Council Passes Amendment To Nuisances Ordinance

Public Works Director Philo Shelton, right, and Acting Community & Economic Development Director Paul Andrus discuss nuisance issues with Council during this evening’s meeting in Council Chambers. Photo by Carol A. Clark/

Los Alamos County Associate Attorney Kevin Powers, left, and Acting Community & Economic Development Director Paul Andrus answer questions related to amended the County’s nuisances ordinance. Photo by Carol A. Clark/

Staff Report

Los Alamos County Council voted 7-0 this evening to approve Los Alamos County Code Ordinance No. 02-259, an ordinance amending Chapter 18, Article II, of the Los Alamos County Code of ordinances by amending Section 18-33, Nuisances, to require property and premises owners to keep clear all adjacent and abutting public ways, right-of-ways, setbacks, and sidewalks; and further moved that, upon passage, the ordinance be published in summary form.

This ordinance and code amendment was developed at the direct request of the Council from its session and receipt of public comment on both public and private property maintenance concerns. As discussed there, this year’s rains caused an excessive growth of grass and weeds on public and private properties, including in and around the public way, sidewalks, property setbacks, easements, and rights-of-ways. Such overgrowth of weeds, saplings, and other vegetation blocks and obstructs the public’s use of these areas and is a public nuisance which affects the residents of all County communities.

The abundance of weeds, brush, debris, and obstacles in the public way is also injurious to the public’s health, safety, and welfare as it provides harborage to rodents, animals, and other pests. Together these obstacles block and make impassable the public way and rights-of-ways and deprives the public of the use of these areas, requiring pedestrians to travel within the public road, street, or highway.

Obstructions, including grass, vegetation, and other debris in the public way, right-of-way, sidewalks, and setbacks also negatively affects the aesthetics and livability of the community and may have detrimental effect on the residents in the community as such obstacles create a fire hazard by providing readily available fuel for an advancing fire.

Current code provisions limit the height of weeds on a private property to a maximum of eighteen (18) inches, however, the Code does not address the public ways, sidewalks, setbacks, or right-of-way in front of, adjacent to, and abutting private property. New Mexico statute, NMSA 1978, Section 3-49-1, specifically authorizes local governing bodies to require adjacent and abutting landowners to maintain such areas and keep them clear of any obstructions.

This Ordinance was drafted to provide the least restrictive means to ensure the public’s continued safety while giving county officials the ability to work with property owners to ensure a safe and secure public right-or-way.