Affordable housing plan ordinance introduced

Kevin Wilson

Amid questions of commitments, costs and the Hotel Clovis, the city commission made a first step Thursday in the introduction of an affordable housing plan.

By a 6-1 vote, an ordinance was introduced for the city’s affordable housing plan, which the commission requested in January 2010.

The plan will be discussed during a 3 p.m. Wednesday planning and zoning meeting, discussed again during the commission’s April 21 meeting and come up for a final vote as soon as the May 5 commission meeting.

The affordable housing plan, City Attorney David Richards said, allows an exception to the state’s anti-donation clause for the purpose of affordable housing.

The clause states that the city cannot “directly or indirectly lend or pledge its credit, or make any donation to or in aid of any person, association, or public or private corporation.”

Commissioners in favor of the plan point to the renovation of the Hotel Clovis city landmark and the need for new housing for incoming personnel at Cannon Air Force Base as reasons for the move.

Crowder, who voted against the introduction, said he doesn’t doubt that Community and Legislative Director Claire Burroughes has worked hard on the plan, but said such plans have been contentious elsewhere in the state, and Clovis native Vincent “Smiley” Gallegos is being prosecuted for alleged misuse of bond money in another affordable housing system.

He read from the plan that said the city could donate land and services, and forgive permit fees, and brought up a commitment letter, approved by the commission previously as a resolution and sent to Tierra Realty of Taos, which is renovating the Hotel Clovis.

The city is making a $1.4 million loan to Tierra Realty, but Crowder said a segment of the letter — upon creation of an affordable housing plan — would change the terms of the loan to include less liability and an ability to indefinitely defer payments as long as the city has cash reserves.

“It’s going to be hard for (another builder) to compete because we’ve created an uneven playing field,” Crowder said. “I do not understand how this mayor and commission can look the citizens of Clovis in the eye and say we are in dire need of this one-quarter percent tax hike, while at the same time passing a $1.4 million check to a private developer.”

The city is holding a May 3 special election for a .25 percent gross receipts tax increase to help pay for part of the city’s $36 million share of the Ute Water Project.

Richards said the city would be committed to such terms in the letter, but said the deal would also be subject to approval from the New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority, and adherence to the plan — which requires the Hotel Clovis provide affordable housing for at least 20 years.

“It’s not a situation where there are no restrictions on the developer,” Richards said.

Tierra would also be required to seek other funding sources first, but Bill Richter of Clovis said Tierra will be hard-pressed finding grants with budget shortfalls on the state and federal levels.

City Manager Joe Thomas said it would cost an estimated $2 million to tear down the Hotel Clovis, and Mayor Pro Tem Len Vohs said he’d rather spend less money on a project that could help revitalize the downtown area. He said he is a lifelong Clovis resident, with a grandfather who opened a shop on Main Street in 1917, and he would do nothing to jeopardize the city.

Fred Van Soelen voted for the introduction, but said he had some additional questions about administrative fees the city would encumber under the plan. He said he’s troubled with public-private agreements in many regards, but that it’s a reality.

“We gave significant tax breaks to Southwest Cheese to come here,” Van Soelen said. “It’s already an unlevel field because other communities already do this. If we don’t give tax breaks to Southwest Cheese, they’re not coming here.”

Rube Render of Clovis said it was important to note a distinction between inferring commissioners had a nefarious plot and telling commissioners they’re wrong, and Render said it was the latter.

The Clovis City Commission met Thursday at the Clovis Carver Public Library. Mayor Gayla Brumfield and Commissioner Juan Garza were not in attendance:

• Commissioners approved a request for a beer and wine license at the Smokin’ Skillet restaurant on 2018 Mabry Drive. Nobody spoke during a mandatory hearing for the restaurant, which is located more than 300 feet from any school or church, and commissioners approved the request on a 7-0 vote.

• Safety improvements to drainage culverts on the 3200 block of North Prince Street were approved, with a fiscal impact of $45,150.55 to the city’s drainage fund.

• Change orders for $87,109.71 in compensation to Hamon Contractors of Denver were approved. The change order closed out the Hull Street Bridge project at a total of $3.499 million.

• Resident Donald Bird was allowed to repaint a tank known as the “Duster” at Veterans Park, using supplies provided by the city. Commissioner Fred Van Soelen said some recognition should be in order for Bird, who did not attend the meeting.

• Commissioners approved a $20,012.50 from Warner Enterprise for weed-mowing services.

• The commission approved application for forestry assistance grant with the state’s Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, Forestry Division. If awarded, the grant would require a $25,000 match, either cash or in-kind.

• Street closures were approved for 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 23 on Sycamore Street between Ninth and 14th streets for the city’s Easter Egg Hunt; Noon to 8 p.m. April 30 on Main Street from Fourth to Seventh streets for the inaugural Downtown Wind Festival;11:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. April 15 on Main Street between Seventh and Eighth streets for a Tea Party rally; 10 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. May 21 on Seventh Street from Main to Pile streets for a ceremony to add two names to the Curry County War Memorial; and 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. April 23 on Calhoun Street between 12th and 13th streets.

• The Pioneer Days Parade was approved. It will take place 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. June 4, along Main Street from the Hilltop Plaza to Second Street.