Los Alamos County Council unanimously approved an ordinance creating a new County code for addressing and road naming during the Nov. 27 regular council meeting.
Los Alamos County Planning Manager Tamara Baer explained staff recommended changes and clarifications to the original ordinance, first introduced Aug. 9 to council. The Planning Zoning Commission, which discussed the ordinance at its meeting of Sept. 26, voted unanimously to recommend Council approval.
One of the biggest issues with the new code dealt with incorporating the entirety of the County Charter language regarding “Authority to Enter.”
This section of the Charter reads: “All laws governing the County, for the purpose of public safety, health and welfare, and pertaining to the inspections and investigations required thereunder, shall in their adopting ordinances and in codes adopted by reference thereby, have an ‘Authority to Enter’ section … and shall further state: ‘This authority to enter shall not include the interiors of private parties, dwellings or living quarters, or the portions of commercial premises used as dwellings, or the non-public portions of commercial premises, except upon obtaining a search warrant, or permission of the occupant thereof, or permission of the party responsible therefor in the event the premises are unoccupied. The provisions of this section do not apply in the event of explosion, fire or emergency.’”
County Assistant Attorney Kevin Powers said there was a discussion in the community surrounding the section on authority to enter a private property. Powers said this is pursuant to the County’s charter, adding, “This is just additional notice to residents that are times when we do have to enter your property (for health, safety and wellness).”
Another revision proposed for the ordinance was that language for road naming read, “In order to avoid duplication of addresses and confusion for emergency services, roads shall have unique names.” Language specifying that roads have name and type was removed.
Powers explained the code is not retroactive, only new development or new construction on existing properties will be affected.
County Engineer Eric Martinez said the revising the code “was a team effort because it crosses so many departments.”
He explained the county information management system for property taxes, utility billing and 911 emergency response is primarily address-based. The ordinance, Martinez said, gives consistency to addressing and proactively ensures the County’s addressing information is managed.
From the emergency response perspective, Fire Chief Troy Hughes said the revised code helps responders get the correct address.
Consolidated Dispatch Center Manager Kate Stoddard added the ordinance will enable responders to identify more quickly the location of calls.
“Any seconds we can save, any minutes we can save will save lives,” she said.
While Councilor Antonio Maggiore supported the ordinance, he questioned why the ordinance was not retroactive. He wondered how it would solve problems for dispatch or the fire department to locate existing houses that are not logically laid out.
Martinez said Maggiore’s assessment is correct but added County staff have met with property owners to work out the most problematic addresses and help clarify the problem areas.
Councilor Pete Sheehey said he appreciated the work done regarding the code’s authority to enter policy.
“Inclusion of the charter to clarify when the County can enter private property should ease concerns of citizens that their privacy would be violated,” he said.