Downtown Taos

Town cracks down on Indian Hills

'Time's up'

By Jesse Moya
jmoya@taosnews.com
Posted 9/7/18

After a yearslong battle with the Indian Hills Inn, town of Taos officials are saying the time has come for a change in the now-shuttered property.Sitting …

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Downtown Taos

Town cracks down on Indian Hills

'Time's up'

Posted

After a yearslong battle with the Indian Hills Inn, town of Taos officials are saying the time has come for a change in the now-shuttered property.

Sitting vacant since May, the once prominent Taos hotel now sits complete with overgrown weeds, boarded up windows and a new concern from Taos safety officials who are saying the hotel is causing some problems.Taos Police have responded several times to the abandoned hotel concerning vagrants, drug use and other complaints.

Property owner John Slenes was supposed to have been made Indian Hills secure following its closure in May. The town of Taos gave Slenes additional time to fix some of the issues with the property to restore it back to codes.

"Time's up," said Taos Fire Marshal Erik Oiesen-Vreeke. "(The hotel) is regressing instead of progressing."

Following a February 2017 inspection, Oiesen-Vreeke's department detailed over 200 code violations at the hotel including mold and damaged electrical wiring, prompting the town council to adopt a resolution calling the hotel an "immediate threat to the public comfort, health, peace or safety." Slenes and the town met following the meeting to work out a mediation plan for the restoration of the hotel, which failed according to Oiesen-Vreeke.

The hotel was listed for sale in July 2018 for $1.875 million and according to town officials, a potential deal may have fallen through. Since the closing of the hotel, the repairs have been minimal and the crime has increased at the property. While windows in the front have been boarded up to prevent entry, some of the doors to rooms have been kicked in and used by the transient population with evidence of attempted arson found in one of the rooms, according to Oiesen-Vreeke.

"It is definitely a disgrace that the hotel was not managed properly, causing this hotel, once considered a nice place to stay, to fail in many ways," said Taos Police Chief David Trujillo. "Since the Indian Hills Inn has closed, the officers have been tasked with doing daily and nightly walk-throughs of the complex due to vagrancy issues."

According to Trujillo, 21 calls have been reported at the location since the beginning of the year, most of them for criminal damage, drug use and trespassing.

"The Taos Police Department is committed to continued patrols as the owners or their representatives have been notified by town officials that there are portions of the property that are indeed not secure," said Trujillo.

Trujillo is advising everyone in the community to stay out of the hotel and said that anyone unlawfully found on the property would be charged with trespassing if caught by an officer.

Due to the increase in criminal activity, the town is fearful the situation could turn into a public hazard. To combat this, Oiesen-Vreeke said the town will likely revisit the issue on legal terms with the owners of the hotel. From here, the options for the hotel are immediate renovation or demolition, according to town officials.

In a January town council meeting, Slenes' said the town's decision to post a notice of condemnation in May of 2017 was hindering his ability to sell the property at the time and asked them to reverse their decision, the town council said "no."

The current layout of the hotel was completed in the early 1990s, and Slenes has managed the hotel since 1975, according to his Linked In profile. Slenes declined to comment to The Taos News about the hotel.

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