At Tuesday’s Silver City Town Council meeting, councilors approved a notice of intent to approve a resolution that scraps Section 32-50 of the town’s nuisance code dealing with “Unattended Vacant Buildings” — because it was unenforceable — and heard about a new music and culture festival coming to Gough Park over the Labor Day weekend.
In October 2012, the town chaptered an ordinance in the nuisance code placing certain responsibilities on commercial property owners that councilors hoped would spur more maintenance and upkeep of sometimes historic downtown buildings. Some of those buildings were — and still are — vacant, or simply used for storage, or have no one locally accountable for the condition of the property.
The ordinance set forth conditions to be met after a property was left vacant for more than 45 days. These included registering the vacant building, having proof of insurance, keeping up the property in certain ways, posting “no trespass” signs and ensuring the building was not accessible.
Tuesday, though, District 2 Councilor Lynda Aiman-Smith put forward a notice of intent to remove the nuisance vacant property ordinance in response to a judge’s decision that found the town’s selective enforcement of the existing ordinance problematic.
“We went to court over something that was about maintaining your storefront in a particular way, and the judge asked if we were enforcing the rest of the ordinance,” said Robert Scavron, town attorney. The town wasn’t keeping up registrations of vacant commercial buildings, inspecting insurance policies or any of the other elements in the vacant building nuisance code. “We had an ordinance that the courts said was unenforceable unless you enforce the whole thing. The judge said, ‘This is part of a comprehensive ordinance, right? You can’t pick and choose which parts you want to enforce.’
“Having stuff on your books that you’re not enforcing — it’s not a good policy,” Scavron said.
Aiman-Smith explained to her fellow councilors that her proposed solution would scrap the current vacant property rule until the town figured out a new one. She outlined the problems that the vacant property ordinance was supposed to remedy.
“We have a designated historic downtown with commercial buildings that are historic, some of which are historically significant,” she said. “These buildings contribute to our town’s character. The challenge for potential property developers is that any non-maintained, visibly unoccupied commercial buildings which might have a long, rich history — which may have been wonderful bakeries or hotels or department stores or theaters — those buildings may be very costly to repurpose.”
Aiman-Smith went even further, saying that overall, unattended buildings were a menace to the downtown community.
“Their declining status may contribute to blight, declining property values and to fire hazards and magnets for crime,” she said.
Aiman-Smith said the new ordinance would be enforceable and would actually improve the town’s ability to hold property owners accountable — a perennial problem downtown, where some properties are owned by out-of-state individuals or companies. That hurts downtown economic development and property values on top of being a quality-of-life issue, she said.
Silver City MainStreet Executive Director Charmeine Wait recently told the Daily Press that the southern portion of the Vesely Building is one such property.
“MainStreet isn’t 100 percent sure who owns it. The Vesely Building needs to be fixed up, and it has an out-of-state owner. Out-of-state owners use buildings as a tax write-off, and it hurts communities,” she said.
Councilors also heard about plans for a new music event that organizers hope to make an annual production.
During public comment at Tuesday’s meeting, Silver City resident-turned-organizer Al Gamboa described an exciting-sounding addition to Silver City’s festival scene called Carnitas, Musica y Mas, to take place less than three weeks from now, on Labor Day weekend.
“We went full-boat on this,” Gamboa told councilors. “We were really inspired watching a documentary about the Woodstock festival on PBS a few days ago. It was kind of impromptu, but it really came together.”
The festival, which is the brainchild of District 3 Councilor Jose Ray — and also includes all-around Silver City good-times man Raul Turrieta and Senior Olympian and organizer Mario Quintana in the ranks of its coordinating committee — promises Spanish, mariachi, country and rock ’n’ roll music, plus a car show and other “competitive events.” Obviously, food will feature heavily at the event as well.
Gamboa said “almost all the bands have some connection to the area.” A lineup is forthcoming, and some slots remain open. Gamboa invited musicians to contact him at 915-526-1445 to pitch their act.
He said the festival is intended — along with the Blues Festival — to bookend the many events so important to Silver City summers. Gough Park will be fenced off — “like the Wine Festival,” Gamboa said — for the three-day festival; admission will be $5 per day.
“It will kick off at 4:30 on Friday with the presentation of the colors by the Vietnam Veterans Association, and it will run Friday afternoon until 11 p.m., Saturday from 12 noon to 11 p.m. and Sunday from 12 to 6 p.m.”
Gamboa told the Daily Press that alcohol sales at the event are “in the works.”
Geoffrey Plant may be reached at geoff@scdaily press.com.