City proposal targets vacant buildings, related blight - Albuquerque Journal

City proposal targets vacant buildings, related blight

A bipartisan pair of city councilors is taking aim at the blighted, vacant buildings that dot much of the old Route 66 and other parts of Albuquerque.

The Parkland Hills shopping center near San Mateo and Katherine SE remains boarded up. A proposed city ordinance would allow property owners to use boards to cover doors and windows only for 180 days. The owner would have to find a better way to secure the property after that. (Dean Hanson/Albuquerque Journal)
The Parkland Hills shopping center near San Mateo and Katherine SE remains boarded up. A proposed city ordinance would allow property owners to use boards to cover doors and windows only for 180 days. The owner would have to find a better way to secure the property after that. (Dean Hanson/Albuquerque Journal)

Republican Don Harris and Democrat Pat Davis want to require property owners to remove weeds, fix exterior walls and meet other standards if they leave a building boarded-up and unoccupied for three months.

The proposal already has drawn criticism from NAIOP, the commercial real estate development association, which says the bill is too broad and goes too far.

Harris and Davis – whose districts cover the neighborhoods along East Central Avenue, the old Route 66 – say they’re trying to strike the right balance, not impose unnecessary requirements.

Vacant buildings and shopping centers, they say, are a source of neighborhood complaints and calls to police.

“It drags down our quality of life,” Harris said Wednesday in an interview.

Davis said one vacant shopping center in his district generated more than 50 calls to the city over a two-year period. People complain about dead animals, homeless encampments, deteriorating walls and other problems – a drain on city resources, he said.

“What could we have done with all that police time?” Davis asked.

Lynne Andersen, president of the state chapter of NAIOP, said the bill should focus more clearly on property owners who cause problems, not the vast majority who maintain their buildings.

“The bill is not narrowly focused enough to handle the bad actors,” Andersen said. “Its net pulls in just about everybody that owns a building.”

The proposal, for example, calls for owners to register their vacant buildings with the city and designate a local person to handle complaints.

“Just because a building is vacant doesn’t mean it’s an eyesore or causing criminal problems,” she said.

The rules in place now generally just focus on securing vacant structures, not necessarily keeping them in a presentable state, supporters of the bill say.

The proposed ordinance generally defines a vacant building as a commercial structure that’s been unoccupied for three months without signs of construction.

Property owners who violate the law would be subject to daily $500 fines and other penalties – even demolition by city crews if the problem persists for a year. City Council and district court approval would be required before demolition.

The bill would require property owners to register vacant buildings with the city for $100 every six months and obtain liability insurance of at least $1 million. Owners would need to register a building within 30 days of it becoming vacant.

The proposal would require owners of vacant buildings to:

• Remove weeds and trash.

• Post “no trespassing” signs.

• Fix holes in exterior walls. Boarded-up windows and doors would be allowed only for up to 180 days.

• Clean up graffiti within 48 hours.

The bill is months away from final consideration. Harris and Davis said they are open to making changes.

The proposal has been referred to the city’s Environmental Planning Commission for a recommendation before it comes back to the City Council.

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