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County makes progress on blighted properties

Posted: Thursday, Apr 18th, 2013

This property at 300 Rio Grande Ave. is now blight-free. The absentee owner installed a bright red fence in order to keep people from dumping their unwanted garbage and yard debris on the land. Courier photo by Rudy Herndon

Courier staff writer

ALAMOSA — The county’s new code enforcement officer has only been on the job for a short time now, but at the rate she’s going, Commissioner Darius Allen jokes that she’ll have nothing left to do.

“I hope you work yourself out of a job,” he told Jinger Getz last week. “If you do, we’ll have to find something else for you to do. Do you like cats and dogs?”

Getz appeared at the county commission’s April 10 meeting to update the board on her office’s latest success story: after three-and-a-half years, it can now declare that one major property is blight-free.

Formal complaints about weed infestations and illegal dumping on the land at 300 Rio Grande Avenue date back to November 2009.

According to Getz, people have been using the land as a dumping ground for their unwanted garbage and yard debris. But the Illinois-based property owner was completely unaware of that fact, she said.

When her office finally managed to speak with the owner in Chicago, the individual promptly hired a cleanup crew to haul the mess off to the landfill.

In another recent success story, a group of people came all the way from Texas in order to tidy up its family’s property near Alamosa.

“I’m just elated about how people are responding,” Getz said.

As of last week, Getz had logged a total of 25 cases. Six of those cases are now closed, while the owners in nine others are working to bring their properties into compliance with the county’s anti-blight ordinance.

Getz suspects that some violators may not understand that they’re in the wrong.

“I think a lot of it is: People just aren’t aware of what blight is,” she said.

In a nutshell, it’s an unsightly mess that may create potential health and safety hazards in the surrounding area, while lowering neighbors’ property values.

Once she explains the concept to them, Getz said those same people often catch on to the idea.

Other citizens are actually contacting her office to report potential violations, while some violators are now working to correct their problems. Several residents have even volunteered their time to help county officials or property owners with their cleanup efforts.

“Cases are coming in left and right,” she said.

At the same time, a number of other blight-related cases are ongoing, and when her office can’t resolve them on its own, it turns to county commissioners for their help.

One of those cases involves a residential property at 261 Bonney Drive in East Alamosa. Concerned neighbors and county officials allege that someone has been dumping garbage all over the property’s back yard for more than a year.

Getz said her office tried repeatedly to inform the primary owner that she’s in violation of the county’s anti-blight ordinance. However, the woman never filled out certified receipts acknowledging that she received the county’s letters, Getz said.

According to Getz, the woman also ignored notices that officials posted in plain sight on the property.

After her office issued its final warning to the woman, Getz asked commissioners to take action, and take action they did. By a unanimous April 10 vote, the board gave the owner 30 days to clean up the property.

Alamosa County Attorney Jason Kelly believes the woman lives in Salida, but he told commissioners that she is aware of the problem.

If she doesn’t respond to the board’s ultimatum, the county may clean up the land and then levy any and all costs onto her county property tax bill.

For consistency’s sake, the same penalty applies to anyone else who violates the county’s ordinance.

If you live outside the Alamosa city limits and would like to report a potential violation in the county’s unincorporated areas, please contact Getz at: 589-3812. You can also drop by her office at 402 Edison Ave.

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