P&Z Commission Approves Street Address Ordinance

During the Wednesday, Sept. 26 Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, Los Alamos County Planning Manager Tamara Baer holds up a sign to demonstrate how large font needs to be in order to be seen from 50 feet away. This is the requirement for street addresses. Photo by Kirsten Laskey/ladailypost.com
 
By KIRSTEN LASKEY
Los Alamos Daily Post
kirsten@ladailypost.com

Los Alamos County Planning and Zoning Commissioners passed a recommendation for County Council to approve an ordinance regarding requirements for address and road naming on streets, sidewalks and other public places.

The recommendation was approved Wednesday, Sept. 26, during the regular Commissioners meeting in Council Chambers. Although the recommendation passed, Commissioners did make some changes. For instance, they requested 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.’”

Furthermore, the Commission asked that language for road naming read, “In order to avoid duplication of addresses and confusion for emergency services, roads shall have unique names.” Also, the request that roads have name and type was removed.

County Engineer Eric Martinez said this type of ordinance is common in many cities and counties and it affects emergency services. According to agenda documents, the ordinance establishes and formalizes a process for creating new addresses, new road names and changing existing addresses or road names.

For instance, the ordinance requires that address number be posted clearly on the property so emergency services can easily determine the address from the street. Addresses need to be visible seen from a distance of 50 feet.

The ordinance’s primary purpose, as stated in the agenda documents, is to “ensure public safety by facilitating the easy and rapid location by Emergency Services.”

Additionally, the ordinance deals with coordination of orderly growth, development approval and construction-permitting services, accurate property taxation and utility billing. It also benefits postal delivery and other services.

Consolidated Dispatch Center Manager Kate Stoddard said street addresses are important because most calls to dispatch are made with cell phones, which makes it difficult to pinpoint the location. It can be stressful, Stoddard added, for the dispatcher and the caller to wait for the first responder to arrive. As an example, she said dispatchers may need to walk a caller through performing CPR until the responder shows up.

Fire Chief Troy Hughes said he really didn’t see this as a code enforcement issue.

“I really see it as (a way) for the County to coordinate addresses,” he said.

The ordinance, Hughes said, “gets it right the first time.”

Assistant County Attorney Kevin Powers explained that the County can enforce the ordinance. 

“If we don’t have an ordinance in place we don’t have anything to enforce,” he said, adding that the ordinance is mainly for new construction addresses or new roads. It will not be retroactive.

David North of Los Alamos spoke during the meeting and said, “I completely agree, a law like this is a good idea.”

He also said that he felt the sentence, “In order to avoid duplication of addresses and confusion for emergency services, roads shall have unique names consisting of a name and a type,” needed to be revised. North pointed out that there is no practical logic for a suffix. The Commission agreed and recommended removal of the requirement for a suffix, or road type.

The ordinance was originally brought before Los Alamos County Council during its Aug. 28 meeting. However, due to concerns regarding the County’s ability to enter private property, Council Vice Chair Christine Chandler recommended the issue be brought to the Planning and Zoning Commission for review.

At this time there is no scheduled date for the ordinance to return to Council.

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