Written for GAAR by: Lauren Austin (The Ingles/Company Realtors)
The Planning Department of Albuquerque recently announced that on March 27, 2012 "grandfathering" for an estimated 6,000 properties will expire and become immediately illegal. Any property zoned for a single family residence that has a casita, in-law apartment, or multi-units that contain a "cooking apparatus" will no longer be allowed to be occupied and the owners can be fined and the unit must be vacated.
Prior to 1959 Albuquerque did not have a Zoning Code and at that time 53 years were granted to allow owners to correct the non-compliant situations. Zoning Enforcement has now stated that they will begin to enforce the code unless the owner of the property can show proof that the unit was occupied prior to 1959 and apply for a "Status Established" hearing ($148) or a "Zoning Certification" ($200) which will require an application, proof of non-compliant use historically, and a visit from a Zoning Enforcement Officer either of which must be accomplished prior to March 27,2012.
This situation is further confused by the fact that there are 47 Sector Plans in Albuquerque and each of these may or may not address the issue of multiple units (e.i. house with an in-law apt. or casita) and if the Sector Plan does address the issue the 53 years may or may not begin when the Sector Plan was first implemented or it may start on the last amendment. So, for example, the Huning Highland Sector Plan does address the issue in 1977 and the plan was modified in 1988 so properties in this area may have 18 years left or 24 years left before the properties become illegal.
As Realtors this is an issue that will greatly impact our industry. Imagine selling a property (or representing a buyer) that has a multi-rental unit (house w/casita for example) in a single family zone and finding out later that it will soon become illegal. Imagine trying to find financing for these units.
Over the last few months every question regarding "Status Established" has been met with multiple interpretations that can change week to week. Planning and Zoning can only enforce the laws as they understand them. The City Council is the only body that can address this issue legally.
In speaking with Juanita Garcia of Planning and Zoning (924-3823) on this last Friday she said that she has been asked to suggest several solutions to the Council. One idea was to give a one year deferment to enforcement so that the information could be given to the general public. This has been tried before and didn’t work. It is a stop-gap measure at best and does not deal with the issue that there are potentially 48 different dates (Zoning Code plus the 47 Sector Plans) that will be the enforcement deadline. Perhaps one solution is to suggest one date in the near future that is enforceable for all.
Please call your City Councilor and inform him/her of your concern regarding the "Status Established" issue and encourage them come up with a concrete solution to this issue before March 27,2012.