Los Alamos is not a homeowners association – Los Alamos Reporter

BY ELIZABETH CHURCH

I am writing to comment on the county’s proposed changes to the nuisance code. I write on behalf of myself and others who reside in this beautiful setting but do not enjoy the high wages and extraordinary benefits paid to LANL workers. I am a writer. On average, writers in this country earn $20,000 a year. Others who live here – and contribute to the rich fabric of this city – are teachers and nurses, grocers, childcare providers, arborists and carpenters. The proposed code will have a serious negative impact on seniors and others living on fixed incomes.

Los Alamos is not a homeowners association, yet the code reads as if it is. Much attention has already been paid to the proposed code’s snobby approach to home auto repairs. Other aspects of the code as proposed have not received as much attention, such as the provision that would prohibit homeowners from keeping an upholstered chair or sofa on a covered porch – the code specifies that this type of non-waterproof furniture would be prohibited. That’s not to say if the furniture is in good condition or comfortable for someone who just wants to sit and watch the world go by. Instead, it pretty precisely defines the type of furniture an individual can keep on the porch. If it’s shabby, vermin-infested furniture left to rot, that’s another matter. The code makes no distinction.

And what should a homeowner do when the exterior paint starts to peel – which will happen in our climate? The paint — not the best paint — currently costs $50 a gallon. The cost of paying someone to paint is even more prohibitive. What does someone who doesn’t brag about a $100,000 salary do when code enforcers spot a violation? What does an elderly person with limited income do? What does a teacher or a nurse or a social worker or a store clerk do when they are already faced with childcare costs, uncovered medical expenses, food and utility expenses? Does the county really want to force residents to choose between paying their medical bills and making sure no peeling paint is visible? Does the county then intend to dictate what colors someone can paint their house?

The building code enforcement section of local government has come under intense scrutiny in the courts. Recently, a company I used to patronize in Albuquerque for years indicated that they would no longer install windows in Los Alamos, due to the intransigence of building code enforcement officials. Now the county wants to embark on a program to eradicate peeling interior paint? Does the county really want to generate more litigation, this time with another county department? Do we really want to spend county resources going to court to have a chair removed from someone’s porch or balcony?

A nuisance code serves many wonderful purposes: health, safety, and public welfare. These updated provisions are only indirectly related to genuine concerns about these issues. They are, on the contrary, pretentious and discouraging for those who want to settle in this city. You can build as many houses as you want in an effort to encourage people to live here rather than surrounding areas – but no one will want to live in this town if they continue to use ‘health and safety’ as a justification of elitism.

Elizabeth J Church.

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