- County will ramp up code violation warnings, citations beginning later in October
Staff in Los Alamos County’s Building Safety Division, in partnership with the Los Alamos Fire Department, are urgently asking citizens to help address property-related issues such as weed overgrowth, excessive rubbish, and rodent issues being found on private properties around the County.
With plentiful summer rainfall, weed growth on private property – especially along sidewalks – is at an all-time high (no pun intended). County crews are busy addressing excessive vegetation along County right-of-ways as expeditiously as possible. Property owners can help the County ensure a safe, continuous sidewalk path for school children and other pedestrians by trimming back their own vegetation growing onto or overhanging the sidewalks adjacent to their private property.
In past years, trimming vegetation, while desirable, was not enforced. Due to changes in the County Code last year, specifically Chapter 18, Section18-42 parts (a), (b), and (d), it is no longer optional for a property owner to fail to address excessive vegetation growth onto or above a public right of way.
In summary, the County Code states that all weeds, brush piles, refuse and rubbish on a property are a nuisance, weeds are not to exceed 18 inches in height, and that sidewalks must be kept clear of encroaching vegetation and overhanging branches. Additional detail is provided below and the full Municipal Code is available on the County’s website (www.losalamosnm.us).
Unmaintained vegetation growth on private property is discouraged for a variety of reasons – primarily because vegetation that dies in the winter months can present a fire hazard in the spring, which is the time when the threat of wildfires is the highest for Los Alamos. Excessive dry vegetation such as tall grasses can cause a wildfire to quickly ignite and spread throughout a community. In addition, storing excessive amounts of rubbish or brush on private property can create an unsanitary environment because it can lead to rodent issues that can quickly spread to neighboring properties.
Responses to code violations have primarily been complaint-driven since the Code changes took effect. However, due to the escalating number of complaints submitted to the Building Safety Division, the County is launching a public outreach effort this week aimed at educating all property owners about these types of property maintenance violations.
Residents are urged to take the next few weeks to survey their property for possible violations and voluntarily bring them into compliance. Available resources include the quarterly bulk and brush item collection that starts on October 5 (please see the Environmental Services webpage for instructions, schedule, and additional information). Residents are also allowed 12 free trips to the Environmental Services Eco Station for waste/yard waste disposal; just show proof of residency at the scale house.
Starting in late October, Code Enforcement staff is actively issuing weed violation notices throughout Los Alamos and White Rock where Code violations are found to exist. Upon receipt of a Courtesy Notice, most property owners voluntarily come into compliance; however, further action can be taken to compel the owner to comply, such as a citation and possible court appearance.
Elderly, frail or disabled residents who need assistance in addressing code violations on their property can call Los Alamos Retired & Senior Organization at 505-662-8920 or they can work with Code Enforcement staff to find help in cleaning up their property.
The County desires to be a responsible partner in the community, taking care of similar issues on its own property. Over the next few weeks, residents may notice that in addition to the County’s normal operational staff performing weed abatement, County Jail Detainees, under County supervision, will be assisting in those efforts.
If you have a specific complaint about weeds or rubbish on County property, please call the Traffic & Streets Division at 505.662.8113, or send an e-mail with a description or address of the property that needs attention to LACPW@lacnm.us.
Los Alamos County would like to thank property owners in advance for their cooperation. Together, we can all work to keep our community beautiful, safe and walkable for all to enjoy.
For more information on these or other property maintenance issues, visit the Code Enforcement webpage at http://www.losalamosnm.us/cdd/Pages/CodeEnforcement.aspx
All weeds, brush piles, refuse and rubbish on a property within the county are hereby declared to be a nuisance and a menace to the health and safety of the inhabitants of the county. The accumulation of weeds, grasses, refuse and rubbish which constitutes or create a fire, health or safety hazard is unlawful and is hereby declared to be a nuisance. It is unlawful for the owner or occupants of any property to permit refuse, rubbish or brush piles to accumulate on any part of the property.
All premises and exterior property shall be maintained free from weeds or plant growth in excess of 18 inches. Weeds shall be defined as all grasses, annual plants and vegetation, other than trees or shrubs provided; however, this term shall not include cultivated flowers and gardens. Allegations that weeds upon a property constitute a nuisance pursuant to this section shall set forth with particularity which plants are deemed weeds, why, and the abatement measures required, all of which shall be included in the notice issued pursuant to this chapter 18.
No owner or occupant of any property shall allow any hedge, shrub, tree or other vegetation, or any part thereof, to overhang, extend or protrude into any street, sidewalk, or public right-of-way in a manner which obstructs or impedes the safe and orderly movement of persons or vehicles thereon.
(Ord. No. 02-238, § 2, 1-7-2014)