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Alamosa County steps up blight enforcement

Posted: Thursday, Feb 28th, 2013

This site, which was once home to an oil refinery, is just one of 182 blighted property cases that Alamosa County has tallied over the last 10 to 15 years. Officials are working to raise awareness about the county’s anti-blight ordinance, while encouraging the affected property owners to clean up their land. Courier photo by Rudy Herndon

Courier staff writer

ALAMOSA — If you don’t know what the term “urban blight” means, just go down to the eastern end of Ninth Street near County Road 110 for a quick tutorial.

Off to your left, you’ll see a pair of rusted storage tanks and abandoned rail cars that are covered with graffiti.

In between there and the clearly marked “NO TRESPASSING” signs, trespassers have dropped off scattered piles of furniture, box-spring mattresses, building materials and tires, among other things.

To the north, old wooden buildings are either collapsing, or else they look like they’re on the verge of collapsing.

All in all, the property is among the more prominent eyesores within Alamosa County’s unincorporated areas. Yet it’s ultimately just one of many sites that officials are hoping to clean up — ideally, with the cooperation of property owners.

Jinger Getz, the county’s new code enforcement officer, said her office has accrued 182 blighted property cases over the last 10 to 15 years.

Since Getz has been on the job for just over a month, she’s focused right now on the smaller cases that can be easily addressed.

“We’re gaining ground,” she told Alamosa County commissioners during their Feb. 20 meeting. “It might seem like: ‘only 15?’ But we’re getting there.”

Once they’ve put the easier work behind them, Getz and other officials will turn their attention to properties along the main routes through the county’s unincorporated areas.

“We have several cases that are along the highway that we’re definitely going to be looking at … and trying to get those areas cleaned up so that it gives Alamosa County a better presentation of what we truly are about,” she said.

They also hope to spread the word about the county’s blight ordinance, while educating residents about the recycling and disposal options that are available to them.

In the case of the Ninth Street-area property, officials have tried over and over again to reach the owners, according to county attorney Jason T. Kelly.

“We’ve sent them a number of notices, but they just don’t (acknowledge them),” he said.

Despite that track record, Commission Chair Darius Allen would like to try again.

“I’d be willing to work something out with (the road and bridge department) to go in there and clean that up and haul it off for them,” Allen said. “It’s a mess.”

That wasn’t always the case.

At one time, the property was home to an oil refinery. But that operation ceased decades ago, and since there’s no industrial activity on the property, Kelly noted it would not be exempt from the county’s blight ordinance.

“To me, that’s vacant. It’s not operated as an industrial area,” he said. “It’s just accumulating junk, so I think we can still go through the proceedings that we have under the ordinance, and if they continue not to respond and fail to comply with cleaning up that property, we can take them to court for that.”

If you live in an unincorporated area and would like to report a potential nuisance property, violation complaint forms are available through the county’s land use office at 402 Edison Ave. Eventually, Getz said she plans to post an updated version of the form on the county’s website, www.alamosacounty.org.

To learn more about the county’s blight ordinance, contact Getz’s office at: 589-3812.

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