By Thomas Garcia
QCS Senior Writer
Tucumcari Mayor Ruth Ann Litchfield, reacting to recent negative views about existing and proposed city ordinances, declared Thursday she has grown “tired of the city, commission and myself being portrayed as the bad guy.”
Litchfield, speaking at the end of Thursday night’s City Commission meeting, said the ordinances enacted or being considered by the commission are intended to help the community. She said they seek to improve and beautify the city.
“We are not only trying to make the city attractive for ourselves, we are doing so to appeal to attract tourist and businesses,” Litchfield said.
“Residents have been asking the city for years to clean up the community,” Litchfield said. “The commission has made headway in those efforts with the use of the ordinances.”
However, for the past three months, residents have been expressing their concerns and displeasure with proposed Ordinance 1136, which if approved, would add a chapter to the municipal code governing rummage, garage and yard sales.
This proposed change would require residents to obtain a permit — at no cost from the city — to hold a garage, rummage or yard sale. There would also be a limit of four garage sales annually per resident.
Two residents, Tony Leal and Dena Mericle, started petitions protesting the proposed ordinance and have spoken to commissioners during commission meetings.
Leal said residents hold garage sales as a way to generate extra money to make ends meet.
Mericle said garage sales also enable residents to raise money while giving them a chance to socialize with other residents.
The city continues to have a problem with people operating a thrift store business every weekend and calling it a garage sale, said City Manager Jared Langenegger, who explained that the existing ordinance is not specific enough to address garage sales. He said the lack of specificity prevents the city from citing residents for operating a business in a residential zone without a permit.
The city could amend the existing ordinance to include the definitions of garage, yard and rummage sales, said Mayor Pro Tem Robert Lumpkin.
Lumpkin said there should be a way to correct this issue without enacting an ordinance that will impact the entire community for the infractions of a few individuals.
At a recent work session, commissioners added two free weekends — Labor Day and Memorial Day — as free days for sales where permits are not required. At that same work session, Lumpkin proposed to increase the number of allowed sales from four to eight annually to address the public’s disapproval of the proposed sale limit.
The ordinance is still being amended and when done will be placed on an upcoming agenda for the second reading. The commission would then conduct a public hearing to allow residents to voice their opinion before taking a vote.
Lumpkin has also requested that Ordinance 1133 — dealing with maintenance of vacant buildings — be placed on the next agenda to be amended or rescinded.
Lumpkin said the ordinance that was passed by the city commission on March 10 has resulted in residents being criminally cited for violation of the ordinance. He said the ordinance as written may be too strict and might need to be amended to reduce the penalties.
Litchfield said Ordinance 1133 has helped in the clearing of weeds from vacant properties and helped improve the city’s image.
Both ordinances will be placed on an upcoming City Commission agenda.