Edgewood eyes weeds in zoning law revision

Edgewood is seeking to revise the town zoning ordinance, adding language about nuisances including uncut weeds, and giving more administrative power to the town on zoning violations.

A crowded agenda for Edgewood town council’s Sept. 20 meeting includes a public hearing and possible adoption of a revision of its zoning ordinance.

Many of the changes clean up language, making it standard throughout, while others, like changes to the way the town deals with “nuisances” of various sorts, are more substantial. For example, the proposed ordinance consolidates language about prohibited land uses into a single spot rather than repeating that clause over and over throughout the document.

Under the previous version of the zoning ordinance, a property had to be declared a nuisance by the town council, with that decision appealable to district court.

Under the proposed version, the town enables its “Planning and Zoning Official” to initiate a process that can end with Edgewood’s condemnation of a property. To condemn a property is still an action that would have to be taken by the town council.

The proposed ordinance adds a definition for “nuisance vegetation,” defined as follows: “The unmaintained spread of invasive plants and/or weeds: For the purposes of this Ordinance, weeds shall include all plants identified as noxious weeds by the New Mexico Department of Agriculture,” as well as weeds that impair visibility, pose a fire hazard or provide homes for “rodents, venomous reptiles or other vermin.”

Previously, the zoning ordinance prohibited “invasive or nuisance unmaintained plants or weeds” and trash, along with inoperative vehicles.

The section is substantially rewritten, with longer and more specific restrictions than what the ordinance had allowed for previously.

In addition to vegetation, including plants that block visibility of the road or driveways or create a fire hazard, if approved, the town would now prohibit “unsightly storage.”

All parked vehicles would have to be registered whether they are operational or not; parked vehicles would not be allowed to have flat tires or be missing parts required for the car to operate. Parked cars would have to be in the process of “being actively restored” and would not be allowed as a storage space, except under certain conditions.

The proposed ordinance would also prohibit vehicles “stored on an unimproved surface surrounded by weeds or other nuisance vegetation.”

Storage areas would have to be covered and “visually screened from all property lines.” The proposed ordinance continues, “Such screening may be achieved by a solid wall or fence or by an evergreen or similar type hedge(s) at least six (6) feet high.” In addition, the proposal would require all storage areas to be kept free from weeds.

The proposal also adds language allowing for “customary property uses” including seasonal storage of firewood and “the usual practices associated with animal and plant husbandry,” with certain conditions, for example, that the use does not present a fire hazard.

The town council’s agenda for its Sept. 20 meeting includes the proposed changes to the zoning ordinance as an action item, meaning that the council can vote to approve it that night.

Perhaps the most substantial change of all is in the new authority given to the town’s “planning and zoning official(s).”

In the previous version of the ordinance, the planning and zoning official was directed by the town council in inspecting properties, and could then initiate a process including citations that could lead to condemnation of the property.

Under the new proposal, the planning and zoning official would be required to inspect all properties, and would be required to issue a citation if he or she believes the property violates the ordinance. Only the most egregious cases would require action by the town council.

The length of time a person has to respond to a citation decreases from 60 days to 10 days under the proposed ordinance, with the planning and zoning official authorized to put in place corrective action plans, which he or she would then be responsible for checking on every two weeks until the violation is corrected.

The ordinance, with changes, is available at the town’s website, edgewood-nm.gov.