ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – It’s a problem that can pop up anywhere there’s a vacant lot. Some northwest Albuquerque residents said they’ve had enough of a popular roadside dirt lot being used to sell used cars right next to their homes. Residents claim it draws crime, vandalism, and unwanted traffic into their neighborhoods. KRQE News 13 got answers from city and state officials.
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Anyone driving past Coors and Glenrio in northwest Albuquerque knows the dirt lot across from a vacant Pizza Hut is chock-full of used cars for sale. “There’s a small, little dinky sign that says, ‘no parking at any time,'” a neighbor explained. When asked if the signs are working, she replied, “No.”
The makeshift car dealership isn’t just an eyesore for neighbors who live next to it, it’s also illegal. “They keep saying they’re gonna come and clean it, and they don’t see it as a problem because they don’t listen to what we have to say here in this neighborhood,” said one woman.
Neighbors didn’t want to go on camera, saying they’ve had confrontations with some people blocking their driveways. KRQE News 13 was initially alerted to the problem by a viewer, who said they’ve sent numerous complaints about this lot to the city to no avail.
“My parents live in the area and they are fed up with the homeless and crime, and something like this contributes to that,” the viewer wrote. Other neighbors agree.
“I’ve actually had people come and literally use my yard as a restroom,” said one woman. She and other neighbors said the traffic increases exponentially during weekends.
Some of the sellers have had vehicles vandalized in the dirt lot, or tires stolen. In order to avoid leaving vehicles exposed overnight, neighbors said the sellers will sometimes park the used cars in people’s driveways overnight.
Google Street view shows the lot mostly empty in 2014, then more used cars parked there for sale in 2016, and in 2017. Neighbors say it’s particularly frustrating during the weekends when the used car lot is full of parked vehicles and people looking to buy them.
What’s being done about this?
KRQE News 13 reached out to the City of Albuquerque, who said the dirt lot is actually owned by the New Mexico Department of Transportation. “It’s within our right of way, and we have met with the city on several occasions,” explained Kimberly Gallegos, spokeswoman for NMDOT, District 3.
Gallegos said the city took residential complaints via 311 and notified state officials. “About a month ago, we placed ‘no parking’ signs, and so those have been put out in regards to the city ordinance,” said Gallegos. “But apparently, there’s still people parking out there.”
A man trying to sell some of the used vehicles told KRQE News 13 off-camera that this is how he makes his living; he buys used cars, fixes them up, and sells them out of this lot. When asked who owns the lot, the private seller said he didn’t know.
That’s part of the problem, according to a Bernalillo County ordinance. The ordinance states private individuals may display a vehicle for sale at their home or work address, and goes on to state, “…a vehicle may be displayed for sale at another location which satisfies the provisions of the zoning code, if permission is obtained from the owner or lessee of such property.”
When asked if the NMDOT gave anyone permission to sell cars there, Gallegos replied, “No, we did not. Certainly did not.”
NMDOT said it’ll work with law enforcement to help enforce the no parking signs, issue warnings, and if needed, ticket people for parking or vending in a right of way. “With the help of law enforcement, we should be able to alleviate this issue soon,” said Gallegos.
According to the City of Albuquerque, the property owner of a vacant Pizza Hut nearby had to put up a fence for this very reason, to keep used cars from piling onto the lot.
Warnings for consumers
The unwanted traffic is just part of the problem. There are also safety concerns for consumers, anyone buying a car from a dirt lot on the side of the road.
The New Mexico Independent Auto Dealers Association warns of “curbstoning,” someone selling used cars on the sly to avoid city or state regulations that apply to authorized car dealers.
In some cases, the seller may not actually own the vehicle. Buyers looking for a deal can find themselves with a salvaged title, vehicles with serious hidden mechanical issues, or falsified mileage.
Someone may unknowingly buy a stolen vehicle, and have no recourse without a warranty or being able to track down the seller. “Just because it feels like nothing is happening, please know that we have an inquiry log,” Gallegos explained. “So we take these calls very seriously.”
Neighbors who spoke with News 13 said they’re still waiting for someone to clean it up. “Actually clean it up. If you’re really trying to sell a car, go online, everybody’s online.”
Gallegos said the NMDOT cannot put up a fence or tow vehicles in the dirt lot. However, she said law enforcement can start issuing tickets and helping to enforce the ‘no parking’ signs.
State and city officials are still encouraging people to call 311 with issues in their neighborhood. Gallegos said even if it takes a while, state and city officials are working to resolve this issue.