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Committee Skeptical On Housing Rules

SANTA FE, N.M. — Members of Santa Fe’s Public Works Committee on Monday expressed skepticism about a pair of land use proposals aimed at improving the quality of residential living in Santa Fe, saying they want more public input and discussion before making a decision.

One proposal would lay out design requirements for city subdivisions. Another would put in place stricter amenity and other standards for manufactured home developments, often referred to as mobile home parks. The measures are part of Councilor Carmichael Dominguez’s initiative to improve the Airport Road area in south Santa Fe.

But Public Works members worried about, among other things, creating a perhaps unpleasantly uniform look among Santa Fe dwellings and increasing costs for manufactured or mobile homeowners.

The committee agreed to forward the items to the city’s Planning Commission and Business and Quality of Life Committee for review before bringing them back to Public Works.

The committee did approve, on its consent agenda, changes to the city’s rules on distressed merchandise, or going-out-of-business, signs in the downtown area.

Proposed amendments include setting per-day fines of $250 for a first violation and $500 for two or more violations of the distressed merchandise sale rule, clarifying that business owners can’t have a sign permit if they’ve already been noticed for violating sign rules and outlining procedures for obtaining a sign permit.

The measure also requires that signs be no more than 12 by 24 inches and must have an official city of Santa Fe tag showing it has been approved.

Signs advertising sales have been an ongoing issue in downtown Santa Fe.

In 2007, after receiving complaints about perpetual sale and going-out-of-business signs at several rug and jewelry stores, the City Council passed an ordinance placing limits on the size and frequency of price or percentage reduction signs and requiring merchants to obtain permits for them.

The city again addressed price or percent reduction signs a little over a year ago, reducing the number of permits a business owner can get annually for signs advertising price or percentage reductions, decreasing the time frame of each permit and setting minimum fines for ordinance violations.

Land Use Director Matt O’Reilly said the idea is to bring rules governing distressed merchandise signs up to par with price or percent reduction sign guidelines.

Since the latter rules went into effect last summer, the number of complaints received by the city has decreased to nearly zero, O’Reilly said. The minimum per-day fines appear to be discouraging business owners from putting up the signs without a permit, he said.

Committee members were less certain about Dominguez’s land use proposals.

Those proposed amendments would require that at least 90 percent of the units in a detached, single-family subdivision have stucco surfaces on the outside walls and be done in pueblo-revival, territorial-revival or northern New Mexico style or a “contemporary interpretation” of those options. That would apply to manufactured homes.

A development with two to four lots could get by with one model, while five to 10 lots would require two models, 11 to 20 would need three models and 21 or more lots would mean at least four different models. The ordinance would also require that raised homes — those on, say, stilts or blocks — close off the open area created by the extra height.

Councilor Rebecca Wurzburger wondered how the new design standards might affect areas like the Santa Fe Railyard, which is trending toward a more contemporary design feel.

“I want a full public debate,” she said.

The measure would require that all new factory-built home developments consist of manufactured homes. Most of the units people commonly refer to as mobile homes should actually be called manufactured homes, according to O’Reilly. That dates to 1976, when the federal government imposed stricter standards on factory-produced homes.

Developments would also have to adhere to requirements on roads, parks and other amenities currently imposed on only site-built home developments, and it would allow such homes to be constructed in manufactured and mobile home parks.

Councilor Chris Calvert said imposing those requirements could increase the cost of a manufactured home, ultimately discouraging potential homeowners.

“What does it do to quality of life if people are priced out of these parks?” he said.

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