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County moves to clean up blight

Posted: Thursday, Jul 11th, 2013

County officials say that some progress has been made to clean up this East Alamosa property in the three months since this picture was taken. But it remains in violation of the countyís anti-blight ordinance, so officials are taking action to finish the job. Courier file photo by Rudy Herndon

Courier staff writer

ALAMOSA ó One personís car is apparently another personís garbage dumpster.

When county commissioners gave an East Alamosa property owner 30 days to clean up his blighted property at 391 E. Third St., someone began to fill several inoperable vehicles at the address with stray trash and junk.

The man has made some progress, but the broken-down vehicles themselves remain on the land in violation of the countyís anti-blight ordinance, according to Alamosa County Land Use Manager Juan Altamirano.

Alamosa County Attorney Jason Kelly now plans to ask a judge for a seizure warrant and permission to enter the property, which will allow officials to tidy up the land on their own.

The owner will ultimately be responsible for any costs that the county incurs to remediate the mess. (Those costs will take shape in the form of liens on the property.)

Residents in the neighborhood filed the first formal complaint about blighted conditions on the property in 2001. Yet 12 years later, it was still littered with household trash, discarded furniture, old tires and abandoned cars.

County officials gave the owner several warnings to clean up the land by late February, but Code Enforcement Officer Jinger Tilden said earlier this year that the land remained in violation of county law.

Commissioners responded by ordering the owner to bring the property into compliance, and Altamirano said that some effort has been made to clean it up.

Yet the nuisance is still significant enough that the complaints would probably continue to stream in, he said.

As unsightly as that mess might be, it pales in comparison to the potential safety and environmental hazards at ďDevilís Playground,Ē an abandoned oil refinery near the eastern end of Ninth Street and County Road 110.

The property is dotted with piles of furniture, box-spring mattresses, building materials, tires and abandoned rail cars, among other things. Elsewhere around the site, old wooden buildings are either collapsing, or else they look like theyíre on the verge of collapsing.

Kelly said earlier this year that county officials have tried over and over again to reach the owners to discuss potential cleanup efforts. But they havenít had any luck to date, he said.

However, Altamirano said Wednesday that the Colorado Division of Oil and Public Safety is interested in working with the county to expedite some sort of resolution to the problem.

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