Alamosa City Council adopts nuisance property ordinance and moratorium on short-term rentals
THE Alamosa City Council on Wednesday gave Police Chief Ken Anderson a new tool in the city’s effort to shut down “drug houses” as nuisance properties. The City Council also put in place a moratorium on short-term rentals while city staff work on a proposal to address Airbnbs.
“Our district attorney has failed to do his job,” said Anderson during Wednesday night’s city council meeting.
During the second reading and public hearing to amend a city ordinance that will address nuisance properties, Anderson spoke on the background of the ordinance.
“I’m bringing this to council because of the struggles that we have had as a city to deal with nuisance issues,” he said. Anderson stated that as of Wednesday night, there have been nearly 40 narcotic operations in the past nine months.
“Right now we’re dealing with overdoses, we’re dealing with drug dealing all over town. Which, it’s kind of a spider-web effect,” he said. “We’re trying to deal with it with other programs, such as L.E.A.D. (Law Enforcement Against Drugs), but L.E.A.D. is not for drug dealers. Narcotic distribution – it’s a disqualification.”
“If I could get the DA’s office on board right now, I think we could probably get somewhere. We have dozens and dozens of arrests and they’re going nowhere,” Anderson continued.
District Attorney Alonzo Payne could not be reached for comment Wednesday evening.
“Clearly we are pursuing criminal charges related to distribution of drugs and those types of things, but the issue we were running into and in all honesty hearing from a lot of neighborhoods is, you know, we’re pursuing those criminal charges and then they’re out on bond the same day conducting the same activity. … It’s something that doesn’t end,” said City Manager Heather Brooks.
Local attorney Karl Kuenhold cautioned the city about the nuisance ordinance targeting property owners. “I feel that this law as it’s written is overbroad and unfairly targets landlords and property managers. … That it needs to be constricted and it needs to have more consideration for those individuals and entities,” said Kuenhold.
Kuenhold noted that, “It’s not just the district attorney’s fault, and I’m not here to bash on judges necessarily, but who gives the bonds? The judges, not the district attorney’s office. Who agrees to the plea agreements? The judges. The DA may have offered them, but the judge can always reject a plea agreement. So, there are bigger forces at play here, it’s not just blame one party.”
He raised sympathy for landlords and the federal regulations and “plethora of laws” they have to follow already.
Dawn Melgares, executive director of the SLV Housing Coalition, took to the podium to address the mom-and-pop and non-profit landowner perspective and how closing properties through this ordinance can potentially negate federal funding, and force closures of entire properties.
“What we’re asking for is the ability to work with you guys to make this something that can both help the police department without it tying our hands further, and potentially causing hundreds of units to be lost in rent assistance, which is dearly needed,” she said.
The City Council, after another hour of questions, and statements from the city attorney and city manager, unanimously approved the addition to the city ordinance.
Additionally, the moratorium on short-term rental properties within the city and the amendment to the city’s Unified Development Code for more housing were both passed unanimously.