New rules considered by the Rio Rancho City Council this week would require owners of foreclosed properties to get rid of weeds and graffiti and keep out squatters.
City Manager James Jimenez told councilors there were more than 600 foreclosed homes on the market in Rio Rancho last month, and the city needed a way to deal with abandoned properties that, while they are not an immediate danger to public safety, are neglected and unsightly.
He said the city has received complaints, and there are concerns about vandalism, illegal use and rodents.
Councilor Kathy Colley said she was glad to see rules that dealt with abandoned properties.
“We normally cite homeowners if they have weeds, but if the house has been abandoned, there’s no one on whom to serve the citation,” Colley said.
Councilors unanimously approved the first reading of the ordinance. It must be passed at a second reading to take effect.
If passed, banks, financial institutions or other entities that hold mortgages of foreclosed properties must:
• Register vacant properties with the Rio Rancho Police Department Code Enforcement Division.
• Maintain the landscape and buildings, including removing weeds or graffiti, watering and mowing lawns.
• Secure the property to prevent unlawful entry.
Violations could result in jail time or a $500 fine, City Attorney James Babin said.
In other matters, the council passed a resolution setting the date of the municipal election for City Council Districts 1, 4 and 6 on March 6. Declarations of candidacy must be filed with the city clerk on Jan. 10.
Voters will also be able to weigh in on proposed changes to the City Charter, including making the mayor’s job a full-time position and requiring voters to produce photo identification.
Richard Mason of the League of Women Voters of New Mexico spoke against the photo ID requirement, urging councilors not to pass the resolution.
Babin said the charter recommendations could not be changed at this stage because the council has already approved them.
The council rejected a proposal by Councilor Tim Crum for a study analyzing whether eliminating impact fees or reducing them by 50 percent could stimulate construction and help the city’s economy.
Mayor Tom Swisstack warned cutting impact fees would mean reduced revenues, which would mean cuts in other city services.
He said Albuquerque had tried reducing the fees and found that revenues from increased construction activity did not offset revenue lost.
Councilors Crum, Colley and Steve Shaw voted for the study. Councilors Patty Thomas, Tamara Gutierrez and Mike Williams voted against it.
The mayor broke the tie, voting against it.