EL PASO (KTSM) - A day after several Duranguito-area buildings were damaged by premature demolition efforts, preservation activists launched new allegations against El Paso city officials.
At an impromptu news conference late Wednesday morning, Veronica Carbajal—an attorney representing some of the Union Plaza residents—insinuated the city pressured land owners to get the demolition started as quickly as possible.
The attorney pointed to the real estate contracts between some of the property owners and the city which state the owners will not be paid for their land until it is cleared.
"The city does not want to take, we believe, liability for historic buildings," Carbajal said. "It wants the seller to do the dirty work, give it vacant lots. Because at that point, the city does not have to abide by the historical rules provided by the antiquities code and other regulations."
In a one-on-one interview, El Paso City Attorney Sylvia Borunda Firth told NewsChannel 9 it is not uncommon for the city to ask that properties be leveled before taking ownership.
"From time to time when the city acquires property, we'll make the request that it be 'site ready' before we actually close the deal," Borunda Firth said.
"It's just a way to expedite the process," she added, "Especially when we don't want the building, we just want the land that's under it."
The demonstrators also raised the issue that the city only required demolition from some owners, but not all. Borunda Firth said some of the smaller property owners did not have the resources to facilitate demolition on their own.
"When we negotiated, they said, 'we'd rather have (the city) do it,'" Borunda Firth told NewsChannel 9.