The Ferndale City Council reaffirmed its decision to deny the Motorama Motel its operating license despite pleas by its owner and his attorney in a public hearing Tuesday. Council said it will now come up with a plan to find new housing for the motel’s low-income residents before moving to shut down the crime-ridden business.
Motorama owner Phil Patel and his attorney, Thomas Walcott, said they will meet to discuss their next move.
“I will see if we have other options,” Patel told me.
Council last month rejected Motorama’s business license on the recommendation of Police Chief Timothy Collins, who said the motel was the site of 365 police calls during the past three years and was a haven for drugs, prostitution and assaults. It also followed an inspection by the city’s fire marshal that found dozens of violations, including a lack of working smoke alarms, the illegal use of hot plates, toasters and grills, and improper storage of gasoline and other combustibles.
Motorama has been the site of at least one drug arrest since then.
Patel had requested the hearing following the council’s ruling last month.
Patel said he purchased the 60-room motel, located at Eight Mile Road and Woodward Avenue, for about $1.25 million in 2003. He said he has since made about $800,000 worth of renovations, including a new roof, furniture and painting and surveillance cameras to deter crime.
He also said he immediately purchased 60 smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors following the Jan. 12 site inspection.
Patel said his business model was based on providing affordable, long-term lodging options to low-income people, with more than 30 steady long-term tenants. He said the only previous time he had been contacted by the Ferndale Police was in 2009, when then-chief Michael Kitchen accused Motorama of being a public nuisance.
Patel said he has maintained since then his willingness to develop a plan to deter crime and stay in business, but never heard back from the police department.
“We remain willing to find middle ground,” Walcott said. “But to close him down at this point is gonna bankrupt him. He won’t have any choice.”
That swayed no one on Council, who pledged to work with social-service agencies to identify housing options for long-term tenants.
“I think they deserve better than the living conditions they are currently in, based on the photos I have seen and the incident reports,” Council member Melanie Piana said.
Mayor Dave Coulter added that the city’s building inspector told him that “Every room has some violation,” and said he heard no viable plan presented by Motorama to address the problems.
Council’s vote was unanimous to uphold its earlier decision denying the business license.
Edgar Feagins Sr. said he’s been living in the hotel since 1998. The disabled Vietnam veteran and certified medical marijuana user said he pays $675 a month and described the Motorama as a place where long-term neighbors watch out for one another.
He said he worries about reimbursement for moving expenses.
“I have nowhere to go,” he said.