Search prompts closing of motel's rooms, apartments

October 28, 2005|by TARA REILLY


The City of Hagerstown is closing 25 hotel rooms and apartments at the Holiday Motel after a surprise search Thursday morning turned up numerous health and building code violations.

John N. Lestitian, chief code compliance officer for the city, said 15 rooms in the motel - including the even-numbered rooms on the second floor - and 10 apartments in the portion of the property that faces West Washington Street will be closed.

Residents of the motel have until today at 2 p.m. to find other living arrangements, Lestitian said.

The motel, at the corner of West Washington and North Prospect streets, has about 55 rooms and 15 apartments, Lestitian said.


Washington County Health Department and city officials, flanked by police from the Hagerstown Police Department and Washington County Sheriff's Department, used search warrants to inspect every room and apartment in the motel, officials said.

The Washington County Animal Control Unit and the Department of Social Services also were on hand to provide assistance.

Holiday Motel owner Bob Patel called the unexpected search "discrimination."

"We have no clue," Patel said. "They just all of a sudden came."

Lestitian said the search resulted in an extensive list of violations. A number of inspectors planned to hold meetings over two days to compile the list.

The motel has a severe condensation problem, and "unknown growth" is visible on the second floor's interior surfaces. In addition, the walls are deteriorating under the windows of the rooms on the floor and "falling apart," Lestitian said.

Some motel rooms lacked smoke detectors, he said.

"For these reasons, we don't believe it's safe for the habitants of those rooms," Lestitian said.

One of the apartments is being shut down for "filthy" living conditions and others lack kitchen sinks, Lestitian said.

Lestitian said the motel owner will not be permitted to rent the closed rooms or apartments. Should the units be rented, the owner could be subject to a $1,000 per day fine per unit.

"So, the choice is on the owner," he said.

Patel said the property was in compliance with the appropriate codes. He said the motel is inspected on a regular basis by the city. When the city finds a violation, he said the problems are corrected.

"I have seen properties 15 times worse than this, and they have never done this to anybody," Patel said.

Lestitian said the Holiday Motel has a history of poor maintenance.

In addition to motel rooms and apartments, the search included storage rooms and the basement.

Hagerstown Police Lt. William C. Wright III said police were on hand to make sure there were no safety problems during the search.

Police closed the section of North Prospect Street that runs between West Franklin and West Washington streets for more than an hour while the search was taking place. Officials arrived on the scene about 10 a.m.

Police reopened the street about 11:30 a.m.

Health Department Spokesman Rod MacRae said health officials also found violations, which he described as "unhealthy situations that need to be corrected."

He said those violations dealt with dampness and mold issues and structural problems. MacRae said he hasn't seen a copy of the violations and that the information probably wouldn't be available for a few days.

Lestitian said officials got word of possible violations at the motel after a police sergeant noticed the conditions while he was inside the property on another police matter.

The search resulted in charges in an unrelated matter for a woman who was on the property while police were there.

Lisa Lynn Hickman was charged Thursday with two counts of possession of not marijuana, a count of possession of paraphernalia and a count of unlawfully omitting a label on a prescription drug, Washington County District Court Commissioner Timothy Haven said.

Police also handcuffed a man, escorted him from the apartment portion of the motel and drove him away in a police car. As of about 5:30 p.m., charges for the man were not available in District Court, Haven said.

Police have said the Holiday Motel area has been a place for crime and that prostitutes have frequented the motel, which is across the street from Presbyterian Church of Hagerstown and St. Mary Catholic Church and School.

Last year, the city asked that the Washington County Health System help buy the motel, demolish it and turn it into a parking lot. The request was rejected by the health system.

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