution No. 2013-10: CDBG Procurement Policy

Lastly, the Council approved Notice of Intent (NOI) Ordinance No. 1216, which amends the Town of Silver City's Municipal Code: Chapter 6 Animals.  As with all NOIs, this one allows time for public input regarding the ordinance, which will amend the fees, deposits, and enforcement of the code governing non-neutered animals at large.  The amendments to the code will make the Town's code consistent with that of the County and will provide more incentive for citizens to control and responsibly neuter their animals.

After approval of the NOI, the meeting was adjourned.

Live from Silver City

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