Ferndale city officials have rejected a hotel business license for the Motorama Motel at Eight Mile Road and Woodward Avenue, starting a process that could spell the end for what police describe as a neglected, low-rent haven for prostitution, drugs, assaults and other crimes.
The Ferndale City Council voted unanimously Monday evening to act on a recommendation of the city’s police chief to deny the hotel license to Motorama owner Phil Patel. He has five days to request a hearing before police move to close the motel for operating without a license, according to The Daily Tribune.
Neither Patel nor any representatives of the hotel appeared at the council meeting. The Daily Trib said that an employee reached at the hotel said Patel was in India until Feb. 15.
The Motorama, which is a few blocks from my home, has been a staple of local police blotters in recent years. Police Chief Timothy Collins told council members that over the past three years, the motel has been the site of 365 police calls — that’s one call every three days.
“The state of the building and the number of fire violations… it appeared that nobody cared,” Collins said.
Common crimes at the Motorama include human trafficking, drug abuse and sales, theft, assault and threats with weapons. A few years ago, police discovered a mini meth lab operating out of one of the rooms there, I recall reading in a local newspaper.
Numerous code violations
In a letter to Motorama dated Jan. 12, and referencing an inspection earlier the same day, Ferndale Fire Marshal Brian Batten cited problems including a lack of smoke alarms or working alarms in guest rooms and other locations in the building, the illegal use of hot plates, toasters and grills; improper storage of gasoline and other combustibles.
A subsequent letter sent the same day by city Building official Marc Howell detailed four pages worth of violations.
“It should be noted that management neglects to regularly inspect the tenant rooms,” Batten wrote. “The lack of overseeing each tenant on a regular basis has led to numerous missing and/or disabled smoke alarms, unsafe cooking devices and careless disposal of smoking materials.”
Motorama submitted its application for a new license on Dec. 29, 2015.
The end of an era?
Last April, a neighbor down the street from me told us she woke up early one morning to a police officer at her door, asking about a body found in a nearby front yard. It was only months later that news emerged that the man had died of an overdose from heroin traced back to suspects who operated from the Motorama and the nearby 8 Wood Motel.
The Daily Tribune said Ferndale police have done a preliminary investigation of conditions at the 8 Wood as well.
Needless to say, these places weigh down the local quality of life, as much as I do love the road sign.
The southern end of Ferndale — where I live — has long been, well, the ass end of our fair city. But things in some ways appear to be getting better. The Meijer-anchored Gateway Marketplace across Eight Mile has transformed a formerly vacant stretch of the old state fairgrounds, and Hodges Subaru recently completed its move into several properties along Woodward, including one directly across from the Motorama.
But there’s plenty of room for improvement — and more legit businesses.
Derek Delacourt, Ferndale’s DDA director, said the motel’s location along two busy thoroughfares, and the likelihood of them being served in future transit plans, would make the Motorama an attractive property for redevelopment.
“We think we would see a request of some type of commercial operation probably in short order,” he said.
UPDATE: I messaged Mayor David Coulter on Facebook, and he replied to me Wednesday afternoon:
The Police Chief indicated he believes most of the smoke alarms may have now been installed, but we have not yet verified that. The owner was notified of Council’s decision in writing on Tuesday and has 5 days from then to request an appeal. That has not yet happened. If he appeals, there will be a hearing before City Council. The owner also has the right to file injunctive relief with the courts, so it’s possible the process could be extended. Whatever happens, we will treat the residents there as victims in this poorly managed establishment and seek to assist them in any way we can to secure housing and other resources they may need. We don’t take this action lightly, but this business must be held to the same standards we would hold any business in Ferndale. The safety of the residents and the neighboring homes demands we address these outrageous legal and safety issues.