EL PASO, Texas - City Council Tuesday approved a zoning change that will allow residents to continue living in an apartment building built without permits in a residential area in the Lower Valley.
If Council had not approved the change, the property owner could have been forced to evict people living in eight apartment units at 8520 Wingo Way. The owner would have also been forced to demolish the building.
The move to change zoning in the neighborhood was approved in a 6-to-2 vote, with City Representatives Sam Morgan and Henry Rivera voting against. Rivera argued changing the zoning would set a precedent and result in more property owners building apartments without permits in the wrong zones.
As a result of Tuesday's zoning change, the building will not be torn down and the owner will have to apply for permits and comply with City code. The property owner will also pay a "triple fine." ABC-7 was told City inspectors will also be given access to the property to make sure the owner complies.
The city became aware of the illegal apartments after neighbors complained about weeds and dogs in the area.
City officials told ABC-7 the property owner - who did not want to speak with ABC-7 - failed to get building permits for the 10 apartment units. Additionally, Wingo Way is not zoned for this type of project, the City said.
"Currently, they are operating with ten units. It's essentially to approve that property for ten units. That gives us the ability to go in and get the permits. There will be a triple fee added to that," said City Rep. Claudia Ordaz Monday.