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Royal Oak

November 6, 2013

Motel 30-day-stay limit comes under fire

By Robert Guttersohn
C & G Staff Writer

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The Royal Motor Inn on 11 Mile Road has tenants who have rented rooms as far back as the 1990s. Amrat Patel, owner, said the city adding a 30-day limit on motel stays would put his establishment out of business.

ROYAL OAK — When Early Neidy was looking for a place of his own 10 years ago, he didn’t have the credit or money to cover the upfront costs of moving into an apartment.

He was able to land a room in the Seville Motel, and nearly a decade later, the 51-year-old still calls the Woodward Avenue establishment home.

“It’s maybe a little small — kind of like living in a studio apartment,” he said.

Five days a week, Neidy takes the bus up Woodward Avenue to the restaurant in Birmingham, where he works 35 hours a week, but he and others living long-term in the city’s motels may have to make new arrangements.

In the midst of tightening regulations on the city’s motels, the City Commission will be considering amending the hotel-motel ordinance Nov. 11 to limit stays in the city’s motels to 30 days. The commission has given much attention to Royal Oak’s motels since late September, when county prosecutors filed charges against Destiny Thomas, of Royal Oak Township, with child abuse leading to the death of her daughter in February. Police said Thomas, 17 at the time of her child’s death, had been living in the Seville Motel since December with her boyfriend.

City Attorney David Gillam, who was still drafting the amendment last week, said he was planning to include a delayed effective date of Jan. 1, 2015.

“So that would give everyone time to take a look at what the changes are going to be,” Gillam said.

For people like Neidy, though, there’d be no option.

“You’d become a drifter, especially if you don’t have money to move into an apartment,” Neidy said.

The quarterly reports that five of the city’s seven motels filed with the city in October reveal that at least 73 of their guests have been living in their rooms for more than 30 days as of Sept. 30. Of those, 27 have been calling their rooms home for at least a year and 10 for at least five years. They have home addresses ranging from as close as Royal Oak to as far as Florida.

One tenant has paid for a room in the Royal Motor Inn since 1996, according to the report.

Amrat Patel, one of the owners of the Royal Motor Inn, said the ordinance would drive him out of business, referring to his long-term guests as his “bread and butter.”

“I may as well go up to City Hall and give them the key,” Patel said.

He said his numbers already are down 50 percent for the year due to the construction along 11 Mile Road, where his motel is located, and because the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation for the duration of the project has detoured bus routes from along that stretch — a service he said many of this tenants rely on for transportation.

Steve Yencich, the president of the Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association, called the ordinance a potential overreaction.

“I’ve been here 13 years, and this is the first time this question has been raised,” Yencich said. “I think that is telling.”

He said the decision could have several adverse side effects, including on those looking for an affordable way out of a desperate situation.

“If people are moving from dangerous neighborhoods in a desperate attempt to better themselves, why would we want to preclude them?” Yencich said.

He said, many times, construction workers working on a long-term project will stay in motels and not hotels to keep lodging costs down and, thus, overall costs down.

“We empathize with the city’s concern, but to force all motels to potentially close for the actions of a few throws the baby out with the bathwater,” Yencich said. “We urge policymakers to look for means to address this situation in a more laser-like fashion.”

Mayor Pro Tem David Poulton, who supported the 30-day limit when it was first discussed at the Oct. 21 meeting, said that if people plan to stay in motels longer than 30 days, they need accommodations for both children and adults.

“They don’t have them there,” Poulton said. “These things aren’t fit for folks to stay there longer than 30 days.”

Until the decision is finalized, Neidy will be doing what he does almost every day — boarding the bus bound for his work in Birmingham.

“I’m just a regular working person trying to keep a roof over my head,” he said. “That’s what it’s come down to. I’m trying to get money in my pocket to go back and forth on the bus to work and put a meal in my belly and a roof over my head.”