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Los Alamos County Year In Review

on December 28, 2017 - 10:09am

The public lines up to weigh in at a County Council meeting earlier this year. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

 

By KIRSTEN LASKEY

Los Alamos Daily Post

kirsten@ladailypost.com

 

2017 was a busy year for Los Alamos County. Trying to pinpoint the top stories is no easy task but here are five issues that drew communitywide interest:

 

RECREATION CIPs

 

Los Alamos County Council approved four proposed recreation capital improvement projects (CIP) during its regular meeting Dec. 5 in Council Chambers. The Council approved $720,000 for the splash pad, $4.5 million for improvements to the golf course, $1.2 million for improvements to the ice rink and $6.5 million for a kiddie pool. These CIPs were hotly debated throughout the year, starting with a special election held in May. At that time, voters rejected a $23 million general bond, which, in addition to the $13.5 million in the County’s capital improvement project fund, would have funded five recreation capital improvement projects: a splash pad, improvements to the golf course, improvements to the softball fields in White Rock, a multi-generational pool and a recreation center.

 

CODE ENFORCEMENT

 

When the County began increasing its code enforcement efforts, it prompted a strong reaction from the community. There was widespread discussion about how much authority the County should exercise over over homeowners’ yards and houses. During a regular Council meeting Nov. 7,  citizens packed into Council Chambers to give their thoughts about the code enforcement program. The majority who spoke felt it was necessary to have a code enforcement program but it should be modified. Members of a political action committee, Los Alamos County Citizens in Action, Heather Ortega and Helen Milenski, made a presentation to County Council about the code enforcement program. The presentation included data from a survey Citizens in Action conducted on Survey Monkey. According to the survey’s results, less than 14 percent of participants responded in favor of avid enforcement that includes aesthetics as well as taking action to elevate community standards and preventing blight.

 

BEARS

 

Bear sightings and bears foraging in trash seemed to significantly increased this year. This led the Los Alamos County Environmental Sustainability Board to consider revising the ordinance for trash roll carts. Significant changes included requiring roll carts be stowed in secure, enclosed location, issuing fines if the ordinance is violated and requiring roll carts be removed from streets and sidewalks and neatly stowed by the end of the day of collection and set out for collection no earlier than 4:30 a.m. the day of scheduled collection. After a firestorm of public comment, the board decided during its regular meeting Sept. 21 to table the ordinance.

 

TOURISM EFFORTS

 

This year the County began a major effort to enhance and increase its tourism industry. Several contractors were hired to do a number of objectives related to tourism. MERJE, a design firm headquartered in West Chester, Penn., is devising a wayfinding or signage plan; Design Workshop, Inc., a company based in Asheville, N.C., is drafting the Tourism Strategic Plan. Additionally, the Idea Group and HK Advertising, which are both based in Santa Fe, are implementing a branding plan for Los Alamos County. While updating its comprehensive plan, the Los Alamos County Council made tourism one of its top priorities. It is also a major priority for the community. In the 2016 comprehensive plan survey, 85 percent of its respondents said they supported increasing  tourism as driver for economic development.

 

HOUSING

 

A big priority of the Los Alamos County Council is housing. Not only did Council strive to increase the housing stock this year but it also worked to help make homeownership affordable. The County Council approved an ordinance in November to sell 12 acres at the south end of 35th Street to LAH Investors, LLC for $2,175,000. The developer plans to construct an apartment complex. The complex will have 149 units and range from studios to three bedroom apartments.  Additionally, in June Council approved amendments to the development agreement for A-19-A-1 in White Rock and a development agreement for a second parcel located next to A-19-A-1, known as A-19-A-2. The parcels, located off N.M. 4, west of the White Rock Visitor Center, encompass about 60 acres. The A-19-A-1 portion is expected to have lots for 106 homes. A-19-A-2 will have lots for 53 homes. Additionally, this year kicked off the County’s Homebuyer Assistance Program. Potential homebuyers can apply to the program and if approved, can receive $8,000 to $25,000 in a deferred payment, non-amortizing loan to use towards a down payment on a home. The homeowner does not need to make any payments unless they move out of the house or sell the home. At that point a lump sum would be due back to the County. Also, the Community Development and the Economic Development Departments are partnering to bring an affordable rental apartment project to Los Alamos. The County is working with Bethel Development, Inc. in Farmington to construct 70 apartment units on DP Road. The rental units would range from one to three bedrooms and be two to three stories tall.The complex would be income restrictive. Residents would need to make 60 percent or less of the local median income.


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