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A swell of disheveled homes peppering Rover Boulevard and seeping onto connecting streets has sparked multiple complaints to the Community Development Department (CDD).
“I’ve lived here almost 50 years and this used to be a beautiful town,” said White Rock resident Mrs. Pete Roberts. “I’ve never lived in a place that had so many slobs that don’t care how their places look. It’s gotten to be an embarrassment.”
Frustrated and fed up, Roberts lodged complaints with two county offices Thursday.
“I told a lady in the county administrator’s office that I stopped counting after passing by 15 blighted homes on Rover,” she said. “They haven’t had a code enforcer for several years and the lady told me that there is a code in place for this kind of thing but it involves a slow process. She also said the bank has foreclosed on many homes in town and many others are housing renters.”
CDD Director Rick Bohn said it makes no difference whether the owners are in the home or the bank seizes it.
“Someone owns every home … County Council asked us to work as much as possible with the homeowners to correct the violations, which we are doing,” he said. “We just got approval to hire a code enforcer, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t been working on these enforcement issues. Some times where the problem comes in is that one person’s weed strewn yard is another person’s natural habitat.”
Senior Planning Specialist Nancy Cerrutti of the CDD spoke with Roberts Thursday.
“She wasn’t able to give me specific addresses for the 15 homes … but I explained to her that we did have a number of complaints on Rover and we’re working on them,” Cerrutti said.
Complaints to the CDD have surged since it publicized the process for addressing blighted homes, which can be done anonymously.
“We’re now getting about 18 complaints a month and this is a good thing because it helps us focus on the concerns people have most,” Bohn said. “But if there is a serious violation and we see it, we don’t wait for someone to complain before we respond.”
The process involves the CDD attempting to call the homeowner to explain the code violation and giving them 30 days to take care of it, he said. After 30 days, a formal complaint is issued allowing another
30 days to comply before the matter goes to the legal department.
“We always try to work with people because sometimes there are hardships involved,” Bohn said. “The goal of code enforcement is compliance not punishment and we find that 80 percent of people generally comply right away.”
Bohn said his department is working on drafting a process to issue tickets and fines and give violators the option to go to court, similar to a traffic violation.
“This will help us with the hardcore violators who repeatedly offend,” he said.
About 6,045 people live in White Rock, according to the 2000 census. Its commercial center has been in decline for about 20 years.
Los Alamos County is in the midst of a major effort to revitalize White Rock by improving its infrastructure and attracting new businesses.
Part of the motivation for this effort is the transfer to the county of DOE property just north of N.M. 4. The White Rock Master Plan Implementation Committee, supported by the Los Alamos County Council, is spearheading this effort.