LOVINGTON — The Lovington City Commission moved forward with a zoning ordinance Monday night that would create an economic district along two major thoroughfares through town amid concerns it would prevent homeowners from selling their houses to their children.
“I’d hate to take someone’s home away, especially if they’ve lived there for years,” said Mayor David Trujillo.
The City Commission voted unanimously to advertise Ordinance No. 569, which would create an “E” economic district along Main Street between Avenue R and Love Street, and along Avenue D between 17th and Commercial streets.
The city commission is scheduled to hear public comments about the proposed ordinance at an April 22 meeting, followed by a final vote on May 13.
City Manager James Williams said single-page bilingual flyers summarizing the proposed ordinance will be mailed to every property owner in the city. He said the ordinance’s intent is to eliminate urban nuisances.
“It’s also hopefully going to increase municipal revenues by having individuals meet certain maintenance criteria and requirements to spruce up their buildings,” Williams told city leaders. “That would make it more attractive to a potential buyer or somebody who wants to lease the location to come in.”
The stated purpose of the ordinance is to “promote, as a matter of public policy, the preservation, protection, and enhancement of those buildings, properties, structures, sites, and incidental appurtenances used for commercial purposes that generate gross receipt tax revenue for the City of Lovington.”
The ordinance states the economic district would be created to “foster civic pride, maintain and improve property values, enhance the community’s attraction to tourists and visitors, prevent urban blight and increase municipal revenues.”
Under the proposed ordinance, all buildings or premises along the two streets would have to be city-owned or operated parks and playgrounds, government-owned or operated buildings, churches, multiple unit apartments, professional offices, hospitals and clinics, hotels or motels, and retail businesses or facilities that generate gross receipts tax revenues for the city.
Prohibited uses within the economic district would include recreational vehicles and manufactured home parks, single-family dwellings, mobile homes or manufactured homes, truck parking lots with an exception for conducting business at the site and buildings repurposed for storage. The ordinance would also make it unlawful to park a tractor-trailer rig, freight trailer, bus, hazardous cargo vehicle, or other vehicle with a gross weight of over 15,000 pounds on streets, alleys, public right of ways and easements, or upon property located within the zone, with exceptions for loading and unloading purposes.
The ordinance would also restrict any building in the district to 70 feet or seven stories and exempt buildings from having front yards. The proposed ordinance also has maintenance requirements, including a requirement that no more than 10 percent of exterior facade may exhibit peeling paint, damaged stucco, or other deteriorated surfaces.
The exteriors of the properties would have to be kept “free of weeds, overgrown brush, dead vegetation, trash, junk, debris, building materials, an accumulation of newspapers, circulars, flyers, notices” and discarded personal items, and the “exteriors of the property shall be maintained free of graffiti or similar markings by removal or painting over with an exterior grade paint that matches the exterior color of the structure.”
The ordinance would allow the City Commission to approve “properly maintained murals of non-offensive nature.”
“Maintenance shall include, but shall not be limited to, watering, cutting, and mowing of required landscape and removal of yard waste,” the ordinance states. “In the case of boarded up windows and/or doors, in all cases the plywood or other covering shall be cut to precisely fit inside the entire window frame and not merely tacked over the approximate location of the wall opening. The covering shall be painted a dark ashen grey or black to simulate a typical exterior window color or by some other color in keeping with the building facade.”
The ordinance would also prohibit any structure with awnings which have more than 30 percent of the “surface area, torn, tattered, or missing for a period of more than 30 consecutive days.”
The ordinance would give the city manager or his designee the authority to require the mortgagee or property owner to implement additional maintenance and/or security measures “reasonably required to help prevent further decline of the property.”
“A statement that if the urban nuisance is not abated as directed and, if no request for hearing is made within the prescribed time, the city may abate the urban nuisance and assess the costs thereof against the person, or take any other action as allowed in this chapter,” the ordinance states. “Any and all costs incurred by the city in the abatement of an urban nuisance under the provisions of this chapter shall constitute a lien against the property upon which the urban nuisance existed, which lien shall be filed, proven, and collected as provided by law.”
The ordinance would allow the city to assess fines of up to $500 per day for zoning violations.
Williams said the city’s Planning & Zoning Commission recommended an amended ordinance for approval after months of consideration. He said the ordinance is intended as a long-term solution to urban blight in Lovington.
“Properties that are currently being utilized for something that is prohibited per this ordinance would still be allowable until the property changes ownership,” Williams said. “It’s going to prevent future problems but also encourage development.”
After being asked by Trujillo how many homes would be impacted, Williams said there are 13 affected single-family houses on Avenue D and seven on Main Street. The mayor said the ordinance’s language would require homeowners who wish to sell their houses to their children to sell the homes as commercial properties.
“That’s the only thing I’m concerned about on that,” Trujillo said. “The home would have to be made into an office.”
City attorney Patrick McMahon said changes in the ordinance could be made to allow parents to sell their houses in the economic zone to their children.
“I guess we can take a look at it,” McMahon said. “It would be hard to distinguish between a family member and then come up with a definition on who fits that family member. If you just say by inheritance, you could bequeath that to your son, your daughter, your mom or dad or brother or your best friend.
“It’s not an easy fix but we can certainly look at it.”